Knowing When To Take A Break

I loved my trusty Mitsubishi sports car. It was my first car, a bright red little number, with stick shift, a sunroof and a ton of horsepower. I called it ‘Benny’. Benny never failed me. But when I waited too long – usually longer than 6 months – to have routine service done, it would show me signs that it needed some TLC. A slow start, serious drag when going up hills or shimmying when over certain speeds told me that Benny needed to see my mechanic, and immediately. A few hours in mechanic Ringo’s care and Benny was back to its old self ripping up and down Waterloo Road! ~ Shabbs

Signs We Needed A Break

Our bodies are very much like Benny – they can an handle a lot, but without scheduled and regular maintenance and downtime, will begin to show wear and tear. How it does for each person may vary, but we can agree that going at this [exercise] for 13 weeks, without a break, has put a certain [physical] stress on our bodies, the effects of which we are now feeling. Some of the signs indicating we needed a break include:

  • Fatigue where we’d otherwise be energetic and strong
  • Lack of focus/motivation
  • Poor sleep and sleep disturbances
  • Poor recovery from workouts – persistent soreness
  • Increased susceptibility to infections and illness like the flu

Now these are neither the only signs nor are they the ones everyone will experience (see article). They were however the ones most common among all four of us to warrant being mentioned. And instead of pressing ahead – like all the fitness motivation quotes tell you to do – we decided to schedule a week long break [from exercise] to reset and refresh our minds and bodies.

What Taking A Break Means

This break week, while it is technically rest, will look entirely different for each of us depending on how we feel and what we feel most comfortable doing. It can be a complete kind of rest where nothing outside of sleeping in or relaxing after work, is done; or a mixture of complete and active rest – where non weight training activities like yoga, swimming or long walks are mixed in throughout the week. If you are feeling really banged up, then more sleep/relaxing may be just what you need – accomplishing that would be a week well spent. If you are simply feeling unfocused then using other low impact exercises may be the ticket to getting that focus back.

The aim is to listen to your body – it usually knows just how much of a break it needs.

At the same time, a rest week is not a free pass to restart those unhealthy habits left behind. It is even more critical that throughout this week we continue with preparing meals ahead of time, ensuring they are balanced, and staying well hydrated. To do this is to guarantee a week well spent and you return [to your exercise program] re-energized more than ever. You don’t want to binge on burgers and fries and come out on the other side of the rest week feeling anything but rested, do you? Didn’t think so.

Yes we understand the ‘go hard or go home’ fitness culture that permeates the magazines and social media, and to do less feels like you are failing at it. But trust us when we say, that scheduling regular maintenance/downtime will get you much further in your goals, in life and keep you healthy, for a lot longer than going 24/7, 365 days non stop – its just not sustainable. We’re all about the long haul baby! But don’t take our word for it.

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