What I Learned from a Rest Day

Rest days–the ultimate love-hate relationship. I always knew rest days were important to give your muscles and your body a break from the physical strain put on them by training or playing a sport. Actually in high school, I would look forward to them because it meant having time off, it meant taking a break. During my eating disorder this was not the case at all. I hated breaks and rest days because it meant I wasn’t being as active which meant that my body wasn’t burning as many calories. I saw rest days as a time to lower my calories even more because I had to eat less since I was doing less. I would try every way I could to get exercise in or not take too many rest days even when I was tired. I still took them because there were days I felt so tired and unmotivated that I couldn’t work out (probably because I didn’t take properly timed rest days and I wasn’t appropriately fueling my body).  I would find ways to eat less food, even if I felt hungry, or feel ashamed for eating something I wanted that wasn’t the healthiest because it was my rest day. I had the wrong mindset that exercise was only to burn off what I ate, especially if it was a “treat”. Even during recovery I struggled with this, heck even last week I struggled with this. However, that all changed yesterday and I have my body to thank for that.

Two days ago we had our spring tournament for collegiate volleyball–this is just our one day in the spring that we are allowed to play other schools and so we just scrimmage different teams. It was a long day and tiring, but nothing I couldn’t seem to handle. Then, when I woke up yesterday it hit me. First off, it was 7 am when I woke up and I laid in bed trying to go back to sleep to no avail. But when I tried to get up to start my day I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was physically paralyzed or hurt (although I was a little sore and in pain), but it was this notion that had washed over me where I could not muster up enough energy, effort, or motivation to get up. I literally thought to myself I could lay here all day and not even care about getting up to eat or anything. And this is big because I love to eat, but at the moment my mind and body didn’t even care about eating the rest of the day. My stomach wasn’t growling either so I didn’t even have that to get me up to feed me. It was one of the worst feelings–I laid in bed almost 2 hours like this.

When I did finally manage to get up, I knew that it would be a much-needed rest day…but a different kind. Sunday was going to truly be a do-nothing-but-the-basics (laundry and grocery shopping) kind of day where I would literally rest and lay around and not feel guilty. My body needed it–I was so exhausted and tired that I knew my body was trying to tell me something and luckily, I received the message. From it, I learned some important things that I think everyone should hear not only about rest days, but about their health as well.

So…I learned to:

1. Listen to My Body

Seriously, it knows best! Now, there is a difference between feeling unmotivated and skipping several workouts and truly realizing that your body is dead tired from everything you’ve put it through and it needs a break! I learned that when my body is truly needing it, I will give myself a full and complete rest day to help my body and my health!

2. Listen to Cravings

A second part of listening to my body was food that it was craving. For some reason, the minute I got up I craved Panda Express’s orange chicken and chow mein–something I haven’t had in forever because I deemed it “unhealthy”. And while yes there are much healthier choices at Panda and I always choose those, there is nothing wrong with enjoying foods you crave every now and then. So for dinner, I got myself exactly that!! This was a big step for me too considering I had gone to Cici’s the night before and was treating myself to my favorite food truck later  in the week. For me, I usually only allow myself a treat meal out 1-2 times a week because that is what works best for me. But to fully respect my body and fight in recovery, I knew that I needed to listen to my cravings and realize that it is okay to have a few enjoyable, unhealthier meals out–it wasn’t going to harm my progress and would actually probably help it in the end.

3. Enjoy the Moments

My mom had told me to relax in bed, eat breakfast and then go out for a walk because the weather was so nice. Wow, do moms really know best. The weather was absolutely beautiful–sunny, clear, blue skies–and reminded my of Fall which made me super happy. (Now, I didn’t take the walk for exercise, I took it because I knew the air and the sunshine would be good for my relaxation and health!) During the walk, I realized just how enjoyable little moments are, such as the beautiful weather, the sunshine, nature, a relaxing walk, my health. In life, we often look for the big things, but those only make up a small portion of our moments; instead it’s the little things that really make life enjoyable. That short 10-minute walk made me enjoy so many things such as good food, my health, and even my rest day! I also found joy and pleasure in a short walk, something I wouldn’t normally do, but it really helped slow me down and turn my day around!

4. Not Let Tracking Control Me

Lately, I had gotten so caught up in my FitBit and its data. I would get mad that I didn’t hit my step goal because I couldn’t wear it to practice and so it missed all those steps–and same goes for the calories side. Especially on rest days, I would get upset by the lower calorie burn number. I would constantly be checking my watch and thinking in my head how I could get more steps or get more calories burn to show especially–I was obsessed in an unhealthy way. I let my life and my thoughts be dictated by a fitness tracker! I’m not saying they cannot be helpful nor that it’s not good to hit your steps goal, but just like the scale doesn’t define you, neither should these fitness trackers! Although I feel naked without it (yes, I did still check my wrist multiple times), I made the decision to go without it on my rest day. And I kinda enjoyed it. I felt free from the stress of tracking and I knew that I was still just as healthy as when I had it on, maybe even more so now mentally.

5. Actually Rest

Lastly, I learned that it is okay to actually rest on your rest days (novel concept, I know). It’s okay to have complete day of nothingness. In general, you want to live an active lifestyle, but there will be days when you just lay around and binge watch Criminal Minds all day (#noshame) and THAT’s OKAY!!

Despite the awful feeling of exhaustion I felt, I am grateful for it because I learned so many valuable things from a single day. If I’m gonna grow, I have to let my body recover so that it can continue to provide a healthy life for me.  It was uncomfortable at first, but I believe that I have made strides in my recovery and am on my way to living a happier, healthier life because growth happens outside your comfort zone!

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