As the type-A go-getter that I am, I admit, it’s hard for me to take a break. I multi-task constantly and have a lot of things on my plate, not only fitness-wise but career-wise, relationship-wise as well. I try to excel at everything I do, but in the end, if you pile too many things on your plate, you’re only going to end up exhausted.
Because I am trying to train for a marathon and complete 90 days of P90X at the same time, I can’t do both perfectly. And although I know in the end I am going to be in the best shape of my life, it’s hard for me to look at my marathon training schedule and not get slightly nervous that I am only running 2-3 times a week instead of the recommended 4. This past week I was able to get in 17 miles instead of the recommended 19 PLUS five P90X Workouts (we skipped Kenpo X in favor of a 7 mile long run). However, due to social obligations and a hair appointment, I’m probably not even going to get in three runs this week, putting me at 15 miles total (a 6 miler Tuesday and a 9 miler planned for Sunday) rather than the 24 miles that my marathon schedule has planned for me. As the overachiever I am, I wanted to forgo my rest day today (Monday) and run. This would be my first rest day in 2 weeks (I skipped rest last week for a 5 mile run).
Running Improvement with LESS Running
After talking to my coworker, a fellow fitness addict, and listening to my body, I have decided to take today off. Another reason for my change of heart was that since our group run was canceled due to rain on Saturday, Mike and I did Legs & back on Saturday morning and then ran 7 miles yesterday afternoon. We started off at a solid pace – about 9:15 and by the end of the 7 miles, we were going at a 8:45 min/mile pace, finishing with an overall average pace of 9:10. Typically, I do my long runs at a 9:30-10 min/mile pace, usually closer to the 10 min/mile (despite the fact that my race pace is about 9:05 – it’s always best to run long runs at about a minute slower than race pace). However, the 9:10 pace felt great yesterday and I was able to chat with Mike and really enjoy the run without feeling like I over-did it. This victory alone made me realize that I don’t need to follow the running schedule of 4 times a week in order to run faster. Obviously P90X is making my legs and core stronger so that I am able to sustain a faster pace.
The Importance of Taking a Break
Despite my resolution to take the recommended rest day, I also decided to do some research into the importance of rest days and how they can affect your training. According to sportsmedicine.about.com, a muscle needs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to repair and rebuild, and working it too soon just leads to tissue breakdown instead of building. This is especially important for weight training exercises, which obviously is why P90X is designed to have resistance training at least one day apart from one another. When it comes to running, rest days are vital. Some even argue that the rest day is equally as important as the long run itself. Not only does it give your body a break, it can have great psychological benefits as well. Not to mention, it gives you extra time to get things done that you may have not been able to squeeze in during a day that you have to work and train. For me, that extra time is going straight to extra hours in bed before I have to hit the snooze button. This morning, Mike and I slept until a blissful 7 a.m. (1.5 hours later than we wake up for P90X) and I feel absolutely fabulous today.
Sleep – It Does a Body Good
On that note, sleep is another important factor of beneficial recovery. As previously mentioned, Mike and I wake up at about 5:30 each morning to do P90X and we usually don’t get into bed until 10 p.m or later. Although 7.5 hours may seem like enough for most, it’s not enough for us (not to mention it often takes me a while to fall asleep). Therefore, we take advantage of every instant on the weekend that we can to sleep. We try to get in bed early on Fridays because we wake up at 6:30 for long runs Saturday morning. Usually, we take a nap on Saturday afternoon, and then Sunday we try to get a good 9-10 hours of sleep in. It sounds like a lot of precious weekend hours spent sleeping but it’s necessary when you are pushing your body to the limit each and every day. By 10 p.m. on Sunday I’m still more than ready for bed.
It’s a good thing that we sleep so much because sleep is when the body produces growth hormones that help build strong muscles. Tony Horton himself has listed sleep as the 8th Law of Exercise (beachbody.com). Tony emphasizes that in addition to sleep being the time that muscles recover and are built, sleep also boosts your immune system. Tony emphasizes that sleep and recovery are as important as exercise and says “sometimes you have to do nothing so that you can do something.”
Another bonus feature of getting plenty of sleep – not getting enough can cause your body to release a hormone that increases your hunger level, leading you to overeat even when your body doesn’t actually need the fuel. And what does it do with that extra food? You got it – it stores it as fat.
Listen to Your Body
In the end, the amount of sleep or rest you need for success is variable on your body. Everyone needs a different amount, but what I have learned is that everyone deserves and needs at least one day a week to completely rest. If your body is tells you one week that you need two days, take them. In the end, you will push it harder in your workout the day after rest than you would have had you struggled through a workout the day before. You’ll also see bigger gains because your muscles had time to recover and prepare for that intense workout. It’s a win-win!