As well and good as my intentions had been regarding staying fit and healthy over Christmas – and they really had been good – life still managed to get in the way, as it has a tendency to do. Fast forward to last week, and over a month had gone by without any real training. Then, on Monday last week, I started a new job. This gave me the push I needed to get down to the gym and sign up for membership.
A gym induction with a member of staff was compulsory but, after a quick scoot around the machines to confirm that I knew how they all worked, I was left to my own devices. If I’m in the gym I tend to do a bodyweight workout. However, after doing a few different exercises it was clear that I had some serious work to do in order to get back to my previous fitness.
I was glad when I finally moved on to my favourite part of any gym session – the post workout stretch. Now, I love stretching but I’ve have been at war with the flat front splits for years – always close, but no cigar. Before Christmas I was contending with various hamstring aches and pains, getting treatment to no avail. On top of this I’d done no flexy training over the festive season. So, when it came to the end of my stretch session and I decided to give the front splits a go no-one was more surprised than me to find myself in completely flat splits!
What, then, can I credit for my miraculous improvement? Well, I put it down to REST.
Following an injury or strain it is really important to rest and let your muscles recover. For anyone training regularly, whether for your own self-improvement or for an upcoming event, rest days can be as important to your progress as the days of exercise. This downtime is when your body works to strengthen itself, repairing any tiny damage to your muscles and replenishing your energy stores.
Continuing to exercise without a break can seriously increase your risk of injury, as well as leading to other problems such as burnout, depression, trouble sleeping and weight plateau or gain. This is why it’s also vital to mix up your workouts, varying the types of activity you undergo, as well as the intensity and length of them. If you look at any marathon workout plan it will include regular rest periods, as well as varied workouts.
It’s easy for the rush of endorphins you get when working out to get addictive and, if you have a big competition coming up, you can feel guilty for taking a day off. However, it is important not to let your training pattern take over your life. Time out is just as important for your mind as your body. This isn’t to say your rest day is an excuse to slob out but do go easy on yourself – do a lighter workout, a gentle swim, or a light jog and remember to eat well. Listen to your body and you never know what improvements you might make from doing nothing!