Pounding the pavement. Grinding hard. Getting it at the gym. Blistering your hands. Building muscle. All the hard work you put in day after day. Whether that is your job or your pre/post work hobby it takes a toll on your body. The positives are great! Stronger. Faster. Leaner. Fitter.
But sometimes it is too much for your body to handle and you need to rest just as hard to keep making those gains. If you are not resting properly you may find it difficult to make progress eventually.
Here are some things to watch out for so you can combat the negative effects of fatigue. And maybe even learn to enjoy your rest days!
Cortisol (The Stress hormone) is a catabolic hormone that is best known for helping your body’s fight or fight instinct.
When you are in a high stress situation your cortisol levels increase to prepare the body for battle.
- It boosts your energy (increases blood glucose) so you can handle the stressor and then restores balance after the stressor is gone.
- Manages how your body uses macros.
- Regulates blood pressure: High stress – high blood pressure to keep your body ready for battle.
- Controls your sleep-wake cycle: No one wants to fall asleep during a fight.
- Controls digestion and weight loss: when fighting you need all the energy you can get so your body shuts down the digestive track so help save energy. Then also stores all the fuel it can get just incase the battle is a long one, so your body stores fat – no weight loss.
If you have prolonged stress your cortisol levels can stay elevated leading to problems with digestion, weight gain, and trouble sleeping.
Where there is a yin, there is a yang.
Some stress is good. It helps you learn how to properly deal with tough situations. Exercise is a stress on your body that you need for growth and weight loss.
To keep from becoming overly stressed you have to be intentional about working on stress relief just as you work on becoming physically stronger and fitter.
I find that my weight increases and/or stalls when I don’t make the time to work on relaxing and keeping my stress levels low. I stop sleeping as well, my resting heart rate increases, and I just feel blah.. When I start seeing these signs, I know I have pushed myself too hard for too long.
So I make a point to take a day or two in a row of rest. I don’t workout or I keep my heart rate low. I stretch. I drink lots of water. I don’t concentrate on how many steps my Fitbit says I got in those days. I eat clean so my body doesn’t have to overwork to digest processed foods. I just try to stay relaxed. And it pays off. Afterwards I have more energy. I can usually lift more or move faster. My resting heart rate comes back down and I am able to sleep better. Thats when I know I properly adjusted my cortisol levels.
Get A Good Nights Sleep
In this article by Thrive Global, they discus the importance of sleep. Sleeping like a pro athlete not only is beneficial to their careers but it is also beneficial to everyone. Learning to get a good nights rest is just as important as training hard.
Eat The Right Way Before Bed
The wrong food can also cause your sleep to be disrupted. Going to bed on a full belly can be disastrous for your sleep quality and your waist line. In this article from International Business Times, they give you 4 foods you should avoid before bed so you can get a better sleep.
Things I Use To Help Me Rest And Recover
My Foam Roller.
This helps me to slow down but still get the blood flowing to help my muscles heal after hard training sessions. I bought a short one to store more easily. And it is easier to take on car trips. After a long day in the car your hip flexors and lower back tend to tighten up. Foam rolling for a few minutes will help loosen these areas up.
Even though on these rest days I am not using it to count steps, I use the heart rate feature to make sure I am keeping my heart rate low. Tracking my heart rate is one of my favorite parts of wearing a Fitbit. The other feature I use often is the Relax guided breathing app. Right in the watch you swipe to find the app, pick 2 or 5 minute sessions, and follow along with the lights and small vibrations to inhale and exhale. It is so soothing.
My Water Bottle.
To make sure I am staying hydrated even though I am not moving as much. Being well hydrated helps the blood flow through the body, which helps repair damaged tissues. Drinking enough water also helps to expel toxins from the body, helping you to feel refreshed and energized.
A Good Book.
If you have the chance to read, do it. One of the most relaxing activities you can do for yourself. If you don’t have a chance to sit and read, try an audio book. Audible has thousands of books to choose from and you can pick the speed at which it is heard.
My Yoga Mat.
Stretching is so good for you! No matter what day it is, what time it is, and where you are. Stretch as often as possible. If you need help to get your mindset right, use a yoga mat. Roll it out and spend some quality time elongating yourself. Find some tight spots and stretch through them. Learn to breathe into the stretches and not force it. The more you stretch, the better you will get at it. Stretching take time, consistency, and lots of practice.