Why Recovery Days are a Good Thing

I have to be honest -- I used to hate rest days.  I think that it comes from a background of "the more you do, the fitter you'll be."  It also comes from that media-ingrained idea that the only way that women are attractive is if they are fit, skinny, and never eat. 

I don't know anyone like that. And I definitely am not like that.  I grew up in the middle of Midwestern Illinois, the granddaughter of an Irish Angus cattle farmer.  We ate meat and potatoes and lots of it.  I never thought much of my weight or my body type until I went away to college.  Everyone that you will talk to tells you to beware of the "freshman 15."  I was never much of a drinker or a partier (I like to keep a grandma-esque bedtime, so sue me!), but I definitely took full advantage of being on my own and eating fast food.  To add insult to injury, I worked for a semi-fast food restaurant and took full advantage of my employee discount.

I never became huge, but I suddenly became insanely conscious of the fact that I had gained weight and that I was no longer in high school and could eat whatever I want.  Suddenly, I became very aware of everything I was eating. Soon it was fat-free this, and carb-free that.  I was eating tasteless foods for the sake of "eating healthy."  

As I got older, it was no longer enough to simply eat healthy.  I started working out, and while that produced great results, I still wasn't content.  I eventually beat my immune system down so low in college from the stress and lack of rest that I ended up with pneumonia.  It didn't stop me though, and I was back to exercising the first time that I could take a full breath.

By the time that I was in my mid-20's, I was obsessed.  I felt that I had to work out every day, and if I didn't, I would be instantaneously sprout fat all over my body.  At one point, my weight dropped dangerously low to 113 and my friends were on the brink of calling an intervention.

I finally shook the demons when I began really focusing on fitness and training.  I learned the importance of a rest day and what it could do for my body.  I've always been the kind of person that has a ton of energy and doesn't like to sit still, but this was something new entirely.  As a runner, going for a run is what seemed like "rest" or a break from work.  What I didn't realize was how the constant stress was tearing my body apart.

It finally took a stress fracture in the spring of 2015 for me to realize how important rest truly was.  I thought that I was indestructible.  That was far from the truth.  There is nothing worse than 12 weeks of forced rest.  Since then, I have made a solid effort to take one day completely to myself.  Sometimes that rest day looks like sitting on the sofa with compression socks and my favorite Triggerpoint roller.  

Other days, I prefer to take a long hike along Austin's greenbelt and soak up the sun or enjoy a yoga class.  What I've learned is that rest and recovery doesn't have to be boring, but it is incredibly important.  Beyond anything else is the idea that you need to listen to your body and don't push until to the point of exhaustion.  There is no fitness to be gained at this exhausted end of the spectrum.  I think that was one of the hardest lessons that I've had to learn -- but one of the most rewarding.