Active Rest

In my recent posting I encourage everyone to spend the first six weeks in reflection; of the previous year’s highs and lows and the physical reflection from the mirror itself.  This daily occurrence when combined with a mental process of goal setting will reinforce behaviors associated with a positive outcome.  Additionally, I cautioned against a ramped up physical fitness routine at this time of year due to the very low stimulation for our metabolisms we receive from the available winter sunlight.  Added stress from a new workout routine to promote weight loss and increased stamina generally results in a physical collapse often including susceptibility to respiratory infection, sinusitis, influenza and persistent head colds.  Any adaptation of metabolism to exercise stress at this time is dubious at best.

So, do I promote complete standstill for the first six weeks of the year?  No, not complete, but variations of standstill.  One thing I have shown to amateur athletes and weekend warriors the past twenty-five years is how a lack of change in a training routine leads to over-training fatigue.  This time of year, at this latitude, is a great opportunity to allow our bodies to find out how they really are doing.  A particularly effective method for doing this is called active rest.  Active rest is a process that requires a change in the types of activity engaged in as well as modulation of its intensity.  Active rest can be thought of as exercise that seems light, maybe moderate, subjectively speaking.  Active rest can focus on routines that emphasize flexibility over strength or aerobics.  More focus on core alignment and strengthening is also an option.  It can also be aerobics of a different type than usually engaged in; more time in the water, sliding on cross country skis or skates or just playing outside in the snow i.e. sledding.  Active rest can also be a time of increased intellectual processing through meditation, reading, artwork, of writing or plain old dream sleep.  Perhaps active rest is an evening class to get you out of the house and into a different situation with new people and places.

Professional athletes and highly evolved amateurs put their bodies through different seasons in the preparation and performance of their sports.  I think that all of us can do the same thing in pursuit of good health and general fitness, year to year.  The winter could be regarded, in the first six weeks after New Year’s, as an “Off-Season” which allows for rest and rejuvenation instead of dogged determination ending in frustration or burnout.  As we approach Valentine Day the sunlight has increased dramatically over what it was at the winter solstice, an hour forty-three minutes total difference, sun-up to sundown.  That increase and the rapidly changing amounts to come can then be harnessed more effectively by our rested body and mind.  It is then that we begin the sequencing of exercises that will be regarded as our “Pre-Season” in this new year of recreation fun, fitness, sport and leisure.  How will you actively rest?

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