HABIT 6 – REST AND RELAX
“Down time is productive time, not wasted opportunity. ”
Rest and relaxation is a vital part of better health and fitness. It allows you to rejuvenate your body and mind, manage your mood and encourages learning. Not getting enough rest can have very bad effects on your immune system, memory and stress levels.
Relaxation time is just as important as exercise time for most people. If you’re not getting enough relaxation – you have to plan it in like other important aspects of your life.
If you’re the type of person that tends to try to fit too much into your life and go like a bull at a gate at most projects or ten projects at once then you need to pay particular attention to plan in your rest and relaxation time. However if you are the kind of person who struggles to move your ass then you need to make sure you don’t overdo the R and R.
It’s important to realise that rest and relaxation doesn’t just mean movies and M&Ms (sitting and eating). Rest and relaxation can and should include movement and activity. We too often fall into mindless patterns during down time and whilst mindless time is important too we can often have time out in more effective ways.
Here are some great ways to manage your rest and relaxation. Some of these have already been touched on but it won’t hurt you to consider them relaxation techniques:
PLAN RECOVERY TIME – Recovery time, whether it be physical or mental shouldn’t be at the mercy of all other areas of life. Sometimes we have to book it in like any other important appointment and take the time out for ourselves. We live in an increasingly “busy” world with more distractions than ever form what we say we value and know we need in our life so making time for recovery is vital to achieve balance.
For those that are exercising more than three times per week planning in your recovery time becomes a vital part of your health and fitness regime. Overtraining can lead to decreased performance, elevated BP, Decreased immunity, disturbed sleep and more.
Recovery time is when you take your active and passive rest and the benefits of both of those are discussed in great detail in this chapter. One of the keys to recovery time is actually planning it in as a pro active part of your schedule.
“Overtraining is so bad for you that one episode of overtraining can set my athletes back six months in their peak performance.” Roy Sugarman
Like most health and fitness principles the optimal recovery time depends on the person. Here are some great strategies for managing your recovery time.
BREATHE BETTER – Why worry about breathing hey. I mean you seem to do it without thinking right? But are you breathing properly? The fact is that poor posture, sitting for too much of the day and high stress levels often teaches people to use shallow upper chest breathing which soon becomes a habit and also forms part of a typical stress response.
Fortunately we do have the ability to consciously control our breathing and get better at it. Scientific studies have shown that controlling your breath can help to manage stress and stress related conditions and can also boost sports performance. By controlling our breathing we can consciously promote a relaxation response in our body.
What this means is that we can consciously encourage lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood. Maybe paying more attention to our breathing is a good idea? Well we can also – reduce lactic acid build up in muscle tissue,
balance levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, improve immune system functioning, increase physical energy and increased feelings of calm and well-being. Hmmm
– this sounding better and better! But how often do you actually take 3 minutes out of you day to focus on deep breathing?
Breathing exercises are often used in practices such as yoga, tai chi and many forms of meditation. Here are some great strategies for improving your breathing;
6-4-10 BREATHING: this strategy is from Roy Sugarman and he calls it Heart Rate Variability: he states “breathing out for longer than you breathe in has multiple health benefits and helps you recover quickly, as you spend more time in parasympathetic dominance.” “The Reason “parasympathetic dominance” is important is because it promotes healing and repair in the body, it stimulates the immune system, digestion and urinary function and healthy organ function.”
In order to perform 6-4-10 breathing breathe in for six seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and breathe out for ten seconds.
BREATHING MEDITATION – all this means is make some regular time to focus on your breathing. You may be driving a car, walking your dog or doing a conscious meditation but the key is to make time to focus on this vital aspect of our health.
ABDOMINAL BREATHING – One of the aims with many breathing techniques is to use abdominal breathing rather than chest breathing. To do this you try and find a quiet place, relax your breathing, breathe through the nose and when you inhale try and draw breath down deeper into your diaphragm and abdomen filling your lower lungs first and then you’re upper lungs. When you exhale empty your upper lungs (chest) and then your lower lungs (abdomen). You will notice as you practice this technique it will feel like you can use a greater volume of your lungs.
NOSE BREATHING – breathing in and out through your nose allows for proper filtration of the air we breathe. It also encourages deeper breathing and better breath control.
There are many different forms of breath techniques and 6-4-10 is one of the best I have found but the important thing is to find opportunities to practice them.
SIT LESS – “Few of us do 10 000 steps a day, and nowhere near the 70 000/80 000 our remote ancestors did when our genotype was evolving.”
There’s a nice fact for you from Dr Roy so next time you need a rest maybe you can make it an active rest… some gardening, cleaning or yoga. “Movement is not just something confined to the gym. Sedentary activities of work and leisure are threatening for health and future disability, even in peak, young athletes.”‘ Roy Sugarman, Motivation for coaches.
Rest does not have to mean sitting on your butt for five hours eating potato chips and watching TV. Most of us get more than enough sedentary time.
“Incidental movement as measured by a pedometer should exceed 7700 steps a day, and preferably 10 000.”
Ideally we should be sitting for no more than one hour at a time whether we are participating in work or leisure. Get up to have a stretch, drink, chat or walk every hour of the day.
“If there is a magic pill to take to avoid disability as you age, and I mean as you age past thirty or forty, you should take it, and there is: it is complex movement. Movement is an effective strategy for keeping your body healthy, I am sure that you get that fact, but it ALSO
and in some cases, more importantly, not only saves your body from unhealthy decline, but also keeps your thinking and reasoning and other cognitive issues going at the right pace in your brain. To achieve this you have to sit less, and disrupt sitting patterns often for brain health as much as body integrity.”
STRESS LESS – “80 percent of all illnesses result from stress.” Larry Payne, Yoga for Dummies.
Stress can actually be good sometimes – like the stress you put on your body doing a tough workout. It can also be bad like the emotional stress you suffer when you have a fight with your partner. We all need to realise that stress comes in different forms and most importantly
– stress summates. All stress builds up on our system and can very quickly have a very bad affect on our health. The fact is we all live in societies these days that expose us to more stress than we realise. Here are 7 different kinds of stress we are exposed to:
PHYSICAL: intense exertion, manual labour, lack of sleep, travel
CHEMICAL: drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and environmental pollutants such as cleaning chemicals or pesticides
MENTAL: perfectionism, worry, anxiety, long work hours EMOTIONAL: anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, fear
NUTRITIONAL: food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiency, toxins in foods TRAUMATIC: injuries or burns, surgery, illness, infections, extreme temperatures
PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL: troubled relationships, financial or career pressures, challenges with life goals, spiritual alignment and general state of happiness
In his great book “How to Eat move and be healthy” Paul Chek describes how stress builds up. Paul goes on to discuss how in an overstressed person even good stress (like a workout) can become bad stress.
I have had many a gung ho client who thinks that the only way out of their fatigue is another workout – to get their energy back! Unfortunately when you are honestly and actually fatigued and overstressed this sort of practice only makes you more fatigued and overstressed and is completely counterproductive. This moment is precisely when you should seek out rest and relaxation.
Here are some great strategies to help manage your stress levels;
“WORK IN” – Master Chek is a big promoter of what he calls “the work in” as opposed to the work out! Work ins include things like an easy swim, walk or light yoga session. The idea here is to be active but in a way that does not degrade your energy levels. You should come out a work in feeling refreshed instead of fatigued.
GET HAPPY – The American psychological Association says make a little time for enjoyable activities every day and I encourage you to read happiness literature
FIND YOUR STRESSOR – paying attention to what is triggering increased stress in your day is halfway to figuring out ways to reduce it. Once you know what the main causes of stress are in your life – you can come up with strategies to cope better
“If you can’t change your situation – change your attitude” The way we handle the stress in our lives is often just as important as the situations we are in.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH – as discussed in our breathing chapter the benefits of breathing exercises include reduced stress. In fact breathing exercises are one of the few ways we can directly reduce stress response in the body.
BE GRATEFUL – Stress often accumulates when we focus too much on the problems and the negatives in our life and forget to be grateful for all of the positive things that are available to us
Build relationships – avoiding bad relationships and having the social support of good ratio relationships is a key factor in being able to maintain lower stress levels. Obviously avoiding a person you fight with is a good idea but also having someone to talk to and get a fresh perspective is a great idea.
EXERCISE DAILY – the benefits of exercise are well known but the mood lifting benefits and in dolphins of a great workout can and taking your mind off your day and focusing on your workout is a great way to D stress
WALK AWAY – when things get heated and emotional is when people often say or do things they regret. Walking away from stress situations – especially at the most heated moments gives you a chance to calm down and get a wider perspective on any given situation.
GET HELP – if you struggle to deal with your stress levels it is a great health move to seek counselling from a qualified health professional or psychologist. Leaving stress un dealt with is a big mistake. As discussed at the start of this chapter stress builds up and this is when your immunity can be lowered and health problems can occur. Stress can lead to heart disease, asthma, Obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression and anxiety, gastro intestinal problems, Alzheimer’s disease, accelerated ageing, and to premature death Finding what works for you is the key here.
That stress strategy was a long one. Now moving back to rest and relaxation strategies again: SAVE SLEEP – The health and performance benefits of sleep are often overlooked. I still have an awesome client name is John Mason who has historically kept himself pretty fit and strong but has always struggled a little bit with his weight. He definitely has one of those bodies that is not naturally lean… right John? Anyway John’s current training seems to be on the perfect track because we have been able to keep him off diets and let him follow principles that he knows works for him. One of these principles being to make sure he gets enough sleep. If he does get enough sleep he loses fat if he doesn’t he doesn’t lose that it really is that simple for John and many others. Sleep is just another vital piece of the puzzle that if put in place helps you get the whole picture right.
Some of the benefits of adequate sleep include improved memory, longer and better quality of life, healthier weight maintenance, better creativity and performance at leisure and work, reduced stress levels, ability to focus, Improved academic results, less chance of depression, and less risk of accidents.
Here is a list of simple things that you can employ to encourage better sleep; Try to get to bed at the same time each night.
Do not watch TV have bright lights on or use your computer or iPad or iPhone right before bed.
Do not exercise to close to bedtime.
Do not take Cath been meaning Coffee cola tea sodas within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals
Sleep in a room that is completely dark. Drink plenty of water.
Get regular exercise.
Make sure you do not sleep to close to any electrical outlets or electrical devices. Try reading an hour before sleep.
Try meditation before bedtime Avoid caffeine before bed
If you don’t think sleep is important try going without it for a night. The fact is we need adequate sleep to be a normal human being and particularly if we want to try and push ourselves and become better human beings. Sleep is unfortunately now one of those basics that is often overlooked as part of a healthy routine. If we think back to caveman days once again – the caveman had no fluorescent lights to keep them awake at night, no TV no iPads no bedside lamps and books. I’m sure they slept more than the seven hours per day we prescribe these days.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. – Physical fatigue or general aches and pains are a sure sign that you may be over training. Sometimes it is good to push through but not blindly ignoring what is happening in your body.
TRACK YOUR HEART RATE – especially for endurance athletes tracking your heart rate can be a great way to double check if you maybe over training. If you’re waking resting heart rate is 10% more than your normal resting heart rate that could be a sign of bodily fatigue and over training.
CONSIDER YOUR AGE. – For most people age is a factor in recovery time. The older you get the longer you can take to recover from intense workouts.
TRACK YOU’RE PROGRESS – if you are feeling stale in your training are not seeing any progression it may be that you are over training. Not allowing proper recovery time between sessions is a common mistake.
PLANA RECOVERY WEEK – every 4 to 6 weeks depending on your training cycles it can be a great idea to have a whole easy week. This gives your body a great chance to recover and repair from niggling injuries and aches that could turn into bigger problems.
IF IT STILL HURTS DON’T TRAIN IT –. This is a good general rule especially if you are breaking your training up into different muscle groups. If you’re doing whole body training it may be okay to work some sore muscles as long as there is a recovery day on the near horizon.
EXTRA TRAINING DESERVES EXTRA SLEEP – this seems a no-brainer but it is something that is not often adhered to. If you are feeling extra tired from having trained extra hard. Go to bed extra early. Your body will love you for it.
EXTRA TRAINING EQUALS EXTRA NUTRITION – just as with sleeping if you are training extra hard your body needs extra nutrients it all needs to be kept balanced.
REST ACTIVELY – “flopping into a chair after training undoes the value of the growth hormones released during training, and switches off the value that was added, both in body and brain. ” dr Roy Sugarman.
The words active rest can seem contradictory however the point is here that doing some light activity on what are supposed to be “rest days” can be far more beneficial than complete rest from exercise – passive rest.
Active rest can simply be defined as a workout that is much easier than your normal workouts and leaves you feeling more energised than depleted.
As already mentioned – Paul check calls an active rest workout a “work in” as opposed to a workout meaning you take more energy in then you put out
Something to keep in mind with your active rests however other fact that my “work in” may be your workout. For fitter people for example marathon runners along slow jog may be an active rest whereas for someone new to exercise that could be an extreme workout. Take your personal fitness level into consideration when it comes to active rest
The benefits of active rest include and are not limited to better metabolism, better circulation and recovery, improved emotional and mental recovery, decreased risk of overtraining and injury and active rest can also aid what weight loss (by exercising daily you’re more likely to adhere to your nutrition principles)
Here are some great active rest ideas; Walking (Take the dog)
Swimming Yoga Stretching
Mobility exercises Foam rolling Cycling
Light sport (table tennis, tennis, badminton, golf, etc) Tai chi
Remember the goal of an active rest day is to come out of the workout feeling more energised than exhausted. It is easy to get stuck into yourself once you get started with an exercise routine so keep the goal of the session in mind – it is better to under do it then overdo it. As the great Paul check says “train, don’t drain”.
PASSIVE REST – For the general health and fitness enthusiast and even for professionals a complete rest day can be emotionally and mentally refreshing. The problem with passive rest days can be that some people take this to mean they should sit on the couch all day eating chocolate drinking wine and eating potato chips. Ideally even a passive rest I should have some light movement, frequent circulation
Here are some great passive rest ideas; Light Gardening
Walk the dog Massage Listen to music Acupuncture
Watch a movie Watch TV Read a book Lay in the sun
The key to a passive rest is to remember that complete inactivity for long periods is not a great thing for our body, brain or being. Plan passive rest into your schedule but remember passive rest doesn’t mean turning into a sloth all day that eats junk food. The fact is most of us are getting too much “Passive” rest not lacking it.
Rest and relaxation allows recovery time. Recovery time in any training program is of vital importance because it is during recovery time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effects take place. The benefits are physical and mental and flow on to our health, fitness and lifestyle. Plan it into your routine and enjoy it.