Movement is my psychologist. It clears my mind and energizes me for the day ahead. I thrive when I incorporate exercise throughout my day. From Pilates and ballet to swimming and walking, motion is my lotion (#cheesypun!)
My Type A personality and history with over-exercising, however, once led me in a direction where exercise was no longer my stress relief. Overnight, exercise went from being a fun hobby to a demanding dance career that offered no time off (or so I thought). Luckily, I sought balance and created a sustainable lifestyle that now allows for the return of joyful exercise.
Similar to myself, exercise is often a natural part of my clients’ lives. Whether it’s a class, a rehearsal, a walk, or all of the above, we’re accustomed to higher levels of physical activity. Rest, on the other hand, is another story.
I will admit that rest is not something that I do well. Though I’ve improved with age (chasing a toddler really does exhaust you!), allowing my body to rest is often an after-thought. There are times, however, when rest is non-negotiable. Whether you are recovering from an injury or recovering from surgery, rest becomes the body’s best chance for future progress. Though sometimes challenging, here are my top 3 tips for making the most of your time off.
#1: Fuel The Process
Though you’re not as physically active, your body is still metabolically working. The amount and the types of food that you eat shouldn’t differ too drastically between rest days and active days… even if you’re navigating a prolonged period of rest (such as several weeks or months). A nourishing meal plan, which includes consistent meals and snacks, is your baseline. Protein is key for muscle rebuilding. However, it’s important to create a fuel mix that combines protein and carbohydrates, which replenishes glycogen (energy) while sparing protein for muscle repair. Unsaturated fats offer anti-inflammatory benefits and thus should be included as well.
#2: Lighten The Load
If medically feasible, choose light alternatives for minimal movement. Foam rolling, light stretching, and strengthening exercises with a TheraBand help to increase blood flow, which optimizes nutrient delivery to your resting muscles. These activities also offer you the release of neural endorphins, which improves mood (a major plus since you’re unable to partake in your favorite activities). Depending on the length of your recovery and your physical ability (always ask a medical doctor beforehand!) you may consider activities like Pilates, Gyrotonics, and swimming as light, but effective cross-training.
#3: Consider Self-Care
Come to terms with your body’s need for rest. Anxiety over “losing my hard work” is a common feeling during this time off. Whether it’s 1 day, 2 days, a few weeks, or a few months, however, stay confident that you will bounce back after you allow your body the rest that it needs to recover. Trust your body. It is stronger than you think! If your recovery has taken several months, it may require patience before you feel 100%. This patience, however, is your key to a future of success.