A snowstorm is coming, and the snowplows are out. Can you hear your neighbors shoveling snow? City crews were up early today, taking care of clearing the streets and sprinkling salt so that drivers would be able to get where they need to go.
When you want to stay healthy and active, taking time to rest is similar to plowing snow and sprinkling salt on the roads when a snowstorm is in the forecast.
Sure. You’ve driven over snow. Driving conditions might be slippery and your travel time may be increased. You might even consider wintertime driving a minor inconvenience if you are accustomed to driving in snowy weather.
When the streets have been cleared and salted, odds are good that you will have a better (and safer) drive to and from your destination. If a street hasn’t been cleared, you might not be able to drive that way at all (unless you’ve got your own plow).
If you’ve ever been stuck in snow and needed help to shovel out your car, you know that preventing the situation is much easier than dealing with a stuck car on freezing winter day.
…And if you’ve ever been forced to rest due to injury or illness, you know that it’s easier to rest as a regular practice than it is to rest when you have no choice but to take a break and heal.
Though the amount of rest that each of us needs is different, we all need time to recover from strenuous exercise. Varying the intensity of your activities throughout the week and taking rest days on a regular schedule helps your body to adapt to tougher workouts and come back stronger. Whether you rest a few times each week, once or twice in a 10-day cycle, or take active rest days when you need them, these periods of lighter activity are restorative and necessary.
Exercising without recovery time is like driving a car on a snowy road without a plow or snow tires. You might think everything is okay at first, but you are going to have to slow down in order to maintain control and you could get stuck.
Aiming to improve your fitness level in a healthy and sustainable manner will include periods of rest and recovery. Approaching your workouts as if each one has to be a level up from your previous workout in either intensity or duration (or both) is counterproductive and unsustainable.
Taking time to rest is critical to staying healthy and active, and allowing your body to recover will allow you to continue to build and maintain a strong exercise habit over time.