It’s hard not to get caught up in the all-or-nothing approach to your hobbies and goals. From riding your horse to working out, it can feel like more is better, and especially if you feel like you need to play catch-up. The problem with this approach to your health and wellbeing is that, like with your horse, it’s unsustainable and causes negative side effects. Learn why a rest day is actually an important part of your wellbeing and how to combat the guilt of too many days off around the holidays.
Rest & Recovery
The process of exercise breaks you down. It’s a necessary part of improving your fitness because as you cause stress to your body, it repairs itself and grows stronger. In time you’re able to lift more, and sustain effort longer as you adapt. In order to allow your body to repair, you need to rest. This comes through proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and rest days.
If you don’t take the time to allow your body to recover, you can face issues down the road. Much like your horse, you’re prone to injury, such as muscle strains, joint pain, and even hormone imbalances if you exercise too much without adequate rest. It’s even possible to derail your progress---your body gets desperate for repair and will begin to depend on to every calorie you give it.
While it’s important to rest and recover, don’t overestimate the amount of time needed either. Typically your body will fully recover from an intense workout between 24-72 hours. So, for example, if you go on a long run or complete a difficult upper-body circuit, you may want to give that muscle group a full day to recover. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t use other parts of your body. In fact, a little movement can actually decrease soreness.
Even as you schedule intense workout days you should also plan rest days. If you’re restless and have trouble taking a day completely off, choose mild activity that’s not so strenuous that it leaves you sore and worn out. Go for a walk, take your horse for an easy ride, stretch or do yoga, or go for an easy bike ride. Light activity increases blood flow that helps repair muscles.
Free Yourself From Guilt
The holidays are a great time to slow down, rest, and take time to do what you enjoy. Amidst the stressors of holiday travel, parties, work, and year-end horse events, it can be difficult to tightly adhere to your fitness routine. Understand that as you manage your hectic holiday schedule, you may slip up and eat too much pie or make it to the gym fewer times than you’d like. Remember, the road to good health is a marathon, not a sprint. Do your best to free yourself from the guilt of a not-so-good day and aim to do better the following day. The best thing you can do is acknowledged what caused you to not stick to your program, and ask yourself if you’re tired, stressed, or boredom eating. If you can diagnose your state-of-mind as you cheat, you’ll be more aware next time you’re in a similar situation and can make better choices.
When you stray from your plan, brush it off. Don’t let yourself think that because you’ve already messed up, you may as well forget about your goals. This can lead to a binge episode or a long stretch of inactivity, which leaves you feeling worse. Instead, remind yourself that you’ve worked hard to get to your current fitness level, and not to let one minor offense ruin your hard work. Shake a bad day off and start fresh the next day.
When you push your body, it's important to give it time to recover. For help reaching your riding goals, consider the online fitness program Saddle Strong. Instructor Kelly Altschwager will not only give you workouts and rest days, but helpful dietary guidelines and support.