A little while ago I talked about looking at working out like it’s part of your job – an important responsibility you wouldn’t skip without a really good reason. I said I think of unplanned rest days like sick days at work. I operate like I have a limited number of them and only use them when I really need to.
Monday and Tuesday, I really needed rest days. I felt wiped out, like I couldn’t work out if my life depended on it. The combination of intense training days last week and lack of sleep over the weekend really got to me. As I contemplated using my precious rest days, I got to thinking about what rest day reasons pass muster for me.
- I’m sick. If I have a bad cold, fever and chills, the flu or a stomach virus, I’m not going to the gym. If going to work sick is a bad idea, doing hard physical activity while sick is an extra bad idea. My body needs energy to heal, not exercise.
- I just finished a challenging competition or a peak performance week. Last year I took 3 full rest days after running half marathons and competing in a Strongman meet before transitioning back to light activity. If I have particularly hard, long run or burn myself out on powerlifting PRs, I’ll take a rest day if I feel I need it.
- I have a series of really awful workouts. An extra rest day is in order if I have several really weak or slow workouts in a row. I may be giving 100 percent for that day, but on a healthy, well-rested day it would only be 60 or 70 percent.
- I’m in a mental funk about working out. If I’m feeling extra negative about my workout, the solution might be as simple as doing something different or starting a new training program, but sometimes the answer is a rest day.
- I’m injured. All injuries don’t demand rest. If I messed up my knee, I probably shouldn’t run, but I can do an upper body workout. Other injuries, like a pinched nerve or a pulled back muscle make it hard to do anything and require some rest to improve.
- I’m physically wiped out. Even if I’m not sick and can’t pinpoint an injury, I may still need a rest day if I feel physically fatigued and wiped out from overtraining. This goes along with #3. If I have really low energy, can’t engage the right muscles, can’t regulate my body temperature or just feel downright bad, it’s time to rest. Feeling physically wiped out, along with injury, is different from feeling sore, which I rarely use as a reason to rest.
When do you take an unplanned rest day?
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