Published March 7, 2010

Losing Weight – Day 7: Rest

by Helen M. Ryan

One day a week I take a complete break from exercise. No Spinning, no strength training, not even any stretching. It's one day for my body to go, "Ahhhhh," and just kick back. Usually this day is Sunday.

A few years back, when I was at my fittest, things were different. I used to get up early and ride my bike on Sundays. In the summer my friends and I would meet at 6 a.m. before it got warm (and while the kids were sleeping) and take long, strenuous  rides. We'd push mile after mile, hill after hill, challenge after challenge, returning home exhausted and sweaty as our families began to stir. In the winter we'd head out with long cycling tights, gloves and windbreakers, cold and miserable the whole way.
An early, very chilly morning (an Easter Sunday in fact) I got stuck returning down the side of a mountain that I'd ridden up. It was raining, sleeting and we had ice in our hair. No one else was on the road, we had no cell phone reception, and my friend and I had to pull off to the side, shivering uncontrollably, wondering if we'd ever make it down alive. Another Sunday morning I was following a group of experienced cyclists through some canyons. They were far ahead of me, out of sight, and I was trying to catch up. I put everything I had into each pedal stroke, and barreled over the crest, missing my turn and almost toppling off the cliff. Those were my Sundays.

One day, while getting ready to head out on a cold early-morning Sunday ride by myself, I discovered I had a flat tire. I looked at the tire. Pondered. Then I removed my cycling gear, headed back upstairs and jumped into my warm, toasty bed. I haven't gotten up early to ride on a Sunday since.

Now, every Sunday morning is "quiet time." I drink warm tea, take my time with breakfast and read a book or watch the news for a few minutes. Sometimes the kids and I go out for donuts in our pajamas (they eat the donuts - I drink the coffee). It's the one day where we don't have to rush, and the day I don't exercise.

Rest days are important to keep us working hard. I lost track of that and wore myself out.  Just like when performing intervals, we can't give 100% if we don't know when our recoveries (rest days) are. And we stop enjoying what we do.

Critical Mass

Scheduled days of rest also give you a chance to renew your motivation. Day in and day out of exercise can wear you down and wear you out. You stop working out as hard - start cutting your workout time - stop lifting as heavy or running as far. The more you start to "slack off," the more depressed you become, because what once was a passion has now become just a chore that you dread. Why? Because you didn't allow yourself rest time...time to physically and mentally recover. Having that one day to look forward to as an exercise "rest day" allows you to work harder during the week and keeps you focused.

Don't believe me? Try it. While most people are looking for excuses not to work out, if you are exercising regularly, look at your calendar and pencil in a specific day where you do not work out at all. Write it down. Make it part of your schedule. You may find you are more motivated with your workouts, knowing that you are drawing closer and closer to your "rest day." Again, it's "faking yourself out." You might be more willing to try that Zumba class or perform an extra set of push ups, safe in the knowledge that your recovery is on the horizon.

Balancing Act

I haven't ridden my bike in a year and I am not ashamed to admit it. My bicycle is part of who I used to be: A woman on a quest to prove to herself just how strong she was, and just how much she could take. I'm a different woman now. Older, wiser, and a lot more happy with myself. Working out seven days a week may have proven to me that I was the strongest in the land (GI Jane-style), but it didn't move me forward with my future or accomplish much of anything else than give me a body fat percentage of 19. I wasn't any happier with my life. In fact, I was very unhappy. I felt pressure to keep moving more, keep Spinning harder, keep riding stronger, keep lifting heavier - more and more and more. Then I hit the wall. Fell back. Gained 20 pounds.
It took me two years to get to this point where exercise is good again and I am not obsessing.  I am even considering starting to ride on the open road again. I enjoy Spinning once more, and I really enjoy my day of rest. Sometimes, when I am busy, deadlines force an unscheduled day of rest during the workweek and I am OK with that, too.
It's all about balance now. Balancing exercise - food - life. No excesses in either direction (except the work part. I am still working on that). Give yourself that day off...and find your balance.
Onward and forward.
Until tomorrow.

How did you do today? Share your thoughts. You can do so anonymously. I'd like to hear from you.

7 hours of sleep.
No exercise. Day of rest!
For food?

  • Plain oatmeal with flax seeds, nonfat milk, walnuts pieces and chocolate chips (60% cocoa - a must) - breakfast.
  • Apple - snack.
  • Low fat cottage cheese, and black beans with spinach and a dash of low fat cheese - lunch.
  • Banana - snack.
  • Protein bar - snack.
  • Lean Pocket Broccoli and Cheese - dinner.
  • Nonfat hot cocoa (plain cocoa powder and Stevia) - before bedtime.

[Click on the Weight Loss category to read earlier posts...from Day 1 and on.]

>Continue reading to Day 8: Anticipate