One of the questions I get asked all the time is this:
“How often do you work out?”
I have a standard answer that rolls off my tongue without me even thinking about it:
“I aim for six workouts a week, but five workouts a week is acceptable.”
That answer it completely one hundred percent true. This morning, though, I realized I’ve only been focusing on half of it, and I need to make a change. Here’s what went down:
My alarm woke me up at 6am, and my plan was to go swim laps before work. I got up, did my routine, dressed for the pool, and realized I was running ahead of schedule by 5 minutes. “I’ll just sit on the couch,” I thought, “and watch a couple minutes of the morning news.”
Anyone wanna guess what happened next?
Yep. I dozed off. For an hour. I had to scrap my plans for the pool, and instead showered, dressed and headed straight to the office. When I left my house, my gym bags were empty.
I was pissed at myself during my entire drive to work, because today wasn’t supposed to be a rest day. I just had a rest day three days ago.
When I was walking from the parking lot into my building, I realized something else: I was tired. And sore. It was the kind of tired and sore feeling that usually leads to me taking a rest day. I started coming around to the idea that perhaps this unplanned rest day was exactly what I needed today.
A little later, I pulled out my calendar. I’m diligent about noting my workouts (as posts like this one prove), so I was able to quickly see that I’ve worked out six times during each of the past nine weeks. There was a stretch in May, after my trip to New York, when I worked out thirteen days in a row.
On one hand, that’s outstanding. I’m proud of that accomplishment, as it’s the result of a lot of determination and focus. On the other hand, I wonder if it’s too much focus. I wonder how often I’ve ignored my body’s signals in order to keep that standard up. I wonder if I’ve pushed myself on days when I really should’ve taken it easy. I wonder: Whatever happened to ‘five workouts a week is acceptable?’
Once I closed my calendar, I was no longer pissed. If anything, I was annoyed that I spent my entire commute being pissed at myself. Time for an internal pep talk:
Pay attention to your body, David. You know you like to push yourself during your workouts. You know that can be hard on your body. You know that rest days are important. SO EMBRACE THEM. Goals are a good thing, but you built that ‘five workout a week is acceptable’ clause into your goal because it’s TRUE.
Remember that you’re doing a great job, David. A really spectacular job. And you know it, too – so quit trying to prove to yourself that you’re unstoppable. Forcing yourself to complete a sixth workout when you’re fatigued isn’t worth the risk of injury. Take it easy.
It’s easy for me to get swept up in my health goals. In the past it’s led me to unhealthily obsess over the numbers on the scale, and now I think it could be encouraging me to ignore the messages from my own body for the sake of having as full a workout calendar as possible. It’s not balanced. It’s not healthy. And recognizing that is the first step towards making a change. And embracing a deserved yet unplanned rest day is a second step.
That, in a nutshell, is what this whole big shebang is all about. Figuring out all the little steps so the big changes can fall into place.
Keep it up, David!