Are You Planning to Rest?

I woke last Wednesday feeling like something the cat dragged in, ate, and then coughed back up. Stay with the visual…


OK?  Back to my post…

It wasn’t hard to find a direction to point my blame finger. Tuesday I had run 8 trail miles. Conditions were muddy, so the run had felt like a beach slog.

So my legs were torched. But the rest of me didn’t feel much better.

I planned to lift weights at the Y.  Mostly upper body stuff, so I decided to go through with it. The workout seemed to take forever. I was resting too long between sets, joking with the guys. When I finished, I trudged off to finish off and publish a blog post.

At some point I considered what was on tap for Thursday – a 6-mile run in Oneonta. I normally love running in Oneonta. This one was going to be adding onto my favorite 5-mile Neahwa to Wilber Park to SUNY campus route. The first 4 miles always kick my butt, but that last mile makes me feel like a 5-year-old running in the back yard.

But today I was not feeling it. This was not the first time I didn’t feel like training, so I decided to wait until tomorrow and decide how I felt then.

Realizing that I was thinking ahead too much, I decided to review the last 10 days:

Sunday was a 2 mile trail run at Gilbert Lake. I lifted weights Monday. Ran a 7 mile trail run Tuesday, lifted again Wednesday, and ran 5 miles Thursday. Then more weight lifting Friday. The weekend is when I planned my break from exercise. But over the weekend I raked my yard, bowled, and ran another 2 trail miles. Monday was back to weightlifting, Tuesday was the 8 mile trail run, and the rest is history…

There was something missing from my routine. Can you pick it out? Burpees? More cardio?


Thursday had to be a rest day. Not another leg roasting run.

Rest is a necessity if you want to see results in any fitness program. Think of it this way: you know that muscle pain you feel the day after a hard workout? You’ve torn up your muscles. This is an important part of building and strengthening your muscles. They have to be torn up to make room for growth. Think of it as remodeling a room. Sometimes you have to take out a couple walls…


Rest is when things are being rebuilt. Without it you’ll be tearing things apart but not re-building. And you won’t see results.

I think I neglected my rest for 3 main reasons:

First, I was looking at my weightlifting regime and my running as two separate beasts. And they are, but exercise is exercise – I wasn’t giving my body a break. It was in constant motion.

Second, I wasn’t paying attention. I was in planning mode – always looking forward to the next workout. Not reviewing and evaluating what I had already done. Not taking the need for rest into account.

Finally, I’m writing a fitness blog. Have you read it? I’m looking at my fitness activities as fodder for writing. Ironically, I chased after this writing fodder so much that I had to rest, which inspired this post.

Rest can be difficult. It’s hard when you feel like you’ve pulled off the fitness highway for a break. It’s part of the whole Fear of Missing Out (FOMO1) epidemic that’s going around.


We’re afraid that we’re going to skip the one workout that will transform us into the specimen we want to be. But there is no such thing as one workout that will do that, it’s a cumulative effect.

Recognize that the rest day is an integral part of your routine. Incorporate a review of your fitness routine into that day. Then you’ll realize that you’re actually still barreling along.

A rest day can take different forms. You could do absolutely nothing fitness related. Sit on the couch and eat bon bons. But I’m seeing a lot of research that is making vegging out for hours look dangerous.

I prefer to move a little, doing some low impact easy but active things like taking a walk, doing yard work, yoga. Be careful with the diet too. These aren’t “anything goes” days. What happens on rest days doesn’t always stay on rest days.

Rest days are a good time to look at your current fitness routine. The fact that I was forced to take an unplanned rest day is a clear signal I needed to assess my situation. When you find yourself in this predicament, make sure you take the hint your body’s sending. Reflecting on your fitness routine should strike a balance. You will want to review what you’ve done, and look ahead to what’s next. Is what you’re doing moving you toward your fitness goals? If so, great, how can you assure you continue to make progress? If not, what can you do to fix it?

Using my example, I realized a few things on my unplanned rest day:

First, my fitness goals aren’t as well-defined as I thought. So, I’ll be working on that.

Second, if I do have any fitness goals, one would involve being able to engage in fun, active stuff with my family. On my current trajectory, I was going to end up a burned out husk by the weekend.

Third, I was about to complete a 4-week weight lifting program. But I had no idea what I was doing next. I took some time on my rest day to come up with a new routine. I may tweak it a little, but at least I have a direction. But that leads me to…

Fourth, I needed to start planning my rest days better. Reviewing the past weeks, I could see where I planned to rest – the weekends. But life had other plans for me – yard work, bowling, etc. All things I had to or wanted to do, but they definitely were not going to give me the physical rest I required.


Plan your rest days as deliberately as you plan your training days. My new routine has beaucoup rest built in. Now, I’m hoping I didn’t over compensate!

But that’s something I’ve learned from this experience. I have time to make adjustments. If the new routine doesn’t give me results, I’ll change it.

Take some time to review your exercise routine. Have you planned your rest? Is it enough?

How much we need varies from person to person. And from study to study… Experts agree we need it, but there’s a wide variety of opinions about how much and what kind. I’ve also found my need for rest has changed as I’ve gotten older… ahem.

Whatever you do, plan your rest. Try some different ratios of rest to work. Check how it’s going. Change it when it’s not working. Remember, rest days should still have you moving around, so plan some light activity.

I’m looking forward to rest just as much as I look forward to exercise. That is key. Just like any exercise you do, make sure you are enjoying your rest days. Don’t spend the whole day thinking about your next workout.


Aahh! Enjoy!

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1Fear of Missing Out has become a popular topic these days.  It refers to our fear that, if we don't do a particular activity, such as go to a party, we will miss some monumental event.  It is often used in the context of people obsessed with social media.
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