When the pools shut down back in March and many of us swimmers had to find other ways to exercise, for me, at first it was kind of exciting. As you know, I maintain that I am not meant for land – but I started a run training program and low and behold here I am nearly 6 months later still running. I bought a road bike and started going on rides about once a week. The triathlon bug was planted in my brain.
At first, this new routine wasn’t hard to maintain. I had just swapped one cardio activity (running) for another (swimming). A once a week bike wasn’t hard to fit in. I could still do my strength workout routine 3 times a week and fit in one or two rest days – I personally prefer to double up a cardio with a strength so I can take a full rest day or two in a row (I guess it reminds me of morning and afternoon practice days?).
Then, the pools opened back up. I could have hung up my running shoes but I made more progress in the 3 months of “quarantine life” during a global pandemic than I had in my entire life with running. I didn’t want to give up yet. I knew I would be moving to Florida in the summer and open water would be a lot more accessible for me to practice for potential triathons in the future. I wanted to find a way to do both.
Before the pandemic, I was swimming 3-4 times a week and supplementing those swims with 3, 30 min strength workouts. My schedule looked something like this:
Monday – swim + strength
Tuesday – swim
Wednesday – swim + strength
Thursday – rest
Friday – swim + strength (or just swim)
Saturday & Sunday – rest
During the pandemic, I just pretty much swapped out swims for runs, but did not exceed 3 runs a week. I was using the C25/10K trainer app and it kept me consistent. So now the challenge was weaving in swims and runs. When do I fit it all in? How do I build in a rest day? Because the pool workouts were so limited when our gym first reopened (45 min by appointment only), it was a little easier not to overdo it. But it also meant I had to plan better. I couldn’t just head on up to the pool anytime I had a free hour. I had to book it in advance which made it harder to be flexible with my workout plan. In an effort not to overdo it, I tried not to exceed 2-3 swims a week. Even with that – my schedule would look something like this:
Monday – swim + strength
Tuesday – run
Wednesday – swim + strength
Thursday – run
Friday – swim + strength
Saturday – run
Sunday – rest (or easy bike ride with a friend)
You can see the problem I think – barely any rest. If my schedule got filled up or I got caught up helping the kids with online school and missed a workout, I felt like I had to make it up. I put a lot of pressure on myself (like I’m sure you do if you are an athlete) to get the workout in. If we feel tired or sore well, good! It’s working, right? I am not going to lie – there was a day or two that I did three workouts to make up for a missed one (a run, a swim, and a strength). Facepalm.
This topic of allowing ourselves rest as athletes (especially as we get older) seems to be popping up everywhere around me lately. I think pre-pandemic, I was too busy to even think about exercising that much. But with time on my hands stuck at home (not spending 6 days a week coaching or taxing kids to swimming), it was something to do to keep from being bored, something I could do to get out of the house for an hour. Or, something I could have fun sharing with my kids (we did some easy fun runs and creative dryland workouts together).
I seem to be having this conversation with other friends and athletes a LOT over the past couple months. I see the topic of forcing yourself to take a rest day all over social media. Why is it that we feel like we need to explain ourselves when we take a day off? My best friend recently shared an article with me about whether or not your relationship with exercise is healthy – and I was guilty of a few items that indicated fitting a workout in sometimes causes more stress than relief. I have made pacts with more than one friend promising to keep each other accountable for resting when we do feel tired, and resting when we don’t feel tired to give our bodies necessary recovery days. If you’re an active person, taking a day off with no activity feels wrong – like cheating. But of course, we all know better. Rest is SO important, especially in stressful times like we are living through right now.
For me, taking rest is harder mentally than exercising. I’ll commit to it in the morning, but by noon I feel antsy and think, maybe I’ll just go on a quick run. I have to stop myself, and most of the time I do a decent job of it. But there are times I need reminded, like all of us, to take my own advice and just back off.
This morning was a great example. If you’ve been following me for awhile (thanks btw!), you know I’ve recently gone through a move from TN to FL. The last three weeks have been chaos, (I don’t recommend moving during a global pandemic) so naturally my workout routine has been off. And that’s okay! But I haven’t had time for my strength workouts or many swims, so this week, I’ve finally been able to get a little routine going again. So far this week I’ve been able to do an ab workout, a swim, and an arm workout. This morning was supposed to be a run – but when I woke up, it was clear that the strength workouts had kicked my butt and I was so sore I felt like I couldn’t move my body out of bed. So, I’m taking an unexpected rest day. Which as I mentioned, for me, is the hardest part of exercise.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this struggle to rest. Any lifelong competitive swimmer (or athlete) has this mindset drilled in. Double practices three times a week, weight room workouts, maybe some cross training like running or other seasonal sports – we are all so active, we forget it’s OK to slow down and just recover. If your workouts sometimes cause you more stress than benefit – you are not alone. Try finding a workout buddy to hold each other accountable, or try planning out the week in advance with one extra rest day built in than you would normally take. Maybe you’ll need it, maybe you won’t. The bottom line, don’t beat yourself up for taking rest. Let’s all try and celebrate a rest day the way we celebrate a really great workout – as an accomplishment, not a failure.