Okay people. It’s time for a one of my rambles – but it’s an interesting one, I promise. Today, I’m going to address a topic that I don’t think we talk about enough – REST. I’m also going to tell you about a concept called ‘movement snacking‘, which I think is the antidote to many many roadblocks people having towards ‘getting fit.’ And the reason I want to talk about these things is because I think we have become too black and white about ‘fitness’, and that makes it seem an unrealistic goal for many. I’ve also noticed (and feel I am part of) a growing movement in social media that’s spreading awareness around the issue of OVER (not under) training, and I want to touch on that a little from an objective and subjective perspective. Phew! Where to start? Grab your cuppa, it’s gonna be an interesting one.
First of all, if you have followed my blog for the time it’s been around (circa October 2016 people, where does the time go!), you’ll know that last June I wrote a blog post about Exercise Addiction, the inspiration for which was born out of my own realisation that actually, I didn’t want to be a member of Team ‘No Days Off’ anymore. I was training 7 days a week with no thought of slowing down – it just didn’t enter my head. It wasn’t a punishment thing, trust me – I think I just ignored all those over-training signs that I know so well now. And from then on, I started to force a ‘Sunday Rest Day‘ on myself, going for a long walk, or doing a simple Youtube yoga or pilates video instead of a ‘sweat-sesh.’ After the initial struggle against my inner Duracell Bunny (anyone who knows me wouldn’t disagree with that analogy!) I started to love my Sunday strolls with my Podcasts, or with a friend. I work Monday to Friday, plus or minus late days on call or the weekend or nights, so Sunday was always the best fit to chill out for me.
And yet, looking back (and this is only hindsight I’ve acquired recently), I’m not sure why I thought one day of rest per week was enough. Realistically, it was probably because I saw so many other people doing the same thing on social media, which irritates me because I like to think I act pretty independently of media influences, but in reality, we’re all influenced to an extent by who and what we follow on Instagram or Twitter. In fairness, most of the influence I feel from being on social media is positive – recipe ideas, workout inspiration, new friends, it’s all been extremely rewarding, I gotta say. But there is that 5% of what you see and try that maybe isn’t YOUR fit. Saying that, I definitely noticed gals I’m a big fan of on Instagram talking about 3-4 training sessions per week, and giving themselves a break for life getting in the way of a daily gym session. For some reason, I just didn’t apply it to myself!
So, let’s fast forward to 2018. I kicked off with F45 IFSC, joining their fantastic new studio, trying new ways to train, making friends with a whole new community, and I frickin’ LOVE it. I won’t gush, you guys know the positivity and good vibes I get from the people and classes there. But as is my custom, I totally LEAPT into training, doing F45 classes and using my own gym (not the same day, I’m not that mental) depending on my working hours. January and February brought with them a LOT of events, many of which involved group workouts, and sure I love a good wellness get-together as you guys know! But suddenly, I realised, after one particularly crazy day recently (which was epic fun don’t get me wrong, just super active!), that I had lost sight of where my ‘rest day’ was. In being a ‘Yes Woman’ I was saying ‘No’ to rest.
So yes, you CAN learn the same lession twice dudes – and you’ll be wiser each time you learn it. That’s why I talk about my ‘journey to balance‘ as a foundation for my blog – because I’m always on it!
Which leads me to my second topic of this post. The ‘rest day’ concept, and the idea of ‘movement snacking.’ Have you heard of it? If not, I’ll explain. It’s a concept I learnt about from one of my lifestyle medicine idols and advocates, Dr. Ranjan Chatterjee, from his fantastic book ‘The Four Pillar Plan.’ Movement snacking is as simple as it sounds – little ‘snacks’ of movement you can easily fit in throughout your day. I’ve described some examples below, but these could include grabbing a couple of short strolls before, during or after work, taking the stairs instead of the lift, even doing some squats in your kitchen while the dinner cooks! More on that below. Bear with me.
So, I’ve decided that I’m not calling certain days ‘rest days’ anymore. Because what does that even mean? If I don’t do a HIIT or weights workout on a given day, you can guarantee I’m not spending it lying horizontal for 12 hours either! People talk about ‘active rest days’ but really, I don’t want that term either. If I go to a yoga or pilates class, and don’t sweat, but get my body moving and flowing, or go for a long (or short!) walk today, is that rest? Not really. Not to me. It’s still movement, just a different style of movement to jump squats or deadlifts.
And that leads me to the real point of talking about movement snacking. It won’t be news to many of you that globally, physical inactivity has reached insane levels – and more than that, this inactivity contributes towards global mortality, as well as towards other causes like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess weight gain. We know that physical activity is a key lifestyle factor we can optimise to improve our health – I’ve spoken about my belief in exercise as medicine on my blog before, and if you’ve read that post, you’ll know that I feel us doctors do not get sufficient education or training to address exercise with our patients, let alone advise them about it. It’s something I’m working on at my hospital, having recently organised two basic educations sessions for my fellow doctors on the topic of exercise prescription. And I think that as a population, we need simple lifestyle changes to our physical activity levels first and foremost – a marathon, not a sprint, if you will.
So this is my point. Instead of a focus on ‘the sweat sesh’ style of workout, I have shifted my priority to movement as a whole. As I’ve said above, I think we all in general would benefit SO much from simple changes to make movement a more natural part of our daily lives – not just setting a goal of the one hour of movement on a treadmill you squeeze in before or after work. Don’t get me wrong – I’m in no way dissing anyone working out at the gym, at home, with a team, wherever, outside of their day job. It’s what I do myself! And that is to pursue my own strength and endurance goals. What I’m talking about changing how we view movement. It doesn’t have to be a ‘workout’. It can be as simple as starting with movement snacks like I described above – making time for a couple of short walks in your day – ten minutes before work, maybe a lunch time stroll, or getting off your bus that stop early. Deciding hey, I’ll take those stairs instead of the lift. Dropping a couple of body-weight squats or lunges while the kettle boils. Catching up with a friend by walking to the coffee shop together first. Setting a little hourly movement alarm if you have a desk-bound day job – hey, it won’t always be feasible, life happens guys. But our bodies LOVE to move – I’ve been at public health lectures talking about genuine physiologically beneficial changes in our bodies just by moving our butts from our seats a few times a day. And science aside, if you make these changes, or already have, reflect on how they made you FEEL. That’s the benefit of ‘movement snacking’ gang. You’re grabbing little bits here and there for yourself, nourishing your body with the flow it craves.
I hope some of this makes sense. Sometimes (okay, most of the time!) when I get super passionate about something my thoughts just spill out when I blog and I often wonder does it sound like ramblings. But so far, the feedback from you guys has always been golden, so I’ll roll with it. I guess, in a nutshell, on a personal level, I think I’ve finally learnt that rest lesson (hey, it only took 27 years!). I absolutely love exercise, and in my opinion, the endorphin rush from a really great workout is an unrivalled feeling in life. But I also now know that my body needs to be nourished too – and that exercise comes in many forms, both challenging and nourishing, and we need a BALANCE of both. On a more objective level, I think movement snacking has amazing potential as a concept to share and encourage, because it’s accessible, it’s fun, and it can be PART of your lifestyle so easily.
I would love to know what you think guys – whether you work in a similar healthcare field to me or not! Leave a comment here or on my Instagram, or send me a DM, or Tweet me, email me, whichever! I would love to get more conversation going on this topic – it’s a huge passion of mine, and this is just the beginning.
Ciara 🙂 x