How To Make The Most Of Your Rest And Recovery Days
Note: this is the final entry of my series on 7 Days to Build a Better Body. Thank you for joining in this week! Links to each post in the series are located at the bottom of this article.
I used to be a firm believer in the idea of an “off day.” So, I’d train X amount of days per week depending on the program, and then I’d rest on all of the other days. And when I say rest, I mean that I did nothing physically active – no exercise whatsoever. And that’s how I did it for years. Boy, was I missing out!
I realized recently that my rest and recovery days look absolutely nothing like they used to. I’ve changed everything about them, and I’m getting much better results because of it. I think this is, in part, because I no longer treat them as “do nothing” days. Instead, they’re an opportunity to encourage maximum rest and recovery and spend some extra time devoted to the important stuff.
You see, awhile back, I started thinking of every day as a balance of training and recovery. That is, I’m always training, always recovering. For example, even on days that I’m not doing hard physical training, I’m still training my mind. And I’m still training my posture, my eating, and any other number of things every day of the week. I’m a human being (and a parent!), and I don’t have days off. I don’t get breaks from life. So, I don’t allow myself to compartmentalize my health and fitness because that doesn’t work. Besides, doing some exercise daily is a much more effective strategy than doing exercise some days of the week.
Now, I typically do physical training at least six days per week. And so, the closest thing I have to an “off day” is on Sunday, which is a day that I usually take for true rest. I’ve found that I benefit greatly from taking one day per week and not requiring myself to do any physical training. This simple act of lowering my expectations once a week restores me physically and mentally.
So, today, I thought I’d share how I approach my Sundays. It’s really not that complicated.
1) I don’t do any hard physical training.
Very rarely will I perform hard physical training on a Sunday. That means no weightlifting, weight swinging, calisthenics, met-cons, running, or interval training. Nothing vigorous, unless it comes in the form of recreation (see below).
Sure. I might make an exception every once in a blue moon if my schedule is very different that week, but that’s pretty rare. And usually, I’ll just bump my training schedule a day to accommodate. Regardless, I always make sure that I have at least one day per week for complete rest from moderate and high intensity exercise. This will do your body good.
2) I might do some low intensity exercise for active recovery if I feel like it.
If I feel like I could use some extra active recovery on Sunday, and I have the energy and willpower, I might do some joint mobility exercises or gentle yoga. Or, maybe just go for a walk.
I’m very regimented about this stuff throughout the week. And so, I always perform some low and moderate intensity exercise Monday through Saturday. But it’s completely optional on Sunday, which is reserved for R&R.
And even when I do perform some gentle exercise, it’s usually at a very easy pace. I’m not doing any power yoga or anything. I keep it light and easy.
3) I often enjoy some outdoor recreation.
Having fun is pretty high on my priority list. So, when the opportunity presents itself on a Sunday, we Siffermans usually take advantage of it. This could be anything from going on a hike, playing a game (e.g. Ultimate Frisbee), going fishing, hitting up the playground, or going on a walk as a family. Or, it might just be yard work. It’s always optional, and only if I/we feel like it.
And if it turns out to be a strenuous adventure (like climbing Mt. Washington), or if I just overdo it, I might bump my training program out a day and take Monday “off.”
Apart from those few things, I’ll usually be spending time with family and friends, wrestling with my kiddos, eating good food, catching up on a good book, and I might even squeeze in a nap if I can sleep without being pummeled.
Note: here are 5 Things That Fit People Do Differently Over The Weekend.
Now, some things that I don’t do on my rest and recovery days include binge eating, binge drinking, staying up late, or skipping my morning routine. And I try not to wake up Monday morning without a plan for my day and week. So, if I didn’t get to it on Friday when I was supposed to, I’ll make sure it’s done by Sunday night.
So, if I had to sum it up: on Sundays, I take it easy, take care of myself, and have fun.
And that’s a pretty good prescription for most “off days.” The key is to identify what you need to focus on that you’re not getting enough of on your other training days, and take care of those things on your “off days.” And be sure to make time for the little stuff that’s still important.
If you make sure that you’re not having an “off day” too many times per week, you’ll probably be fine. And if you do only train three or four times per week, I highly recommend getting into the habit of doing some exercise daily – however little – at least six days per week. It’s well-worth the work to establish this habit.
Thank you for joining me for this series on 7 Days to Build a Better Body. I hope it was helpful for you, and I hope you apply some of what you learned.
Now, this was a bit of an experiment to see if there is any interest in another more extensive blog series in the future. So, if you’re interested in a month-long series on building a better body, please let me know by signing up for the newsletter (i.e. waiting list). If I think there’s enough interest, I’ll try to put something together after the New Year.
Health-First Fitness Coach