I recently wrote a post about the importance of rest days. Our bodies get strong by stressing them, but then they need rest in order to adjust and recover from that stress. By stressing our muscles, we make them respond by getting stronger. But continuing to overstress them causes fatigue and injury.
Yesterday was my long run as I prepare for the North Face 50-mile Bear Mountain race. I ran 36 miles - woof! I ran it stupidly slow - but I did run it. I just didn't have much power yesterday; couldn't make myself go. The weather was nasty - cold, rain, sleet, snow. March was not going out in a very lamb-like manner! But I ran.
So today is rest, but not total rest. I want to focus on "active" recovery. After a hard workout, our bodies need rest to recover. But if we do nothing, our muscles tighten up even more, making recovery that much harder. Easy movement allows our muscles to recover, but keeps them from getting stiff.
It can be so
tempting to laze around the house. I was quite content to sit around in my fuzzy pajamas with the reindeer on them (thanks, mom) all day. It was cold and rainy, and I had quite enough of that yesterday! I so wanted to stay curled up in my PJs. But I knew that I would regret it tomorrow when my legs stiffened up. So I put on some clothes and went out into the rain for a little walk/easy run. It was not enough to tire me out, but enough to get the muscles warmed up and moving. Then I came back and did some stretching.
If you've had a tough workout, give yourself a break. Take a day to recover, but make it active recovery. Do some light exercise in a different way. If you've done a big strength training workout, go for an easy swim or walk tomorrow. If you've had a hard run, do some yoga. Do something.
And this doesn't only apply if you're training for a marathon (or 2). Any time you do a tough workout for you, take it easy the next day, but still get in some activity.
When I was going through treatment, I applied the same principle after chemo. OK, so chemo isn't really like a hard workout, but it is tough on your body. Rest is crucial, of course. But I figured if active recovery was good after a hard workout, it couldn't hurt after chemo. The next day after each treatment, no matter how awful I felt, I would get a tiny bit of exercise. Not a lot, just enough to get my body moving. I would try to go for a walk, get outside - even if it was just a walk to the mailbox.
No, exercise and chemo are not at all the same, but the benefits from active recovery are pretty similar. It may seem like the very last thing you want to do, but if you get out of your fuzzy pajamas and move, your body will appreciate it.