As a trainer/coach who was once proudly overtrained and chronically exhausted, I approach this topic with a deep understanding of the mind games that keep us from fully embracing recovery and therefore losing muscle, gaining weight, and plateauing at a not-so-happy place.
Let me establish that for the Sweat crowd, I am addressing a group of people who generally LOVE working hard in all aspects of their lives. Lifting, jumping, slamming, etc is generally a visible, outward expression of who they are on the inside- People who aren’t afraid to kick ass now in order to kick even more ass later. In addition, our #SweatFam doesn’t lack access to information, either, so I just don’t feel compelled to spew out a bunch of biology and explain the science behind recovery. Others have already done that quite well but here are a few links if needed.
My job here today is to speak directly to the mindset that just WILL NOT LET YOU accept the science and value behind recovery. I am here to address that inner voice that demands you ALWAYS kick it up a notch even when your body is screaming for less.
1. “But I ate an entire bag of chips last night!”
Classic excuse. How you exercise becomes a constant REACTION to what you ate.
THE PROBLEM: You never address the real reason as to why you over ate because you see exercise as a way to subtract calories.
THE SOLUTION: Instead of breaking out into a guilty burpee session the next morning or an extra long run, you need to sit down and reflect. Was this a reaction to under eating during the day or week, to constantly using will power to eat perfectly, to a craving, to an emotionally draining situation, or to what JillFit calls FOMO– the fear of missing out? Find the ROOTS to the binge and address things based on what you find there. Burpees are not your solution and are likely perpetuating the underlying problem.
2. “I feel awful if I don’t exercise!”
At some level this can be true and it’s not altogether a bad thing. It’s great that you love a good sweat and that your body and mind realize the benefits. The issue arises when you are physically exhausted, not sleeping at night, feeling achy all the time, in a constant need of caffeine etc. and yet your mind will not let you take a day (or two or three) off!! The “I feel awful if I don’t exercise!” becomes your license to exercise again and again and avoid what you need most, rest.
THE SOLUTION: There are many angles one could take here, but the one people can quantify is the one that I have found the most impactful in coaching people to embrace recovery- SLEEPING. I challenge you… take 3-7 days off from exercising altogether and take note of how you sleep. You don’t feel awful if you don’t exercise, you might feel awful because for the past 6 weeks you’ve been sleep deprived. Want to get some great sweat sessions in again? Then recover!! Use that workout time for extra sleep at night or a nap during the day!
3. “It’s so boring!”
To the over exerciser who loves the euphoria of the workout high, stillness is like punishment.
THE SOLUTION: If you love the “high” of a workout, I need for you to become physically addicted to what I call “the walkers low.” I, like you, find active recovery difficult. I find myself making a long list of what I should be doing instead of taking a leisurely walk around the block (or a warm bath with a good book). However, as I’ve practiced embracing meaningful recovery for the past 18 months, I have also noticed that my body absolutely rewards itself with a hormonal response to relaxation. Right around the 15-20 minute mark of a walk, I become completely relaxed, my lungs are able to expand fully, I can exhale completely as well, my anxiety about my lengthy to-do list subsides and I am content just being in the moment. Boom! The walkers low. At that moment, I know I am literally combatting the physical and mental stresses in my world with all the feel-good hormones necessary to keep my metabolism, my body, and my mind balanced and healthy.
More does NOT ALWAYS equate to BETTER OR BEST. There is a point of not only diminishing returns but also negative returns. If you pull an all night study session, you have not earned your way to that coveted A. You quite likely have pulled your grade down by not allowing your brain time to recover and process. The same goes for your body.
If you want MORE out of your training, are you BRAVE ENOUGH to do LESS? If the science is pointing all of us towards the value of recovery for fat loss and muscle gains, don’t let your MINDSET get in the way!!