It can be exhilarating to push your body to its limits with your workouts, but you know that you’ll hit those limits at some point. If you try to push hard all the time, fitness pros have one request: take even more rest days than you think you should.
“Being gentle with yourself allows your body to rest and heal itself,” says Ali Duncan, a yoga instructor and the founder of Urban Sanctuary, the first women-run, Black-owned yoga studio in Denver, Colorado. “When the body is pushed without any rest, both physically and mentally, something will eventually have to give.”
Hustle culture leaks into the gym to tell you to constantly grind, but four fitness pros explain how you can revamp your workout routines to feature more rest, community care, and self-love.
Why People Don’t Take Enough Rest Days
A lot of people never realize that they feel like they have to “earn” rest. From sticking with soccer practice because “winners never quit” to working through unpaid parental leave, people are taught to always be working harder — AKA, constantly grinding, as we say in the gym.
“We have been taught to go, go, go,” says Emma Middlebrook, a personal trainer and the owner of REP Movement, a workout space in Portland, Oregon that emphasizes body affirmation, anti-racism, and queerness. Getting three hours of sleep might be a badge of honor around the office, but you don’t have to work every weekend or drag yourself out of bed every day at 3 a.m. to hit up the gym in order to “earn” that four-hour session of Animal Crossing or that chocolate fudge cake.
“Hustle culture is a result of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy being deeply ingrained in our cultural outlook,” says Helen Phelan, a Pilates instructor who specializes in body neutrality and mindfulness. “Choosing rest and deciding not to let wellness marketing guilt you into going ‘harder’ when it’s not right in that moment is what self-care actually is,” Phelan says. You don’t deserve to constantly run on fumes, she explains.
Make Self and Community Care The Center Of Your Fitness Routine
“The terms self-care and self-love are fairly new, which in itself is wild,” Middlebrook tells Bustle. “We had to create a term to help us stop and take care of ourselves, but this is something we should have all been allowed to do without having to create a hashtag.” She invites her clients into self-love practices by encouraging folks to do gentle stretch routines instead of intense workouts when energy levels just aren’t there. This creates a community that puts members’ emotional and physical needs ahead of ideas about what their workouts and lives “should” look like.
The more people, especially those from marginalized communities, surround themselves with affirmation and care for their community, the less pressure there is to work constantly to earn crumbs of relaxation. “I was tired of being the only Black person practicing yoga in all of the studios I practiced [at],” Duncan