maybe you should take a break

raise your hand if you’re a go-go-go type of person.

*raising my hand*

I thrive when i’m busy. I feel good about myself when I have a long to-do list. I'm bored whenever I have “nothing going on.” I love a good routine like school because it gives me purpose. I enjoy doing things and moving my body and seizing the day.

but I often spread myself too thin. I get exhausted by 7 pm. I feel guilty if I spend 4 hours of the day watching Netflix. I also feel guilty if I don’t get out of the house or move my body or interact with people all day.

I’m not good at the whole “rest day” or giving your body time to recover thing. Especially when it comes to achieving a goal. And especially when it comes to exercising.

You see, at the being of this year I got super into transforming my body and my habits. I wanted to lose the weight I gained when I began college, I wanted to see results, I wanted to stop participating in the things that didn’t truly make me happy like drinking every weekend or socializing every day of the week (I’m the type of person who needs alone time to recharge and reset and be productive and put my creativity into fruition). However, while I saw results and developed beneficial habits like discipline and mindful eating/drinking, I also neglected balance. I neglected my body or minds cues to take breaks. I neglected my social life. I neglected the stress that I was putting on my body and mind because I was afraid to take a day to breathe or watch movies or bathe or go out to dinner with friends.

Consistency is everything, especially when it comes to seeing results in your body through exercise and nutrition. But understanding when to stop, when to take a step back and let your body rest and recover is so so so crucial, and it’s something I never really grasped until today.

Throughout an 8-week challenge I did with Orange Theory, I measured my progress through InBody scans. Essentially, it’s a scale that uses multi-frequency measurement to determine body water, proteins, minerals, and body fat, as well as weight. I liked using this because instead of measuring my progress based on weight alone, I could measure it through fat loss and muscle gain. You’re probably wondering what any of this information has to do with the importance of rest and recovery. I’m getting there.

Another reason it’s my favorite way to measure progress is because it records all data from each time you step on the scanner. That means that you can see your progress on a timeline display throughout the weeks/months/year you’ve been working towards your body goals.

The last time I measured my body composition was May 1st. I ended the 8-week challenge in March, and kind of eased up on my workout routine. I still trained and exercised almost every day, but I was burnt out of HIIT training and burnt out of being strict with my nutrition. Through Spring Break, Coachella, and up until May I gained back maybe 1 or 2 pounds. Like I said, I had eased up on my workouts and was a lot less strict on nutrition, but despite the 1-2 pounds I looked/felt good, was still well under my starting weight, and pretty much was able to maintain my weight. I could tell my body liked the break I was giving it, however my mind was still very much in a place of fear. I worried that I would lose all my progress and gain all the weight I lost back if I slowed down.

Then came summer. I flew to Pensacola to see my boyfriend, I drove home to Orlando with him to spend the month of May together, we went to Japan, and then he spent the whole summer out in Colorado with me. Despite doing a 21-day cleanse in June, I worked out less than I have all year, I ate more than I have all year, I drank more than I have all year, and I was all around way more relaxed about my approach to health and fitness these past 3 and a half months. I went on hikes, I did orange theory when I wanted to, I took days off and cuddled with my boyfriend on the couch all day, I went out for lunch and dinner often, I day drank (sometimes into the night), and I only felt stressed out a few times. I allowed myself to slow down and focus on the present and take a freaking break.

Today I stepped on the InBody scanner after an Orange Theory class just to see where I was. Being super into health and fitness, my drive and passion to be and feel healthy/in shape will always be there. I wasn’t curious about where I was at in a negative way. I felt good and I looked good, so I was curious to see what the scanner said and if it reflected the way I felt.

Since May, my weight dropped by .5, my muscle mass went up by a pound, and my body fat percentage went down by an entire percentage. The employee who administered my InBody test told me, “clearly, whatever you’ve been doing your body is loving!” I replied, “I took a break, that’s what I’ve been doing.” I wasn't restricting my calories. I wasn’t doing HIIT 3-4 times a week. I wasn’t stressing over taking a rest day. I was going on hikes and rewarding myself with a cold, dry cider when I wanted one. I also trained and ate clean when I wanted to. But I slowed down, and my body responded.

Sometimes, progression means taking a step back. Sometimes, knowing when to take a break and let your body recover is more important than being disciplined. Sometimes — actually, all the time, stress is the number one reason your body and mind are not responding the way you want them to.

Today I realized that there are times when we need to be disciplined, consistent, and work hard. But there are also times where we need to relax, go out to lunch, and have a laugh. I realized that rest and work go hand and hand. I finally understood that you cannot achieve continual progress or succeed in your goals without a combination of those things. And I also learned that as much as I love days consisting of early workouts, running errands, long walks, blogging for hours, and eating clean, I need days where I go out for brunch, get back into my pjs, cuddle with my boyfriend, watch Netflix all day, and go out for vegan ice cream.

I hate the term living a “balanced life” because it looks so different for everyone. So, what I’ll say is try your best to live a “stress-free life.” Take a rest day, don’t sweat the small stuff, laugh with friends, and do what you love. Maybe, taking a break is exactly what you need right now to reach your goals in the long run.