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It can be hard for people to remember the importance of rest days. I grew up, like many American kids, with a full schedule of activities and responsibilities. As I developed into an adult life didn’t slow down at all, and when I became a wife and mother it felt like I had even more people that needed to be organized and engaged. When my body started failing and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I had a lot of guilt. I felt like taking that time I needed to take care of myself wasn’t time well spent. It seemed like I was being lazy when I needed to take a rest day. Boy was that mindset wrong! After a decade of suffering from fibromyalgia; I finally came to understand that I could actively engage with rest days.
Learning The Importance Rest Days
It took training for a half marathon to change my mind about the importance of rest days. I learned through that process how badly a body needs time to repair itself. The process a body goes through of building new muscle and balancing nutritional requirements doesn’t stop just because you’ve ended your workout. In fact, when your workout stops, that’s when your body gets down to work making you stronger. It was eye opening that I always saw the biggest gains after I had taken a day or two off from training.
As a person living with chronic illness, this lesson was like a bolt out of the blue. I realized that because of my illness, and the strains it puts on my systems, my body sees every day activities as exercise that I needed to recover from. Long drives or meetings, grocery shopping, doing laundry, even taking a shower are all regular activities that my body needs time to recuperate from.
How To Actively Engage With Your Rest Days
So – how can one actively engage rest or recovery day? Here are five things that you can do to feel a little more like your rest days count.
Keep moving… gently.
Avoid strenuous workouts we are talking about rest days here. It should go without saying that you need to do things that promote rest, while still being engaged . Gentle activity keeps you limber and helps the muscles in your body not to stiffen up. Create a light home stretching routine or yoga practice. I have a gentle routine that I have created that I can even do while in bed.
My favorite rest day activity is spending 30 minutes or so with my legs up the wall. This helps to reduce swelling in the feet and legs by “draining” the interstitial fluid and lymph that is causing the swelling. Yay gravity!
Just because you aren’t working up a sweat taking care of daily tasks doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need water. In fact being well hydrated to begin with allows your body to work even better giving you more energy to make it through the day. Dehydration can lead to overheating, headaches, and muscle fatigue.
If you don’t have time to keep track of your intake on regular days, use your rest days to count those glasses of water and make sure sure you getting enough. If you want to give your water a boost without adding too many calories, try infusing it with fruit, or using a hydration tablet such as Nuun. Buy yourself a nice water bottle and be sure to keep it with you.
Eat well-balanced meals.
The better quality of food that I put in my body, the better performance I will get out of my body. Right now I am trying to eat closer to the earth with fewer preservatives and pre-packaged foods. Focusing on this especially on my rest days allows me to stay mentally engaged with my goals. Eating well supports your immune system, and allows your body to stock nutritional needs through food sources. Sure, us chronically ill folks tend to have a cabinet full of supplements, but eating well is not just good for your body, it’s good for your soul.
Relax your mind as well.
Our bodies aren’t the only thing that needs a rest day. It’s important for our minds to have some down time as well. As a work from home mom for more than a decade, I know how hard it can be to put everything aside and give your brain a break. When you have a rest day, use some of the time to explore new meditation techniques.
I have several YouTube guided meditations that I cycle through. Some are designed to help me sleep, others to manage chronic pain and anxiety. Meditation is an important part of my self-care routine and I have seen a lot of improvements since I began. Check out my previous article on 3 Ways Meditation Helps To Reduce Chronic Pain.
Finally, use your rest days for some luxe pampering. Care for your skin by applying masks and lotions, give yourself a manicure, dip your toes in a spa bath, or use a self massage mat to help relax. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself, and there is nothing that says when you’re home resting that you can’t treat yourself to a bit of a beauty regimen.
Get a proper sleep.
Sleep has a huge impact on performance. An adequate sleep schedule can increase reaction times, reduce injury rates, and lessening your chance of catching a virus. The increased human growth hormone produced during early sleep promotes the growth, maintenance and repair of both muscles and bones. So crating good sleep habits is pretty important to a body. Try and set a sleep schedule for yourself an stick to it. The consistency will help your body get find a more natural cycle.
Create an inviting bedtime environment, with a supportive bed, comfortable pillows, soft sheets, and dim lighting. Your bedroom should make you feel safe and secure; Have some fun and redecorate to aid in your restorative sleep. After all – it’s for your health.
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you are lazy, it means that you’ve learned to listen to your body and understand when you have reached your limit. The importance of rest days is something that we all need to come to terms with. Next time you feel like you need a day off, but just have to “do something” during it, keep this list of ways to actively engage with your rest days in mind. There are lots of things that you can do for your health while still allowing your body some much needed time off.
This post is part of Saturday Sharefest
and Part of Fibro Friday #183