So you’ve made 2018 your year to get moving and get in shape. This is the year you’ve finally developed healthy routines: you’ve been nailing your daily workouts, hitting up those fitness classes every morning, cooking meals that are delicious and good for you. WELL DONE—this is all of us at Dallas Iron Fitness giving you virtual high-fives for your go-getter attitude!
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Once you’re in your zone, it’s easy to want to go hard every day to reach your goal. You’re seeing the pounds drop or the muscles grow and all around you’re feeling so much better than you ever have, so naturally you want to keep chasing down those exercise goals every day.
But did you know that rest is just as important as exercise and eating right to keeping your body feeling and looking great?
Working your body too hard can actually have an adverse effect: overtraining, without proper rest, increases the amount of cortisol in your body. While cortisol—aka the stress hormone—is a necessary component of our fight-or-flight defenses, too much cortisol can wreak havoc on your body: increased risk of heart disease, immune diseases and other illnesses, increased risk of depression, weight gain, and so much more.
We’re not about that.
Clearly, a little R&R is incredibly important to your overall health, just as important as those workouts you’ve been owning and healthy dinners you’ve been cooking.
But giving your body a break doesn’t necessarily mean bingeing an entire season of This Is Us with a gallon of ice cream (let’s be real, it happens to the best of us).
lower your stress with these 4 ways to give your body a break.
1. Take a walk (without the FitBit).
The purpose: simply enjoying the outdoors and gently moving your body, without feeling the nagging need to reach a certain number of steps that day. This is about taking time to relax, people. The FitBit and incessant need to count our steps can take a break for an afternoon.
The other benefit of a walk in the park? Vitamin D. When we think of Vitamin D, we tend to think of milk and calcium and strong bones. While these are health benefits of this important vitamin, it also has other important health benefits, like helping to regulate the immune system and improve our moods.
2. Stretch it out.
Stretching is a gentle form of movement that can combat stress by releasing endorphins. You’ll receive those same post-workout feelings while still allowing your body a break from the challenges of a difficult workout. Stop in for a lunch break yoga class or schedule in a 15-minute stretch sesh before work.
3. Find an active hobby.
Gardening. Swimming. Hiking. Biking. Cleaning. Redecorating your home. Anything that invites movement!
The point is to find something that is enjoyable both to your mind and body—not to treat these activities as a workout to go hard at, but to take things slow and simply enjoy the activity for what it is. Movement decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and so does mindfulness—being fully aware and present of the moment you find yourself in. So use this rest day to skip the workout and instead engage in an activity or hobby that you enjoy! Your body, including your mind, will thank you.
4. Turn into bed early.
We’re adding our voices to the broken record that is the health tip to get enough sleep. But our body all-caps-level NEEDS sleep to be able to function well, fight off illness, and feel its best. Enough sleep has a multitude of health benefits: lowering your risk of heart disease and maintaining weight, just to name a couple.
And that Vitamin D you soaked up on your walk in the park earlier in the day? You need sleep to use it.
And an unnatural sleep rhythm throws your cortisol levels out of whack. In a healthy person, cortisol levels are meant to peak in the morning—giving you the energy boost you need to wake up—while reaching its lowest levels between midnight and 4 am. And need we remind you what happens when our cortisol levels are off? (Hint: awful things, like heart disease and weight gain.)
So use your rest day—and ALL your days—to turn into bed early enough that will allow you to get your full 7-9 hours of sleep that your body needs to rest and repair and regulate! Our favorite bedtime ritual to wind down? Turning off the phone, grabbing a book and a candle, and letting our bodies go into chill mode.