If you’re not taking regular rest days or deload weeks (decreasing the volume & intensity of your workouts), listen up!
Humans aren’t machines; exercise-induced muscle damage needs healing time. This is a case where less really can be more: because you don’t get stronger from the act of lifting weights; you get stronger by *recovering* from the act of lifting weights.
Here are tips on how taking a step back can help you progress more quickly in the long run:
- Take 1-2 rest days per week. Crush your workouts, then fully embrace days off. Stay active doing what feels good (walking, yoga, massage), but give your body a break from intensity.
- If you regularly strength train, try a deload week every 4-6 weeks. Reduce your load and volume, but maintain your typical movements.
- Make rest days & deload weeks deliberate; time off due to an injury or illness doesn’t count. Plan ahead & take ‘em before you need ‘em for best results!
- It’s even more important it is to give your body regular breaks as you age. I’ve learned this firsthand; train like you did in your 20’s & you’ll end up paying for it!
- Don’t worry about losing your hard-earned gains: Research shows that it takes around three weeks of inactivity for the first signs of muscular atrophy to emerge. Relax!
- Take advantage of vacations for deloads. If you’re pushing hard at home, it feels good to take both a mental & physical break.
- Finally, from a nutrition perspective, EAT! I see programs out there that cycle lower calories/carbs on rest days, but I’m not a fan of this approach for two reasons: First, your body needs nutrients to recover; give it what it needs to heal on days off. And second, the insinuation that you’ve got to “earn” more calories/carbs on workout days sets up a mindset for disordered eating. You’re not a dog; food is not a reward for “good” behavior. A focus on *consistency* with workouts and nutrition will serve you much better.
Bottom line: If you want to see real results from your hard effort, rest early & rest often. Work hard, and recover HARDER.