Rest is best

I’ve always struggled to relax and wind down. I’m one of those people on the go all the time, who feels they could be more productive than they are, scrutinising the clock to see if I can squeeze more things in. I often feel I could be training more than I am and, with the recent move to Manchester, there’s so many classes I want to go to.

A couple of evenings ago I was at a Krav Maga gym and was holding the pad when my training partner accidentally knocked it into my throat. It felt painful, but I brushed it off and finished the class. I woke up in the night and had all the symptoms of tonsillitis, only I wasn’t ill. I was completely floored the following day and reluctantly stayed at home thinking of all the things I should be doing, but couldn’t.

It’s not unusual for throat trauma to cause the lymph nodes to swell up and for the body to deal with this minor injury by enforcing rest. Part of me considered defying how I felt and carrying on regardless, but it led me to write this post as I reflected on over-training and how rest days are often sacrificed and not particularly important.

Over-training in its broadest sense is the imbalance between training and recovery; if sufficient rest is not included in a training program then regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus. The most common symptom is fatigue as well as becoming moody, depressed, losing enthusiasm for training and disrupted sleep patterns. Persistent muscle soreness, an increase in illness (especially viral), hormonal disturbances (linked to elevated levels of cortisol and pregnenolone) and an increase in injuries can all be physical symptoms of over-training.

Our culture values doing over being; our worth is measured in productivity and output; simply being isn’t enough and this mindset carries over to all areas of our life. Here are some of the ways that help me to wind down and give myself a chance to recover:

DIGITAL DETOX | I turn off the wi-fi, put all of my devices out of sight and spend time alone, writing, reading, listening to music and reconnecting with myself. An hour, an afternoon or a weekend, whatever my schedule allows, really is a tonic for being in such a hyper-connected, over-stimulated world.

SAUNA | It’s hard to multi-task in a sauna; you can’t check your phone or be distracted so it’s the perfect place to go and unwind, especially as the nights draw in and Winter approaches. This place is on my to-visit list.

MASSAGE | I use one of these, especially on my neck and shoulders where I carry a lot of tension.

SLEEP | 8 hours is my ideal time; it’s the best recovery aid out there.

NOURISH | What I eat is just as important as training; without good food I won’t be able to perform well or recover so I always cook from scratch and avoid sugar (especially if my energy is low and I feel I need it to pep me up). My love of dark chocolate grows darker every year and not much beats this 100% bar.

NATURE | I leave my phone behind and go out for a walk and look at the trees, the seasons changing and enjoy the fresh air – whatever the weather.

EPSOM BATH | I like to run a hot bath and add some of this to it.

NAP | I am not one of those people who can nap in the day, but even just closing my eyes for 10 mins and shutting off from the routine of the day feels good.

- F