The term “peak performance” often heightens our expectations and automatically brings to mind physical intensity rather than rest; but, less is sometimes more. Periodic rest provides recovery time, which sharpens focus and puts fire in your workout. Whether you’re training to run marathons, swim the English Channel or beat your personal best, adequate rest motivates you to move forward and stay on top of your game. Your body, spirit and mind require rest and recovery. It’s the secret to maintain motivation and achieve peak performance.
In an interview with personal trainer, Linnea Webb with Beyond Fitness in California she explains why rest is so important. During a workout the stress applied to the muscles results in the breakdown of muscle fibers, which places the body in a weakened and vulnerable state. The body’s repair mechanism kicks in – initiating ‘supercompensation’, a process that makes the damaged muscle fibers thicker and stronger than they were before the workout. Tissue repair only happens when we allow the challenged muscles to rest and recover.
Although physical rest is important, spiritual rest shouldn’t be ignored. Life often adds emotional stress eroding our peace. Jesus took time away from His work to rest and sleep. He spent much of His time in prayerful communication with His Father - God. Taking time to rest and seek God’s will for everything will deepen your relationship with Him. When you increase your dependence on Him through spiritual rest, God strengthens you and your spiritual heart recovers.
THREE REST STOPS FOR MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE
Active Rest - Trainers and coaches recommend taking two or three days a week off from your target sport and advise light exercise that uses other muscles. Cyclists might swim, run, work out with weights, or enjoy a light session on the rowing machine at the gym. This ‘Active Rest’ increases circulation, oxygenates your blood and flushes out toxins that build up during training.
You can also give your spirit a boost by redirecting your focus toward God with active rest for your mind. Experience the joy of lifting your voice to the Lord and reap physiological benefits as well. Singing oxygenates your blood and releases endorphins into the bloodstream. Patricia Preston-Roberts, a board-certified music therapist in New York City, says that studies link singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure and reduced stress.
Complete Rest - In creating work-out schedules take one day a week of complete rest from even light workouts to allow your body to heal. On your rest day stretch and take a comfortable walk. In the book of Genesis, God set apart the seventh day after creation as a day of complete rest. Scholars say that this set the basis for human rest. Our day of physical rest allows us the opportunity to enjoy complete spiritual rest. Here are a few suggestions to help strengthen you and bring you into a deeper relationship with God.
- Close your eyes and focus on God thanking Him for the incredible body he’s blessed you with. Ask Him to guide you in caring for it.
- Curl up on the couch with your Bible and jot down favorite scriptures to memorize. Psalms is a treasure chest of songs revealing God’s nature and love. Carry scriptures written on three-by-five cards and memorize them for inspiration or comfort.
Evening Rest– Linnea emphasizes, “The majority of the body’s healing work takes place while you sleep. The general amount of sleep recommended after a strenuous work out is eight to ten hours”. She explains that we often cut our sleep time to fit more activities into a packed schedule. However, to build stamina and strength our bodies need plenty of sleep. Our immune systems and organs of detoxification can focus attention on cleansing and restoration. This is when your body:
1. Takes inventory of damage done
2. Starts a cleansing process, taking care of waste that accumulates daily
3. Repairs cellular damage
Always listen to your body. If your performance is suffering in any way - from clarity of mind to the strength and ability to perform the exercise well - you may need more sleep. Adequate sleep will help you serve God more effectively and not grow weary in the process.
MAINTAIN YOUR MOTIVATION
When you become discouraged and lose motivation to train it is largely because of the lack of rest. This leads to psychological “burn-out” and makes you want to quit altogether. It’s important to remember that an extra day of rest can be more beneficial to the body than extra days of training.
Brian Mac, author of How to Develop a Training Program proposes the real benefits of training come afterward during recovery. He states, “Without adequate recovery you not only squander your hard training effort - you also struggle to recuperate after your next session. Cutting corners on rest and recovery time can prevent you from reaching your performance goals.”
Mac quotes Lance Armstrong as saying: “recovery…that’s the name of the game…whoever recovers the fastest does the best”.
ACHIEVE PEAK PERFORMANCE
Even busy, working women can overcome handicaps and achieve their highest goals. In January, 2010, Juliet King, while working 40 hours a week, teaching music, and singing on the worship team at church, realized her lifelong dream and ran her first marathon. She had to abandon many previous attempts at marathon-training because of excruciating pain in her knees. At age 33 she achieved success by wearing special shoes to correct her over-pronation and running only three days a week. She took three days a week of Active Rest and she enforced strict adherence to her one day a week of Complete Rest. She finished a Northern California marathon stretching twenty-six miles from the historical Shasta Dam to the scenic Sundial Bridge in the pouring rain - soggy and chafed, but victorious.
Organize a one-day seminar at your local church to educate and inspire participants to examine their fitness and set realistic goals, being certain to schedule enough rest and recovery time. Form support groups to help one another stay on track.
Allow yourself to be all God created you to be by not allowing your health to be stolen through neglect or lack of knowledge. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! Write the vision, make it plain and go after it with the empowerment of God.
is a runner and nonfiction freelance writer. She holds a BA in Psychology and she loves to sing and play Christian music and jazz. Special thanks to Equinox Fitness Trainer, Linnea Webb, for her contribution to this article.