Fitness goals that run the gamut from lifting heavy weights to beating your personal 10K run record to just getting rid of aches and pains all require the same thing: consistent training. All successful training programs rely on sticking to a workout schedule and building progress week to week. But, that doesn’t mean training indefinitely without breaks. You will be most successful over the long term by planning time for full system recovery.
Rest and recovery are key partners with exercise. Exercise prompts the body to change, and change happens during recovery. Striking a balance between challenging workouts and recovery days is the formula for success. A basic example is taking a day off between strength training workouts to let muscles recovery and get stronger.
Over the long term, extended rest periods away from structured exercise are immensely beneficial. These rest periods are typically a week long, giving the body ample time to fully recover. The time away also helps prevent boredom and staleness. Vacation, work travel, or life occasionally getting in the way of training all function as rest weeks for some people. If that’s not the case for you, plan rest weeks as part of your schedule.
When to Take Extended Recovery
If you regularly exercise with vigorous effort, take a week off every 4-6 weeks. If you exercise moderately, take a week off every 6-8 weeks. It is also important to pay attention to physical and mental signals indicating you need a break earlier than planned. When your workouts seem unusually taxing, you feel unduly fatigued, have trouble sleeping, experience mood changes or have trouble concentrating, you probably need a break. A built in week off from your program will give your system extra time to make up any slack in recovery.
Having said all that, a week of recovery doesn’t mean abandoning all activity to sack out on the couch. Instead, engage in “active recovery.” Use low intensity activities to keep moving without burdening your system. Walking is a great choice for most people, but it could be any low intensity activity you enjoy. The important point is to keep it easy. It might seem counter intuitive, but you will almost certainly feel better coming back after planned time off.