Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Importance of Rest Days.

It's 7:24 on a Sunday morning and I'm still in bed having a lie in. Not much of one since I'm wide awake and forcing myself to stay put. My slightly competitive self is tortured. I am already tetchy thinking about to the lack of progress when it comes to the speed of my recovery and the fact that Windermere is only 4 months away. It's only been just over a month since I ventured back into the pool and I would say that during this time there have been very many lows with a scattering of highs, so having a rest day does not sit that comfortably with me. I mean, rest days? I'd been pretty much bed ridden for 7 weeks. I don't need another rest day!

As I eat my breakfast I mull over the possibility of bending the rules, after all a rest day doesn't mean sitting on the sofa with a box of Jaffa Cakes watching the Sunday matinee does it? I have a lazy dog that needs walking (although I can't rely on her to cheat the system), and my kids have asked if I will play badminton in the garden with them (I'm not that keen on this, as I am yet to win any game - they too are competitive, but I am tempted, after all it's not the winning...). Suddenly I'm thinking Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid might be onto something, and although I'm not all that enthused by a game of badminton, my car does need a polish and I do have a fence that could do with a lick of paint (I think I actually need staff!). Definitely drawing the line at balancing on a log on one foot, not with my dicky hips and feet. It'd be carnage. It's an accident waiting to happen. I confess, playing badminton and painting fences is not all that appealing if I'm honest, but my kit bag is. This rest day doesn't feel beneficial, it feels lazy and I'm all out of sorts with myself. I need convincing that it's going to benefit me. Once again I resort to the internet to find the information I need, and if necessary prove a point that will enable me to go for a guilt free swim.

As I (re)search it becomes clear very quickly that rest days are very much considered an important part of any training plan, and there's heaps of evidence to back this up. There are different opinions about how many you should have each week, and when, however it's the reasons why you should have them that has surprised me. I've never given any thought about what my body would be doing whilst I'm not swimming. I just assumed it was about resting sore muscles and a free pass to have a lie in, but it's so much more than that.

I have so far actually been completely missing the point. Why didn't I do this sooner? Whilst I've been thinking that my body hasn't been doing anything other than taking it easy, in actual fact it's being anything but lazy. This rest day isn't a rest day at all. My body is working hard, and time off provides it the opportunity to strengthen, recuperate, rebuild and recover. It's about giving my immune system time to repair, which if not given the opportunity could leave me susceptible to injury, (this should be incentive enough - If I'm injured I'm on bed rest again and back to square one). There's plenty of research, but it's Dr Vern Neville at Loughborough University who really struck a chord for me. He says "recovery isn't just important, it's a biochemical necessity." A rest day allows my body the opportunity, and time for all of these essential biochemical processes to take place. And in return? I will be stronger, I will have more resistance, I will be less prone to injury and I will have more energy. In brief, I will see an improvement. Yey!

Up until now I had always thought that the more I trained, the bigger the gain, but now I understand the importance of a rest from swimming and I shall use the remainder of my day wisely by continuing to improve my understanding, oh and also may spend some time researching spa days for next time. And as I am now following it to the letter, when my kids come to me and ask if I'd like to go and play some badminton in the garden with them... I shall decline, after all I am on a necessary rest day!