Laziness is pretty much the scourge of America these days. People want all the benefits of hard work without, well, the hard work. There’s one circumstance I can think of that laziness pays dividends though, and in fact improves the gains of the hard work you just did. The rest day, which is often overlooked. I took a quote from the Gym Jones website a few years ago that stuck with me. I had been training with a partner for an upcoming multi-week event. I was in most likely the best shape I had ever been, knocking out a 1400+ UBRR score and a sub-2 hour 12 mile ruck time. Religious adherence to a great diet, never slacking on workouts. Unfortunately I fell into a trap of being overtraining and a week before the event I tore a tendon in the arch of my left foot on a Saturday morning, which pretty much sidelined me for nearly 6 months. That one stupid rest day I decided to cram a little extra work into caused career implications that haunt me to this day. One damned Saturday morning on Fort Bragg that I wasn’t smart enough to take a break. Like the song says, “If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.” I promise you, you’re better off being smart and tough. Afterwards I found this:
Commenting on a disappointing performance at the 2010 World Championships Mark Cavendish said, “It takes balls to rest and do nothing and I didn’t have the balls.” The hard work is easy, but it takes courage to rest. In an era when everyone thinks that more and harder is better few are brave enough to step back, to tell friends, “I’m taking it easy today.” I can hear the jibes from here. But one of my maxims is, “when in doubt, rest” and I admonish with it frequently.
The T-Shirt Gym Jones sells sums it up with “don’t do the work if you don’t have the balls to rest.” Recovery is a wonderful thing, it allows you to actually take full benefit of your hard work, mentally and physically. A lot of the high-stress activities we engage in are fatiguing. The body needs time to rest, rebuild, and prepare for another round of punishment. If not, it cannot grow to accommodate your workload. We plateau. We get complacent and lazy. We lose motivation. Exercise is a common example to relate to. You need to rest to build! Your body needs to heal to get stronger! When you break yourself off every day, you’re damaging yourself to a degree. Your body builds it’s capabilities to compensate for your workload. It needs the time to do that or not only will your results slow to stop, you’ll fall prey to injuries. Nobody wants to work that hard to flush it down the toilet on a strained muscle or torn tendon. One day of rest to save 6 months of cumulative work, or one more day of work for 6 months of rest…the choice is yours.
Plan rest into your activities. If possible, I like a 3/1 ratio of work/rest days on my training schedule. I use that for shooting, workouts, and other activities requiring a lot of physical activity or concentration. I know some animals that do 2/1 and still get by better than the rest of us. Get some sleep too. If you’re the guy that hits the bar or eats bad food “cause I worked out extra hard” today, it was all for nothing. A good night’s sleep is a rest day all its own for every day you’re on the job. Not only will a lack of rest and recovery stop muscle growth, but it will decrease your energy levels, and possibly testosterone production, and convinces your body to decrease muscle and store fat to feed itself. Don’t do the work and throw away the benefits.
Rest is important, arguably as important as the work you do to need it. Be man (or woman) enough to take that rest day when you need it. Plan on it! Don’t worry about your friends calling you a pussy. You’ll get to mock their “weak genes” when they’re on crutches or at the gym twice a day every day and can’t get any stronger.
Take it easy folks.