We’re entering the holiday season again when, while there may be a lot of fun to be had, it can also be a time of stress. Socializing, entertaining, cooking, shopping are all supposed to be enjoyable but can also be exhausting, especially if we’re also trying to keep up with the usual activities like our work and exercise schedule. It’s easy to let that latter one fall off the “to do” list.
But this post isn’t about encouraging you to keep up with your exercise. I hope you do. But what it’s really about is encouraging you to find time for rest and recovery. This is a time when, for all the diversion, we can neglect our need to de-stress. During the holidays, we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves: to have the decorations looking just so, to get all the cards mailed and the presents purchased, to bake and cook. It might all be great fun, and yet, to enjoy it, we must slow down and take it in.
If you’re an extrovert, perhaps the additional socializing is rejuvenating. It’s the limits on your social life over the last year that are literally painful. But even people who love big social gatherings can get tired. For introverts, some socializing can be great fun, but you need to find some alone time as well. Yet, eighteen months of alone time might have been a bit much.
Just like we need to find the right combination and balance of social time and alone time, of whooping it up and calming it down, we also need both “strategic stress” and adequate rest in our exercise program.
Did you know that most of the changes your body makes in reaction to your workouts happen while you are asleep? The workout stresses your system in positive ways that communicate to your body the changes you want it to make. During rest, particularly sleep, the body actually makes those changes. It is not a conscious process, but one that happens “behind the scenes.” For this reason, and perhaps due to other values that our culture holds, we tend to dismiss rest in favor of action. But, neglecting rest and recovery is a disservice to your progress.
During the workout, remember to breathe and take a moment between sets. When the workout is over eat good, nutritious food and get a good night’s sleep. During this season, do the same. Take moments during the action to pause and savor it. Then take time to recover: rest well and let peace be with you.