“I finally have the time to tone my body,” you think between crunches and jumping jacks. “I finally have the time to clean the house,” you think drenching your counter with bleach again. “I finally have time to make ALL THE FOOD,” you think, your kitchen a full-blown bakery. Put down the barbells, put down the frying pans: you mentally and physically need a day of rest.
In this topsy-turvy time, many of us want to make use of our time productively or at least as a destruction. But this might not be motivation so much as it’s you trying to transform your stress into something else. While that’s useful and necessary in doses, being so overstimulated has diminishing returns.
“When we are stressed, we can often unconsciously move into a place of being in hyperdrive throughout the day,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear. “This can lead us into overworking, over-exercising, and overdoing household tasks such as cleaning. Although channeling extra stress into productive activities such a work, cleaning, and exercise is generally positive and anxiety-reducing, it’s also important to have downtime. Little time-outs are wonderful for allowing a beneficial return to a non-stressed state.”
This especially applies to our prized fitness routines, where our physical health comes into play. Full disclosure: keeping to my routine means very often neglecting workouts on weekdays, and overshooting on the weekends. This Saturday I woke up bright eyed and bushy-tailed, and rolled out my mat to do our pilates core workout with trainer Chloe Gregor of East River Pilates. This was the happy beginning of a thorough work out day for me, jam-packed with hula hooping, yoga flow, and my mother’s apparently mandatory Zumba class. Even though I can’t do a side plank to save my life, I felt like I invented fitness that morning.
Cut to Sunday and I can barely sit up to watch Gossip Girl in bed, which is all I truly wanted to do anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to fit in two or three fitness hours seven days a week, or you overload working out all at once—your muscles need a day of rest.
“It’s important to give yourself time to recover with rest day,” says Jaclyn Fulop, PT, board licensed physical therapist and founder of Exchange Physical Therapy Group. “Although exercise is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it also creates oxidative stress, which causes inflammation and muscle fatigue. It’s so important to allow the connective tissues to rebuild and not breakdown which will eventually lead to injury. Proper rest and recovery will strengthen the body and improve functional mobility.”
So look, we get it, everything feels at a standstill and you can stay in control by keeping things moving. But never feel guilty for clocking in couch time—the world is an exhausting place right now, so your body and mind will thank you for the break.
Really want to treat your sore muscles on your rest day? Steep yourself with these relaxing bath ideas. And if you want your work out days to be elegant and graceful, swap your dumbbells for slippers with these online ballet courses.
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