Knowing When to Rest

Last week, I came to a big personal decision. I’m taking a break from Crossfit.

I’ve been dealing with some injuries on and off since late December. Despite throwing a bunch of medical modalities at them, my body still isn’t feeling right.

Since December, I’ve been dealing with patellar tendonitis, a jammed thumb joint, a jammed elbow, and a wrist impingement. It’s a lot.

While I’m not in pain on a day-to-day basis, all of my trainings are painful in some capacity. I’ve been working with a physical therapist to help correct the movement patterns behind the injuries. I’ve also been going to an acupuncturist to help release the tiny little muscles that seem to be holding on for dear life. I’m also working with a chiropractor to make sure the bones underlying everything are doing what they need.

In spite of all that, I still don’t feel well. I feel better, but I don’t feel well.

How do you decide?

From a cultural perspective, we have an unhealthy relationship with the gym. At least, many of us do. It’s common for folks to believe that going to the gym is a punishment. It’s something we have to do in order to be “able” to eat tasty things like pizza or donuts.

For athletes, who would also seem to have a healthy-er relationship with the gym, we often still see an unhealthy attitude towards rest. It takes discipline to improve in a sport. So how do you decide whether you need to grind through it or take a break?

The realization came to me when I was listening to the She Thrives podcast. On it, the host was talking about a wrist injury she had two years ago. Despite modifying and scaling her workouts, it was still a problem. Because she never truly let it rest.

I heard so much of myself in what she was saying.

Not only have I been overtraining, but I’m also dealing with just a few life stressors outside of the gym, as well. Immigration is no walk in the park and I often wake up early in the morning panicked that something won’t go through. I’m holding my breath that our future interview date doesn’t conflict with any of my work travel over the next three months. I’m constantly uprooted from my routine and support system. It’s been a year already.

That’s when it hit me that it’s been enough.

I need to slow down. I need to rest. I need to give my body the space to let it recover. I’m never going to get better taking half measures. I need to take care of myself.

In fact, that’s the smartest thing I can do for my training, let alone my own physical and mental health.

Replacement therapy

I walked out of my Crossfit box the other day sobbing. Our “gym dog” was there and it hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing him for a while, let alone the coaches and my fellow students. I told my husband it felt like a bad breakup.

I’m in the middle of thinking of all the things I won’t be able to do for now. I knew I needed to cancel my membership because I’d still keep going, if I had the option. In class, I’d stand around pouting, knowing I couldn’t put weight on the bar like everyone else. Knowing that today was not the day for me to PR like everyone else.

Instead, I’m actively working to find a better routine that works for me. Part of that includes asking myself if I feel up to working any of the muscles that have been in pain or if I’d rather just have another “active rest” day. Those days can add up into weeks or months, for all I care. If I only feel like doing active rest, so be it.

Right now that means maybe doing the elliptical trainer, walking, rowing, and yoga. I’d like to incorporate some dance classes as well. Taking dance classes is something that I have missed quite a bit since I started training more intensely.

When one door closes, another one opens. Turning down one opportunity means making space for another.

What’s next

I don’t have a timeline in mind for how long I want to take a break. It scares me. My routine centers around my training, so to stop abruptly makes me feel disoriented. Not only is it removing my day-to-day habits, but also a large part of my social interactions.

That said, I don’t want to give myself a timeline. Over time, it won’t feel so terrible. I’ll have new routines. I’ll visit my friends, especially when I’m visiting Brazil. It’s been a while since I’ve been to my box there and I appreciate that there’s space for me to do whatever I need in the meantime.

I’m going to accept the discomfort and embrace the calm. By resting, I’m opening myself up to other opportunities that I would’ve otherwise passed on. Whether that’s dance, bodybuilding, more acupuncture, or simply sleeping more, I’m in. The goal is to let it be what it needs to be.

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