Breaking Up - With Exercise

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Breaking Up With Exercise

I've exercised fairly consistently my whole life. But every now and then I need a break. Lately I have been really working out hard and regularly. Even when I had house guests for two weeks, I never missed a run, hike, or weight lifting session. But this week, all the events of spring and summer caught up with me and I realized I was tired. Bone tired. I knew it was time to do what I have always done when I hit a wall. I broke up with exercise. So how do I break up with exercise? I understand that the breakup is not a long-term thing; I relax and give myself a break understanding that mental health is as important as physical health and I take a day or few off. Experience allows me to understand that a break from exercise can actually improve my overall fitness by allowing me to rest, rejuvenate and prepare to get back at it, stronger in every way. 

Here is how I knew it was time to break up. On Monday morning I went for my trail run, it took all my energy to get ready, but I have a few tricks I use to help when that happens, so out the door I went. I did the run, but it felt slow, heavy, and I found no joy in it. I had to walk the last quarter of mile. Tuesday, I went for my hike, and came home and lifted weights. Again, it just didn't feel good. I had no energy the rest of the day and I could tell it wasn't just a passing thing. Wednesday, I was sore from Tuesday's weight lifting. With all this, I decided it was time to take a break so I took the rest of the week off. Almost as soon as I made the decision I started feeling better and even started looking forward to Sunday or Monday when I knew I would again be raring to go.


Sarah Gibson, Certified Personal Trainer finds that many fitness junkies equate the idea of taking a day off with Satan. My husband was that way when he was a serious distance runner who sometimes trained in excess of 50 miles per week. She points out how this is not true and my husband no longer over trains either.

Rest periods are a part of many professional training plans. They allow the body and the mind to recuperate to our benefit. As Sarah says, “As we work out, we place greater strain on our muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints. Our immune system is activated when there are muscle tears or joint strains, but if the body doesn’t come out of continual practice, this system doesn’t have the time to catch up and start patching everything back up. Thus, if you’re building muscle, you should take a day off from lifting the same region so the body has time to repair the muscles you’re working.”

I have observed the truth of this in my own exercise regimen. Running and other impact activities stress joints and connective tissue. Those who exercise regularly generally have lower measures of inflammation but they also have higher measures immediately after vigorous exercise. Systemic inflammation (e.g., as measured by C-reactive protein) needs to return to baseline; otherwise you may experience joint damage from inflammation. Cycles of deep rest can aid in this process.

Rest days depend on the type of athlete you are, according to Gibson. Mind and body athletes (think Pilates and yoga) may want to take a day off altogether, whereas bodybuilders may only want to take a day off from lifting, but still do a little cardio. Your need for rest days may also depend on your fitness. We need to learn more about this.

I have also observed that it is important to eat differently on days of rest. In general, eat less and perhaps consume fewer carbohydrates. It is OK to stick to your nutrition plan, but make it a light day. This will be different for everyone and your body will probably hit a point where you feel ravenous because your metabolism has shot through the roof as you work out more regularly. Just remember to eat right, eat on time and drink lots of water.

Give your body love and attention and know that every successful athlete does this, too. Take your day of rest to reflect on how far you have come and plan how far you will go!

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That's it for this week! Let me know if there is anything you want to know about how I incorporate health, fitness, and beauty in to my life. And thanks for stopping by!


I have little tricks I use to get myself going on days I don't feel quite up to it. On days that I am feeling slow, I put on my exercise clothes thinking just because I put them on doesn't mean I have to do anything. Then I tell myself to just head out the door and if I still don't want to do it I can come back inside. Almost every time I go that far, I end finishing and feeling really great. Another trick I use is to do a different exercise. If a run sounds too strenuous, I take a relaxing walk. I always feel much better when I do something. If none of those things work, I take a break and I don't beat myself up. I focus on my next workout.