Every so often I come up with a blog post title which totally captures what the post is about. This “interlude” is both a return to my usual sort of blogging in the midst of my holiday adventures (the trip being an interlude in itself!) – a brief jump straddled by a “Part 1” and a “Part 2” – but also a discussion of the need to take a break from everything, including training.
I know I often wax lyrical about the benefits of recovery, both in terms of regular rest days and during periods of injury, and I do intend to do some proper research on the subject and write a convincing blog post that doesn’t just sound like my searching for an excuse to put my feet up. But in between those posts, I get caught up in the stream of life again, and something tells me I’m not the only one.
In the days leading up to the holiday, I had a good plan: daily ab and press-up routines early in my waking day (note that I do not say “morning”) – documented for the purposes of this blog – swimming and water-based exercises later in the day, daily blog-writing, getting all my client-based work done such as diet plans and cross-checking schedules (as I still haven’t decided whether I am using my physical diary, my Google calendar, my laptop calendar, and too often end up using none and relying on good old memory).
The first thing to foil the plan was the lack of internet in our accommodation or anywhere near it. The second interference was my unwillingness to shun family-time and sunshine in favour of a laptop. And the third was a genuine aversion to physical efforts as boring as press-ups and abs.
And what I am finding, is that it’s all fine.
For one, most days I am paddling around in the pool for 30 mins or so. More often than not I am going for a 10-15 minute walk before breakfast to pick something up to eat, and walking 15-20 minutes at least after dinner, and I don’t think there has been a day that hasn’t included a longer afternoon walk of some sort. On some of those days, I have had odd surges of energy, strange desires to use my limbs more than usual, and have spontaneously felt like doing some press-ups or squats – in the same way that most people feel like getting up and stretching their legs after being sat down for too long.
Now without wishing to wander into the sticky territory of the so-called obesity crisis, for all the reading and watching and listening I have done so far around the subject, the only thing I can say with any sort of conviction on the matter is that nobody really knows the answer or even what questions we should be asking. Weight? BMI? Body fat percentage? Diet? Low fat? High protein? Glycaemic index? Glycaemic load? Exercise? High intensity? Heart rate zones? Sweat? Pain?
No, the only thing that experts seem to agree on, is that we need to reduce periods of inactivity. As somebody who feels fairly well-tuned to healthy habits but also in touch with my body’s signals, I can’t help but notice that while I have little desire to be sweating and grunting in the gym, I can’t think of a time that I have sat or laid still for so much as an hour at a time. I haven’t been watching any clocks, or thinking that I should get up and do something, but I naturally just get bored sitting in the same spot for much more than about 45 minutes.
So, sure, I may not come back to the gym entirely as strong and fit as I was when I left, but I am confident that a week without any sort of discernible physical exertion has not done me any harm – and certainly not in the grand scheme of things that is long-term health.
Food has been very much the same. When (if…) I actually take the time to think whether and what I want to eat, my cravings steer me towards sensible choices and amounts. Of course, I don’t always heed the amounts bit of it, but that’s not a holiday thing.
All of this has just led me to realise that my goalposts are all askew. I feel healthy, living this way – I am not getting hunger pangs, nor am I eating until I am too full or eating things that make me feel bloated. I am getting plenty of sunshine but not too much, my skin is healthy, I still feel strong and fit and flexible. I am sleeping well. And yet I can’t help but think that I could be a little bit leaner, that I have probably eaten too many starchy carbohydrates in my evening meal, that my muscles don’t ache enough. I can only imagine what depressing and unhealthy thoughts must go through the minds of people who are better tuned in to gossip magazines than they are to their own bodies.
So this interlude has been necessary, as are any and all total breaks from everyday life. I have remembered what is important about health and fitness, I have recognised that there are still unhealthy thought processes to be dealt with (normally only kept at bay by the fact that I normally feel like I am at my physical best), I have practiced how to appreciate other things in life. The world has proved to me that it will not implode if I don’t send my client an updated diet plan as swiftly as I had planned.
But I have also noticed that after a few days, I do miss writing (as evidenced by this post!) and I miss checking up on my clients, and I miss grappling (as opposed to missing training in general – but everything else I do in the gym is a necessary evil, so to speak, to get better at grappling and guard against injury… another reminder that there are better ways to get fit than to force oneself to the gym to plod along a treadmill with one’s eyes and consciousness firmly locked onto a TV screen). I guess that’s when you know you’re doing the right things in life.