Rest is important. Really, really important.
A lot of you will stop reading this now, roll your eyes, scroll on and be like, “yeah, but she doesn’t know what I’ve got on right now.”
Feeling tired is the body’s way of letting us know she’s running out of energy. Her cup is reaching empty and she needs a refill. There is no substitute for sleep, no substitute for rest. Not coffee, not ignoring it, literally when our mind and body are crying out in exhaustion, it’s time for sleep - it’s the only cure.
I think a lot of us look at needing sleep as a sign of weakness and try to “get over it.” But that just won’t work. You have SO MUCH going on that requires your attention, and you are the only one who can take care of you. Rest and sleep are part of your fitness regime - they have to be - you cannot be fit, you will not be fit, if you do not prioritize rest and sleep.
Rest, like food and water, are fuel. Your body needs this to feel energized. You need sleep to feel refreshed and motivated.
It’s so hard to prioritize sleep and rest, so how should you do it? First of all, I need to establish that for this blog, I’m talking about build-up fatigue vs chronic exhaustion. If you are struggling with the latter, it’s something to address with your physician and/or coach. If it isn’t a medical condition, then a “simple solution” may be to work through your schedule and routine to identify what could be shifted or eliminated, or delegated (if you have resources to support this).
When I say “build-up fatigue” I am referring to the type of fatigue or tiredness that comes from managing life and your fitness regime. This can happen at all levels of fitness - whether you’re just trying to get 20 minutes in per day, or you’re training for Ironman. First, let’s start with the symptoms: feeling tired is a clear and obvious symptom, and sometimes we can feel tired because it’s Monday morning and our preference would be to sleep another 30-90 minutes than to get our workout in - that’s normal, but feeling tired consistently and genuinely not being able to muster the motivation to go to your workout should be evaluated.
If you’re feeling bitter or discouraged, this is another sign that you need a break. If you start to find yourself angry at your coach, resenting your teammates, peers, colleagues, then you may need a day off, or a short pause to get refreshed. Balancing a training schedule with life, family, friends, work, eating, sleeping is tough, and cannot be underestimated. There may be times that you need to decide it’s best to drop a workout and get some sleep, or sit and watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee/tea and rest.
Moodiness is often a sign of fatigue or dehydration, so it’s worth checking in with yourself or your coach to evaluate your feelings. I find so often, that we need permission to take a break - it’s normal - don’t be afraid to give yourself permission or to ask for help being okay with it.
Another reason rest is important is that it is part of injury prevention. When we get tired, we don’t execute our workouts as well as we should/could - we get sloppy and risk injuring ourselves. This is a reason that a training plan will also have rest built into it. But just because the rest day in your schedule is Monday, doesn’t mean that your body will be in alignment with this. That’s okay. If you’re finding your body/mind needs rest on Thursday, then take it. We all have individual rhythms and needs. Pay attention to your needs and talk to your coach about how your schedule is working for you - or isn’t working for you. Tweak as needed.
On that point, if you’re nailing every workout every week, but starting to feel overwhelmed by the volume, talk to your coach. When an athlete successfully achieves her workouts, we keep the build going - that is, we build in a set amount of increased time/distance/intensity in line with the athletes goals and objectives in order to meet or exceed the goal. A coach is only as good as the information she has, so let her know that you’re struggling and be honest about it. Training is not just about the workouts - your goals are a part of your life. Your well-being and enjoyment of the training while working toward your goals is as important (if not more important) than your training.
Rest is part of your training, it’s part of having a healthy lifestyle, and how I define fitness. Rest is a key piece of the balance of being fit and cannot be ignored.