Why I asked my friends to order me not to workout

I haven’t worked out at all during the past week. Not even once. And even more surprising, it’s been on purpose. This timeout has been an interesting experiment, and it’s one that I’ll definitely repeat.

It’s not like I’ve been lolling on the couch all week watching a Walking Dead marathon on Netflix. I’ve been working — which in my case involves a lot of movement — as well as dealing with the aftermath of moving. But my activity level is definitely lower than normal. In fitness parlance, I’m calling this hiatus a “deload” week, and deloading can be an important part of a recreational athlete’s (and gym rat’s) workout regimen.

I’ve taken rest weeks before but generally they’ve been unplanned and open-ended. This time it was tactical. Why? Somehow I got it through my head that I needed to give myself a break. I moved twice in two months, I got sick, a bunch of business and personal stuff happened, and I felt overwhelmed. My usual m.o. when I get overwhelmed is to dig in deeper and not give in. I decided to do the opposite this time, but I knew I’d probably get nutty and start pressuring myself to get back on my routine, so I told several friends to order me not to workout. And being good friends, that’s what they did. See the capitals? Only good friends yell at you like that on Facebook.

And now that the clock is ticking down on the final day of this workout break, I am really glad I saw it through to the end. I feel refreshed and that “wired-tired” feeling that’s been a fairly constant companion is gone. Also, my cravings are diminished (a lot), and I generally have more pep in my step.

I recently finished writing an article for Experience Life magazine on overstress syndrome, which is something that can happen when all the stresses in your life add up and overtax your system. Your body doesn’t differentiate between sources of stress: work/life stresses, physical stress, “good” stress, bad stress — to your system it’s all the same, and every time you get stressed your body releases a hormone cocktail (the most famous of which cortisol) to give you the energy you need to fight it. Oversimplifying here, but if you overtax that system you can feel overtired, achy and drained, you might find yourself craving sugar and caffeine, and you might get sick more often. (For me, working the classic personal-trainer split shift — training clients before and after a normal workday — doesn’t help much.)

On Wednesday — the fourth day of my layoff — I was surprised at how energetic I felt. It especially shocked me because before then, I didn’t realize that I didn’t feel energetic.

Deload periods are tough because we’re programmed against them. It seems wimpy to take a break. Think about all the fitspo memes on social media — never give in, never give up, push till it hurts and then keep pushing, etc. And yes, sometimes you have to do that. But sometimes, you have to step back for a short while so you can be healthy to hit it hard again. For every period of intensity, you should have a period of recovery.

Here’s a good article with info about deloading, and why you might (or might not) need to consider it. Tomorrow I’m back at it, but I’m kind of excited about designing a routine to help me progress in my goals while still incorporating rest and downtime. I think it’s going to be fun. I do know this: days are more enjoyable when you have some pep in your step.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Bangor-based personal trainer, fitness coach, studio owner, and writer/editor. She is the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at thrivebangor.com.