For some people, Sunday is about brunch, for others, about football (is there still football? Umm, Go Team!), and for still others, it’s about drinking all day (#SundayFunDay, right?) lamenting their inevitable return to work on the following day- because who doesn’t like to compound the drudgery of waking up early on a Monday by adding in hangover? For me, though, Sunday is about rest. I used to hate scheduled rest days. I was such a trope- the overzealous gym-goer bemoaning a day when my program told me to keep my hands off the iron and let my muscles heal.
Let me tell you what I know about that now: if you aren’t looking forward to your rest days, you aren’t trying hard enough on the days you are in the gym. Step your game up. It doesn’t make you hardcore to “not need rest days.” It means you’re not being hardcore enough to need them.
I’m ashamed to admit that for years, I whined about rest days. I know now that this means I wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I could have in the gym. I don’t want to say I was taking it easy on myself, but in retrospect, I believe that if I had followed proven progression plans, as opposed to slapping around the gym doing what I thought I knew to be best, I would have significantly better lifts today. And I would have enjoyed my rest days more, too, as my muscles relished the repair time I was offering… and I bet my house would have been cleaner and my lessons would have been less hurriedly put together and I’d have returned Grandma’s call and a thousand other things that can be done while not lifting.
Currently, I have two scheduled rest days each week- Sundays and Thursdays, and oh boy do I ever need them. On these days, I like to do a little yoga, foam roll, take a bike ride with my husband, practice my posing… but mostly I cuddle the cat and drink tea and BCAAs and stare at my computer, because my body is exhausted.
Rest is incredibly important, as any lifter will tell you. Sure, you can tear it up at the gym, go hard as hell, lift three times your body weight and tear every muscle in your body to shreds, but rest is when your body actually has the time to rebuild those torn muscles shreds into whole muscles. You know, aesthetic slabs of meat that you can flex to impress your Instagram followers. If you don’t provide your muscles this healing time, it won’t take too long before they stop working properly, your lifts will suffer, and you won’t have anything to show for your hard work.
Of course there’s always the issue where on non-gym days you’re SO FREAKING BORED. At least I am. Hooray for active rest! It’s totally ok, and even beneficial, to do light activities while you heal. Yoga, walking, a leisurely bike ride, all are going to help your muscles to loosen up a little. Currently, I have an intense case of Hamburger Hamstrings and Ground Glutes, directly resulting from some intense squats and leg day action last night. So this morning, I rode my bike to the farmers market to buy jam and hummus to get the blood flowing into them a bit. They’re still pretty tight, so I’ll likely do some yoga before bed tonight… and bribe my husband to give me a massage… to loosen them up a bit further before hitting it hard again tomorrow. So, yes, I’m doing activities, but they are light, gentle activities, done for the purposes of increasing blood flow and gently coaxing my muscles to repair, not for the sake of going HAM.
Rest up, friends, because tomorrow, it’s on like Donkey Kong, me vs. the barbell!