If I treated life like I do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, I’d probably feel less exhausted and get a lot more done!
Yesterday I did my first hot yoga class after a two and a half week break. Despite sweating as soon as I stepped into the hotter-than-usual 95 degree room, I managed to push myself deeper into each stretch than I could just a couple of weeks ago, when I was still doing the class twice a week.
I knew this would happen – it happens every time I take a yoga break. The reason? It’s simple.
In the same way that rest periods in a HIIT workout help me to go full pelt during the next interval, incorporating rest periods into other areas of my life usually helps me to perform better when the next challenge arrives.
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. Anxiety has exaggerated my perfectionist streak and I tend towards excess in most things. Exercise is one great example – I’m continually overdoing it.
Last week I signed up to my first 5k, which I’m due to run a month after my next physio review. My knee injury was feeling almost non-existent so, in my wisdom, I thought stepping up my lower limb strengthening routine would nip it in the bud altogether.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. A week of gym and home bodyweight exercises later and my knee pain is back with a vengeance. Why? Because I didn’t take a single rest day for my body to repair and recover. It’s how I triggered my knee injury in the first place – a major overuse sprain.
Exercise can be addictive, there’s no question about that. Seeing the results it has on your body really spurs you on to keep going, but working out for the seventh day that week will never be as good as a rest. I’d even go so far as to say that rule applies to anyone, whatever your level of fitness.
Doing vigorous intensity exercise every day can weaken your body rather than giving the muscles chance to rebuild, recover and strengthen. Basically, you’ll probably perform better in the gym with a regular rest day than by working out seven days a week. Imagine working as hard as you do during HIIT workout intervals without that 10-second rest inbetween!
I’m pretty sure the same applies when looking after our mental health too. I can’t remember the last time I left my phone or the laptop alone and just relaxed! I’m constantly on the go – from working to blogging to catching up with friends or posting on social media.
But just because there’s always something to do doesn’t mean we always have to be doing something – it can be good to take a duvet mental health day once in a while! Even taking 10 minutes at lunch to just sit quietly with your own thoughts can help re-energise you (something I’ve been trying out lately, but more on that soon!) And I know from bitter personal experience how much harder it is to manage your mental health when you’re tired and there’s no rest in sight.
The long and short of it is, if we’re mentally or physically exhausted we’re going to need a rest, so why not try life HIIT? Let’s use rest periods to help us perform better when the next life interval starts. And if you’re still not convinced, here are a few excuses you could use ways you could convince yourself it’s time to relax!
- Coincide your fitness rest day with a hair washing day – what’s the point in washing it if it’s going to get all sweaty in the gym later anyway? Two choices – bad hair day or fitness rest day?
- It’s hard to eat lunch at your desk – you either type one handed and take half an hour to send an email or keep putting your sandwich down between bites and get crumbs stuck in your keyboard. Again, two choices – a voluntary break now or an enforced one later when you can’t press down the keys on your keyboard anymore?
- Who says only babies can nap during the day? If you’re tired and you’ve got the time, I say do it! Two more choices – stay in your skinny jeans or put your comfy pjs back on? Enough said.
So there you have it, doing life HIIT is easier than you think. And, as I write this, I realise that’s probably more of a reminder to myself than to anybody else!