Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

“To ensure time to think, reflect, and ponder, schedule meetings with yourself
and honor them as you would an appointment with another.” Michael Levine

An old army trick…take five. Means to back off, chill out, give it a rest. Directly applicable to the fitness arena, sometimes we have to cease and desist. An example would be impending injury. Seriously dedicated fitness persons develop a limited sense of reason when they have a certain goal in the cross hairs, and the nagging hint of a potential injury gets ignored, self-diagnosed, and often self-medicated. Not that serious athletes don’t have a very real sense of the body and proper functioning, but on occasion they have been known to ignore impending doom until it’s no longer impending, but up-ending. Hence…a caution.

Over-use injuries happen when your training has hit a speed bump and you try to play “catch-up”. It doesn’t work very well to miss several days and then take up where you left off; you gotta start over to a certain degree. Or when it’s going so well you up the mileage or do more repeats or stack some hill workouts on top of serious interval training and the aches and pains become more than a normal soak in the tub and good night’s sleep alleviate… then you take five.

There are also mental reasons to relax your regimen. If your work load on the job is heightened for some reason, or the stress level increased, physical activity can be therapeutic, but to over-do will only increase the tension. Brain and body work together and they might be communicating better than you are. Relax. There’s a time and a place for everything. Think of your body as a Ferrari; you wouldn’t continue to drive at the speed of light over the mountains if you had a soft tire or a suspicious sounding carburetor; you deserve the same consideration. Check all the parts when you get a warning. There is a reason and a purpose in pain.

Or, if you are becoming tense, irritable, losing weight, and not able to sleep, that could also be a warning that you’ve pushed the envelope. World class you may be, but super-human you ain’t. Over-training manifests itself mentally and physically. Dr. Jack Daniels, Ph.D.(no, not THAT Jack Daniels), exercise physiologist at the State University of New York College in Cortland, says, “Imagine yourself running as hard as you can one day then again the next day, and the next. Sooner or later, you’d barely be able to run at all. You’d never be giving your body a chance to recover, to strengthen itself, to ward off injury, or to just feel good again.” During recovery time, your body is busy: repairing muscle fibers, building new blood vessels into your muscles, increasing your muscle fibers’ ability to process nutrients and oxygen and eliminating waste products from them. On off days, your body can repair muscle damage, fortify your immune system, and prepare for the next onslaught. If you don’t give it a chance to recover, over time, you will tear yourself down.

This ‘rule of rest’ holds true for runners of all types; only the degree of effort and amount of rest change. Recreational runners will balance their running day with days of complete rest, meaning no running. More serious runners will rest from their hard workouts by running a short distance slowly or by cross-training on off days.

And then there’s the reality of ennui, that numbing boredom that can set in when you become enmeshed in a particular aerobic activity. If you find yourself dreading every workout, cutting them short or finding a reason not to do them at all---take five and look at another activity. Maybe it’s time to ski, swim, bike, or try something entirely new and different. There are a variety of fun and productive sports and workouts to experience; you may find a great new destiny. Then if a break takes care of the mind fatigue, take a serious look at including the new workout in your cross training repertoire. Be creative; it may—uh---take five to find one you like.

One more little caveat. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack in anything you do. If the low-carb, no-fat, sans-sugar diet has sucked not only all the calories but all the joy out of your life…go have a piece of chocolate. What the heck; have five!

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