Yesterday I showed up to my physical therapy session feeling good and with an abaundance of energy.
For the first time in weeks, I wasn’t feeling pain. I was ready to push hard, to give my all at whatever Carlos threw at me. But Carlos had other plans. It was going to be a light day.
At first I was taken aback.
Finally I was showing up feeling good in my body and with a lot of energy. There’s so much more to work on; it seemed like a waste of the energy to not seize the moment.
After all, isn’t that why I’m here? To push past my perceived limits?
Carlos reiterated a lesson that he’s shared many times, about how I also need to avoid overtraining and prioritize rest.
He said that I needed to allow the body to recover, so that my system wouldn’t go into overload and could adapt to the training we did this week. He wants me to be able to push harder next week, so we can increase my intensity and volume. To do so requires adequate rest.
I knew that he was right.
Learning How to Stop
As much as I may have wanted to seize the moment, I reminded myself that the reason I’m working with him is not only to have someone who can push me when I don’t push myself enough, but also to have someone tell me when I need to stop.
One of my patterns is that I tend to be all or nothing.
In my workouts, sensations — or even fears of pain — may cause me to back off too soon. But I also have the opposite tendency: I always see places where I can do more. Often I push too far and don’t know when to stop.
As a result, I tend to overwork until I’m exhausted or burned out. Then I reluctantly embrace rest, often because I have no choice.
For me, the challenge is in finding and staying on that elusive middle path.
That’s where my practice is, both in my fitness and in other areas of my life.
All Rest is Not the Same
We live in a culture that promotes the full throttle effort and celebrates those who cross the finish line of a race and collapse in a heap of exhaustion.
Give it your all. Leave nothing on the table. Empty the tank.
These are the messages we hear.
So it’s normal to wonder what’s wrong with this. Resting when you’re exhausted is still resting, is it not?
Kind of, but not really.
What I’ve learned (and still learning, because this is my kryptonite), is that the quality of rest is different.
When we fully deplete the body, the rest is to repair, not to recover.
The way to strengthen the body is to stress the system, allow it to adapt, then stress it again. This adaptation happens in the recovery phase.
When we overload or overwhelm the system, the system needs to repair itself, which prevents adaptation. The result is stagnancy: our system doesn’t adapt and thus cannot take on more load.
Rest Before You’re Ready
What’s true for the physical body is also true for the mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies.
The lesson in this is that the time for rest is not dependent on whether the work is done. Indeed, there is always more work we could do. To get true rest and recovery that will prime our growth, we must create space for rest before we feel “ready.”