It’s Not Weak to Take a Day Off–It’s Necessary

July 24, 2015

It’s not a weakness to recognize your body’s need to recover, it’s a weakness to be so addicted to training and so scared to miss a day that your body can’t keep up with your obsession. A car will go farther on a full tank than on fumes; so will you.  Active rest and recovery days will fill your tank, and allow you to go faster and farther the next day.

Notice I said ACTIVE rest and recovery. That doesn’t mean lying in bed watching TV all day; it means staying active and allowing your body to enjoy the effects of all the strength and conditioning work you've been doing. When I say rest, I mean no weights and no intense training; stay away from the areas you’ve been working all week. Do a stretch routine, use foam rollers on the areas that are sore and tender, take an ice bath, just mess around or play your sport.

An exception to the “no lying around watching TV” rule: for one rest day per week, shut it down completely. Take a mental break, a day you don’t have to think about training or playing or whatever else you usually have to do on the other six days. You will have earned it.

I want you to take that break. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity. Rest and recovery are an essential part of your training and conditioning; you can’t give maximum effort or get maximum results with tired, fatigued muscles. It’s not a sign of mental or physical weakness to take days off so your body can heal; I would never allow my clients to work every day without scheduled rest days. Rest is part of your training; it allows your body to recover and adapt so you can keep going and get stronger. Relentless training means smart training.

I’m not talking about taking a rest day because you woke up late or you were feeling slow so you decided to blow off your workout; that’s not a rest day, that’s just laziness. I’m talking about planned rest days that are built into your schedule, so you know in advance you won’t be working out. Effective training doesn’t happen by accident; you have to structure your workouts with careful intention. All my workouts--including Jump Attack, which I adapt for all my clients--include carefully planned rest days. Stick to the schedule and you won’t have to think about it.

And if you’re one of those people who never takes a day off and you’re happy with how you’re performing, imagine how much better you’d perform if your body was fully rested and working at 90 to 100 percent capacity instead of maybe 60 to 70 percent. If you’re never resting, you’re never able to give your best.

Your rest days also give you a mental recharge, a little time to get your mind away from training and the hard work still ahead of you. Even the pros have to take time away from the daily grind, to clear their heads and blow off some steam. When Michael was getting ready for the season, he shut down everything else except his workouts and golf; the golf was to give his mind that mental break so everything wasn’t about the workouts. Other guys spend time with their kids and families, manage their business relationships, work on their charities, just something that isn’t all about training and athletics. Even if you’re completely focused on your sport, you have to think about something else occasionally or you’ll go nuts. You can’t be strong from the neck down if you’re not strong from the neck up, so take the time to clear your head and refocus.