“What am I supposed to do on days when I’m not training?!”
Great question. Let us break down the concept of the “off day” for you.
When you complete a full body workout, or do lots of compound movements like squats, push-ups, overhead presses or deadlifts, your muscles get broken down. Then, over the next 24-48 hours, those muscles get rebuilt a tiny bit stronger. That’s why it doesn’t benefit us to work out every day; we don’t want to destroy our muscles without giving them a chance to grow back stronger. Make sense?
It’s kind-of like when your math teacher would ramble in front of the class without giving you a chance to write-down new formulas… and then expect you pass a pop-quiz. Give me time to study, woman!
Any who, that then begs the question: what are we supposed to do on those days? How can you keep up the habit of exercise and not let a day of non-training derail our progress?
Are there things we CAN do on our off days?
That’s why we’re here, my dear rebellious friend. Let’s dig into what you can do on a day “off” from training.
Plan Your Off Days Like a Training Day
The biggest problem most people have with off days is their habit of accidentally turning them into cheat days. Because they’re not training, they’re not thinking about being fit and it’s much easier to slack off and lose momentum. You don’t use your off days from work to sabotage your company, so you shouldn’t sabotage your body’s progress on your off days from training!
Remember, exercise is probably 10-20% of the equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90%!
So plan your off days deliberately! They’re not off days, they’re rest days, and they serve a vital role in building an antifragile kickass body capable of fighting crime (or roughhousing with your kids in the backyard).
Whether it’s scheduling one of the activities below at the same time you normally train every day, or deliberately adding a morning mobility/stretching routine to your day, doing SOMETHING every day is a great way to remind ourselves “I am changing my life and I exercise daily.”
It could be flexibility training, mobility training, meal prep, and more. I’ll cover these below! Whatever it is, do SOMETHING every day, even if it’s for just five minutes, to remind yourself that you are making progress towards your new life.
Work on Mobility
We’ve all felt that soreness the day after (or two days after) strength training – our muscles have been broken down and are incredibly tight from all of the heavy lifting.
For that reason, one of the best things you can do on an off day is to work on your flexibility and mobility. After all, what good is strength if we can’t move our body properly to utilize it! Dynamic stretching and mobility work helps prepare our body for the rigors of strength training and keeps us injury free!
Regardless of whether or not you have a training day scheduled, start each morning with a mobility warm-up: a series of dynamic movements that gets your body activated and wakes up your muscles, joints, and tendons. If you live in an apartment or are just getting started, feel free to leave out the jumping jacks.
This gives us a chance every morning to check in with our bodies and reminds us mentally “I am leveling up physically, might as well eat right today too.”
Do a Fun Activity
We are genetically designed to move, not sit on our butts for 60+ hours a week. We’ve even invented crazy things like sports, just so we can have fun while we move! Which means we can spend time on our off days working on our happiness AND stay active at the same time.
That fun activity can be something different for everybody:
- Go for a bike ride with your kids
- Go for a run around your neighborhood
- Play kickball in a city league
- Play softball
- Go for a walk with your significant other
- Go rock climbing
- Learn martial arts
- Take a dance class
- Try Live Action Role-Playing (LARP!)
- Play on a playground
- Roll down a hill and run back up it
It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as it’s something you truly enjoy doing – it puts a smile on your face, it gets your heart pumping. Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting or miserable. If you haven’t found an activity you enjoy yet, you just haven’t tried enough new things.
The point is to get outside, remember it’s a damn good day to be alive, and that we are built to move.
Intervals, Sprints, Or Walking
“But I have this big party coming up and I really am trying to lose as much weight as possible!”
Okay okay, I hear you – if that’s the case, then 90% of the battle is going to be with your diet (which you can learn about here), but there are SOME things you can do on your off days that can help you burn more calories:
1) Interval Training – In interval training, you’ll be varying your running pace. This means you may switch between jogging and walking, or walking and sprinting (there are few different methods of interval training). This training style can help speed up your metabolism for the hours after you finish.
2) Sprinting – If you like the idea of burning extra calories and building explosive power and speed, check out our article on becoming the Flash. Find a hill, sprint up it, walk down, and repeat the process for 10-20 minutes. No need to overthink it!
3) Long walks – Walking is a low-impact activity that burns extra calories and doesn’t overly tax your body. What a “long walk” will be is different for everybody based on their level of fitness, but walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself!
If you want to take a more active recovery day, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Destroying ourselves for 6+ days a week can really wear us down, causing long term problems if we’re not careful.
Yoga for the win!
You might not realize it, but yoga is the perfect complement to strength training:
Strength training makes us stronger, but it can tighten up our muscles and make us sore.
Yoga, on the other hand, lengthens our muscles and tendons, aids in their recovery, and helps our body develop better mobility and flexibility.
It’s the perfect way to create a strong AND mobile body, ready for anything and everything we throw at it. It’s kind of like turning your body into a swiss-army knife: prepared to be strong, flexible enough to avoid injury, and truly antifragile.
Now, if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, it can certainly be intimidating, especially if you’re a ones-and-zeros programmer wary of the practice’s more spiritual aspects.
Here’s how to get started with Yoga!
- Buy a yoga mat (yoga’s one of the fastest growing trends, so you can pretty much get them anywhere these days)
- Find a class. Nearly any commercial gym you join will have yoga classes.
- Find a studio. Most yoga studios have classes throughout the day.
- Follow a plethora of videos online if you want to get started at home.
And just like that, you have a cool list of things to do when you’re not hell-bent on training!