Last week, I went to my Saturday kickboxing class and it was challenging, as it usually is. I love this class because between running laps, push-ups, core work, and of course wreaking havoc on the punching bag, it’s one of the best workouts there is. This most recent class I took had a special added treat— a seven-minute round of 10 burpees alternating with 30 mountain climbers… yikes!

Later in the class, the instructor wouldn’t let me get away with doing half a push-up… instead he made me lie all the way down on the ground and raise myself up each time. This was hard but I pushed through it and as a result, my arms were very sore the next day. This was OK, because Sundays are my rest days, but on Sunday night I was still a little sore. I’m beginning to understand my body’s signals a little better, so I knew I wouldn’t be 100 percent in the morning. I decided to give myself another day to recover, instead of getting right back into working out Monday morning like I normally do.

Just a few months ago, I absolutely hated skipping a workout for being sore or sick. If I did miss a workout, I would feel guilty the entire day, and images of a fat version of myself in a bikini this summer would plague my mind (which, of course, is ridiculous…). Often, I would actually ignore the soreness and work through it. But I’ve recently changed that attitude and have made a commitment to work out five to six days a week and take off Sundays no matter what, and to let my body recover if it needs to after an especially hard workout. I’ve begun to realize that it’s better to let my body heal than to push it when it’s sore. Even though I may miss one or two days of working out, I know it will benefit me in the long run to take proper care of my body. So with this realization, I’ve learned to no longer be afraid of rests days, but instead to listen to my body and allow it the time it needs to recover.

I also used to hate when a workout program would include designated stretch or yoga days with less intense exercise. Although I wanted to follow the program exactly, I always felt lazy on those days where I wasn’t doing some kind of weight training or cardio. But now I realize that those stretch and yoga days are important if I want to be healthy for the boot camp and kickboxing workouts. Flexibility and strength are both essential to successfully completing those more difficult workouts, and will only decrease the chance of injury.

On the Tuesday after the kickboxing class, I was still just a little bit sore in my arms. Since the workout DVD I planned to do that day involved some push-ups, I did fewer reps just to make sure I didn’t strain myself. This was fine— I still did my workout but was careful about it. And the next day I felt 100 percent, and was able to get right back into working out.

It’s important to remember that while reading about diets and workouts can be beneficial, ultimately only you can know what works and doesn’t work for your body. Everyone is different and reacts to things in different ways. And if your body is telling you that you need a rest, then take that rest, even if you planned on doing a kickboxing workout that day. You’ll be right on track the next day or the day after.