Getting over the guilt of rest days

It’s Christmas party season. Yesterday, I squeezed in a gym session between work and a festive party. The day before, I ran 6k on a hangover. The day before that it was Body Attack, and before that I can’t remember, but I sure as hell have of a lot of gym kit to wash.

Today is therefore my day off, and I should be kicking back and patting myself on the back for a well-deserved break. Instead, I feel a bit guilty.

Yep, crazy I know, but the part of my brain which should be saying ‘Jeez girl, you did well there’ is actually saying ‘Hmm, you probably could’ve gone for a quick run this morning if you’d actually got your lazy bum out of bed’.

Let me tell you, a day off is way less enjoyable if you’re constantly guilty-tripping yourself about it – but why do I think this way?

After all, I haven’t always felt like this – I remember when I was training for the London Marathon my rest days not only felt well-deserved, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, using the free time to inhale blueberry muffins and put my feet up in front of Pointless. I was working towards a goal, and I fully understood that recovery was an essential part of that.

I don’t know why that’s changed so much, although I have a hunch that social media – which has grown exponentially even in the three years since I did the marathon – doesn’t help.

Scroll through your Instagram feed and it’s full of perfect bodies and people getting up at 5am to work out before heading to the office. These people certainly don’t look like they spend occasional evenings lying at home stuffing their faces with Ben & Jerry’s and moving no further than the distance between the fridge and the sofa.

I think I’m also a victim to that constant pressure young women are under these days to be living a dream, ‘have it all’ life. Most girls my age feel like we should simultaneously maintaining the ideal relationship, the perfect job, a hardcore exercise regime, an enviable social calendar, Instagram-friendly weekend plans and holidays, and a wardrobe that would make top fashion bloggers weep with envy.

So having a rest day can sometimes feeling like admitting defeat – like saying ‘no, I can’t bloody do it all, I just want to lie down and ready The Sunday Times Style while drinking endless cups of tea, thanks’.

Of course this guilt is completely ridiculous. Aside from the fact that nobody is actually living that ‘perfect girl’ lifestyle, there’s also the fact that most personal trainers and health experts recommend regular days off in order to maintain optimum fitness. Studies have suggested that you need between one and two days to recover from a hard workout, and there is plenty of evidence to show the detrimental affects of over-training.

There’s also the simple fact that I’m spoiling my days off for myself by pondering over the exercise I should be doing. Don’t get me wrong, my guilt is not at exercise addict levels (I’ve seen enough of that to know), but I hate that little niggling voice that tells me I’m a bit lazy, when actually I’m doing a whole lot more to stay healthy the the Average Joe.

So from now on, I’m going to endeavour to enjoy my days off more, and rather than feeling bad for putting my feet up, I’ll reflect on all the hard work I’ve done to deserve. If you’ve ever experienced rest day guilt – and a quick Google search indicates I’m certainly not alone – then I urge you to do the same. You’ve earned it!

Do you ever get rest day guilt?! Let me know in the comments below!

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