The last week was unusually quiet for me on the workout front. In fact, I didn't workout almost at all. From Saturday to Saturday, I only worked out twice, which is very rare for me.
I needed a rest.
There are certain signs of our body that, if you're smart and keep listening, tell you when it's time to take a step back and take a breather from workouts.
That's exactly what happened to me last week.
Back to three or four years ago, I would've typically neglected my body's signs and kept pushing, no matter what. “You can't skip your run! Push through it! It's just one hour of work!” would keep playing like a broken record in my head.
I had this weird idea in my mind that if I don't run, I magically put on a ton of weight right this second. Also, I should definitely cut back my calories (read: eat just fruit for dinner) if I skip my run.
Luckily, things have changed now. When I need a rest, I'm taking it, without feeling guilty or without having carrots for dinner.
How Do You Know You Probably Need Time Off from Exercise
For me, there are two surefire signs that tell me that I need a break. One of them is physical and other mental.
The physical: I Get Very Sore
I've been getting very sore lately, and I'm pretty sure why–I've been lifting heavier weights than usually.
Lifting heavy weights is absolutely awesome thing and it makes you stronger, physically and mentally. It's empowering. But it's also much more demanding for the body than working out with lighter weights.
I've been lifting heavier weights pretty often. In addition to that, on the days I didn't lift, I did other things, like bodyweight HIIT workouts.
But that's not rest. I needed complete rest, not another workout.
I just didn't recover as fast as I hoped from heavy lifting workouts and got super sore. The soreness that is usually gone in few days, didn't go anywhere. Soreness is not the right indicator for saying how good your workout was. I was in need of rest!
The Mental: Working Out Doesn't Get Me Excited
I'm usually very excited about my workouts and most days can't wait to get moving. I just hate when I have to sit down for hours. I need to move.
Working out has always been fun for me. I love coming up with new ideas and planning out and testing workouts that I've put together for my clients and bootcamps.
But if the thought of getting out and exercising doesn't get me excited, I know something's wrong.
There are a few ways to try to fix it:
- Go and work out with another trainer. As a trainer myself, attending to other trainer's class is a lot of fun, and it gives me a little mental “ease”–I don't have to come up with a workout.
- Try something completely new. Check out a different class or sport that you've never done before!
- Take a rest. Sometimes the first two things just don't work–the workouts still feel like something you have to do, not something you want to do.
Of course, the physical part is important too. Because I was sore, the workouts weren't as enjoyable. Getting myself through a workout took much more willpower than it usually does, so taking a break was what I really needed.
What I Did During My Week Off
So, what did I do after I realized that I really do need to take some time off from working out?
I can't just sit back and do nothing. I have to find a way to move, even if it's something really light. So, I let myself to take as many days off as I needed to feel good again, but still kept doing the following things.
Here's what I did:
1. I Still Walked a Lot
My goal is to walk 10K (6.5 miles) every day. I tried to stick with that goal also when I took time off from working out.
I get in 1/3 of my daily step goal most mornings before 8am. The rest of it comes during the day–by taking a few 15 minute breaks and some later in the evening when I've finished the work.
On the days that I'm teaching bootcamps or have several clients, there's no need to go out for the evening walk, because I move enough during the teaching.
2. I Rode My Bike a Lot
When I need to teach a class at a place that is not within walking distance, I usually ride my bike there. Last week I was subbing another trainer, so I had four additional 40-minute bike rides to get to the location.
Sure enough, riding the bike takes time, but at the same time, there's no need to workout or go for an extra walk on that day.
3. I Found Ways to Play and Be Spontaneous
I was tired, so I wasn't ready for heavy lifting or very high intensity workouts. However, I did some skill and bodyweight work, like tried a few handstands here and there and when passed a park, pulled myself over a bar a few times. All that is more like a play, not a workout.
4. I Chilled Out About Working Out
How well you recovery goes also depends on how you think about it. If you constantly worry about getting out of shape, losing your strength and stamina, your mind will never relax.
Just let it go and try to chill out! Nothing bad will happen from taking just one week off. Taking a rest actually pays off.
There's no point of working out when you can't do it correctly and give it your best.
5. I Listened to a Lot of Good Podcasts
Podcasts kept me a company a lot! I still have my favorites, but there are a few newcomers. Earn Your Happy podcast is new to me. I just found it and must have listened to a good ten episodes last week.
What happened after taking a week off from exercising?
Nothing bad. I returned to my workouts next week feeling more relaxed and fresh, and without aching muscles. I don't get back to 6x a week immediately but ease in to it slowly.
The most important thing, however, is that I'm able to let it go and chill about not working out. It's not the end of the world, it's probably the smartest thing to do when you're tired.
Do you ever take a full week off? Do you feel guilty for doing it?