The other day while sorting through my promotions emails, I opened one from Rachel Hollis. If you don't know Rachel, she's a spunky motivational speaker and author of the wildly popular self-help book "Girl, Wash Your Face." While I appreciate some of her principals (and her marriage podcast), Rachel and I disagree on one fundamental value: never resting. The post was titled something along the lines of "How NOT to Gain 94 Pounds Over the Holidays," and it laid out all her tips and tricks. One of them was "Work Out. Every Single Day. No Matter What." This is something she regularly preaches, and I immediately struggled with her book because it got a little "diet-y."
I felt compelled to write this post soon after reading that email. In this season more than ever, the no-rest-days mentality seems to be more prevalent than ever. Even after cleaning up my social media feeds and being cognizant of how I consume media, this mentality still creeps in. It's the girl on my Instagram Explore page who says "balance doesn't work for her" and she simply has to work out every day. It's the memories of a community I was once part of where working out while sick was condoned, and even admired. Maybe it's just the holidays enhancing all this stuff, but it finds a way of nestling itself into your life and embedding what I'll call "rest-guilt" if you're not on-board the 24/7 activity train.
Here's the thing: movement should be mindful. If you're working out, you should be doing it because it feels good, it’s what your mind and body desire, and no one is pressuring you to do it. More importantly, it’s OK if you DON’T want to work out! There are going to be days where you just aren’t feeling it. Maybe you’re sick. You were up late studying (or watching Netflix…). Maybe there’s a pain that’s plaguing you, you’re stressed, or you simply just don’t want to. We are all incredibly busy humans living in a non-stop world. You have to give yourself permission to rest when you need it. This might mean taking a day off from working out, even if it was planned. Maybe you take the week off, or even the month. Everybody has a different way of resting, and whatever you decide is right for you can be the answer. Resting doesn't include just working out, either. It might mean saying no to social functions, taking a day off from a stressful job, or getting an extra hour of sleep.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll admit that I still struggle with this. Recovery isn’t an overnight thing. I still have days where I plan workouts, wake up and don’t want to do them, then do them anyway. Usually, this is prefaced by me really needing that extra sleep that I lose to a workout. At least now, I can better sense when I’m moving mindfully or out of a dutiful commitment to some impossible ideal - but instead of beating myself up after I exercise for the latter, I just try to understand what happened in my mind and try to do better next time. Sometimes, what my body is saying to me is “REST.” For me, this means low movement. Watching TV. Not going into town, maybe catching up on some reading, or going to yoga. Sometimes, I don’t even want the yoga, and other days I crave it. Your body will tell you what it needs. Trust it.
The truth is, life is hard. The pressure to exercise and take care of your body adds stress sometimes. In a world where no rest days are allowed, give yourself the permission to break this rule. A mini challenge: next time you work out, ask yourself why you’re doing it. If the reason is “to lose weight, to be prettier/skinnier, or because I HAVE to,” then girl...take a break.