When I think of the body’s amazing ability to adapt to find the most efficient way, I consider a dose-response relationship. For instance, my body, your body (really every body past the age of about 18) is actively trying to decrease the amount of muscle that it has to maintain. Muscle is Calorically expensive for the body to maintain and, thus, by definition it is not efficient. So, for efficiency the body will breakdown and use as energy any muscle that is not needed. This is why the body is so great at developing biomechanical “cheats” where it leverages on joints - so it can get rid of the muscle - and why maintaining muscle is so much harder as we age. However, if you have reminded the body that it needs the muscle or even pushed it hard enough to need even more muscle, then during your rest time your body will be actively developing and healing the muscle instead of dismantling it.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “Rest is best when earned” and I feel this applies not only to the better rest with a feeling of accomplishment, but also that during your rest you are actively becoming better prepared to take on the next challenge.
As always, let me know how I can help.
Rest is crucial to our survival. We know this because if we didn't rest, we wouldn't live as long or evolve as we have over the years. What comes to mind when we think of rest? Sleep, right? Mostly yes, that's right. Sleep is a way to help your body rest and recover from your day, but there is another way we can rest our bodies. Massage.
Think about a time when a little irritation has popped up in your neck, or your shoulder, or your leg. What was the first instinct you (probably) had? Rub it! Manipulation of the soft tissues in our bodies is a good thing, and we should be doing it more than just when those little irritations pop up! Massage can help with getting those little pains to not occur as often, simply by loosening up the muscles. Let's say you haven't worked out for a while and decide to get back into it, and go to the gym and maybe you get on a leg press machine. Your legs haven't taken on that particular kind of load in a while, so you have to get familiar with that movement again. After you leave the gym, and go home, the next day you probably have some soreness from the workout.
What if we told you that if you were to get a massage after a workout like that, you may not have as much soreness in the next couple of days? Crazy right? Here's the deal. Massage is defined as the mechanical or manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. What this means is that when we choose to do massage therapy after a workout, what happens is this: quite literally, the therapist is kneading your muscles like bread dough, in order to get all of the old blood, nutrients and other waste that may have accumulated, out of your muscles so that your body can replenish them. This gives your muscles more movement and they can feel much more soft, or pliable, than they had before a massage.
Here is another cool thing about massage. Similar to putting your body through weight training and cardio workouts, a massage is another way to train, or 'workout', your body and your mind. When we give our body the opportunity to rest, and relax with massage, we can lower the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which can give us an even deeper sense of calm and relaxation, and help alleviate some of our stress. This, in turn, can help with how tight our muscles may be within our bodies. Some folks clench their teeth with stress, some folks hold stress in their neck muscles -- our body doesn't care where it's held, only that we do hold it. With massage, we can help reduce the amount of stress you can hold in your body. This also gives us the ability to recognize that we are in fact holding stress, and becoming more aware of doing something about it. This is also about taking time out for ourselves, because we simply don't do it enough. Making ourselves a priority is hard, and it can be hard to maintain, but when we do that, we create a space that allows rest from our life, and we can find those things that help us recover best.
Hopefully massage is already one of the ways you create and receive rest. If it hasn't been yet, give it a try! It really is an amazing tool that can help us with so many aspects of our life.
All the best,
In the past, we have featured content about how it is necessary to digest anything experienced through the senses. There are many ways to give rest to the experience of digestion, and the one covered here is of a physical nature (though it can also be effective in the subtle realm of digesting).
The physical digestive system is one that rarely gets a break. Modern humans utilize it consistently, and sometimes misuse or abuse its functions. Not to worry, it’s a resilient, clever system.
One of the most simple ways to aid in the digestive process is to sip hot water throughout the day. Plain, no frills, nothing added, hot water.
Think of it like this: when one needs to clean a dish with something stuck on it, one soaks it in hot water, the stuck material softens, loosens and releases away. Pretty similar in the digestive system. Or consider the typical shower one takes with regularity, applying hot water for cleansing. Same thing, on the inside of the body.
This technique can be used daily for maintenance or situationally, and it offers a gentle bathing of a system that works hard to discern and deliver nourishment. Remember, change occurs when at rest; giving your digestive system a rest allows it an opportunity to reset.
Let me know what questions you have.
When the development of our body is paramount, as it is in a newborn human, we put a premium on rest. There are sleep schedules, quiet time, etc. Likewise, when the development of our body is paramount due to the recovery of an injury or chemo cycles, or an emergency lifesaving surgery, rest becomes premium, because we know that without rest, development is insecure or even in jeopardy.
As we progress in development of our body, the focus shifts to what we are "doing" to develop. Did you workout today? Did you get your run in? Did you get your steps? How many did you get? A “break” to support development becomes a mechanism to connect one activity to another, versus a point where you reset into your center. The center of that conversation drowns out the inclusion of rest, and quiet time doesn't stand much of a chance.
What makes it difficult to train a body effectively is the same feature that makes the human so compelling and powerfully adaptive - variety. The various expressions of muscle, performance, scar tissue, fascia, bone, collagen, nervous system, balance, focus, awareness, and experience is impressively unique to every human I have had the opportunity to work with. It’s no wonder that finding what works for ‘you’ (a dynamic system) can look like one hell of a game of whack-a-mole. So it makes sense that when we plan to be healthy, we subject ourselves to various strategic plans of “doing”, without any connection to health feedback or understanding that we will maintain a lasting program. Consistency is incredibly its own reward in body training, that whatever it takes to find that nexus is what we aim for in training the bodies we work with.
As we have said from the day EQUIVITA opened, you are always training for something, just what are you training for? That’s the contract with your human development (I think you would know that if I was part of the design, in addition to ‘at rest’ or ‘awake’ there would be a body setting for ‘full party mode, sans consequences”..it’s like a no brainer). You have all these tissues, and all the different expressions of each individual body. How do we rein it in to the individual? When we do an IFR (Initial Fitness Review), we consider rest as a major determining factor of how to begin a training path. It’s a deceptively easy way to create a greater alignment between an individual and a smooth jumping off point to begin fitness training.
One of the cool parts about 2020 is how much we know about the human body. The questions we can entertain are lightyears from what they were when I first became a student of the human body. To that end, it becomes ever more clear that the more you can align your particular choices with your particular body, the more vital and robust your development.
I find that when you shift the center of your fitness training goals with the question, "How much rest do I need in order to train for these goals?", you align with powers that perhaps don’t come through the more traditional development of training goals; as in development around the doing of exercise, development around the losing of weight. I think taking stock of what you can offer yourself, in terms of rest and recovery, reveals more of the individual human body you are working from, so you can have ‘you’ (your needs, your output demands) be at the center of what informs your training plan. The “doing center”, often takes a plan for doing (an example could be the popular Couch to 5K) and subjects the body to outside expectations or limitations.
Many training plans are pragmatic and utilitarian. For a short goal, that’s cool, but that isn’t where I like to place the foundation of how I work with developing a body. I’m interested in answering to the ‘always training’ policy of the body, which layers into your body with greater ease and adherence if it comes from your life factors—and thus it makes sense to me to anchor training closer to where your body currently is in its development.
In the work of body development, value isn’t in dictating exactly what needs to be done, it’s in the ability to empower the owner as they are.
Let’s take the example of the new-mom, which was, for me, the birth of this question, quite necessarily. When Max was born, he was a magical creature…to me, and very much your standard issue baby human. He required lots of feeding. Two obvious elements I had to consider, 1) sleep was not available to me the way it was in any of the years prior to his birth, and 2) my body was working hard to feed him. So the return-to-lifting plan could not possibly begin with the pre-baby exercise schedule or behaviors. Re-entry into activity for my development centered around what was a realistic recovery plan, as well as what was the most prudent support I could offer my body. What was 10-14 mid-heavy lifts a month shifted to 4 lifts a month (starting around 7 months postpartum...NOT 2 WEEKS!).
Strength entered back into my body. Strength to support my son, my work, and my love of heavy lifting. Now, years later, I still plan my exercise behaviors around rest, factors have totally shifted. That baby is 8 years old, he needs rides to places, and at-home schooling, and while his body doesn't depend on mine, his life does. I stay grounded, I try to work largely from a recovered body, and in the end, I feel as strong as I have ever been in my life, and right now, that’s the brand of feedback I live for.
So what happens when you build a movement plan around your ability to rest? Simply, you begin to build a body development program that is balanced, centered, and allows time for the body to repair in order to progress.