What Should I Do On My Off Days?

“Steve, what am I supposed to do on days when I’m not training?”

We get this question all the time here at Nerd Fitness. Since we advise most people to train 3 days per week with full body strength training routines, many Rebels have a few off days each week.

When you complete a full body workout routine, or do lots of compound movements like squats, push-upsoverhead presses or deadlifts, our muscles get broken down. Then, over the next 24-48 hours 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.

That then begs the question: what are we supposed to do on those days? How can we 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 I’m here, my dear Rebel friend: you ask the questions, I answer them! You set em up, I knock ’em down!

Before I quickly jump into this program, I’m gonna make another assumption: this isn’t the only question you have about training! 

Not just what to do on your off days, but also what to do on your “on” days too! How many sets, how many reps, how much should you eat, how much sleep should you get, are you doing your push-ups right, and so on.

I know this, because I too used to have a bazillion questions – it can be paralyzing and intimidating, which is why we built a pretty special 1-on-1 Coaching Program to answer all of those questions: personalized workout programs, professional guidance and accountability, and a coach that gets to know you and your situation!

You can learn more about our coaching program by clicking on the image below and scheduling a call with us to see if we’re a good fit to help you reach your goals!

Plan Your Off Days Like a Training Day

The biggest problem most people have with off days is that they become 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.

This is bad news bears.bear

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.”

Personally, I know I am far less likely to eat poorly when I’m doing some active recovery than when I’m not doing anything deliberatelyOn days when I’m not training, I try to block off a similar amount of time to work on myself in some way to maintain momentum, and I encourage you to do the same if you struggle with losing momentum if even taking one day off.

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.

Let’s dive in to your off-day options!

Work on Mobility

cat rest

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.”

Here’s another favorite mobility routine from my friend (and coach) Anthony Mychal. It says it’s a warm-up for tricking, but it’s quite helpful for those of us mere mortals: 

If you spend all day at a desk, doing some basic mobility movements throughout the day can keep your hips loose and keep you thinking positively. Here’s an article on how to dominate posture at your desk job.

Do a Fun Activity

soccer

We are genetically designed to move, not sit on our asses for 60+ hours a week. Not only that, but we are genetically designed to have fun doing so too!

Which means we can spend time on our off days working on our happiness AND stay active at the same time.

This fun activity can mean 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 (I play on Thursdays!)
  • Play softball
  • Swim
  • Go for a walk with your significant other
  • Go rock climbing
  • Learn martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Capoeira or Kung Fu
  • Take a dance class
  • Try Live Action Role-Playing (LARP!)
  • Play on a playground
  • Roll down a hill and run back up it

I honestly don’t care 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 does not need to be exhausting or miserable. If you haven’t found an activity you enjoy yet, you 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

run sprint

“But Steve, 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!

yoga-interest

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. That was my concern years ago before I got started with it; I had to muster up 20 seconds of courage to attend my first yoga class, and I’m so glad I did.

Here’s how to get started with Yoga!

  • Nearly any commercial gym you join will have yoga classes.
  • Most yoga studios have classes throughout the day.
  • Follow a plethora of videos online if you want to get started at home.
  • Check out Nerd Fitness Yoga launching soon!

Nerd Fitness Yoga is something we’ve been working on for months and I can’t wait to share it with you!

When you sign up for more information here we’ll be sharing a cool flexibility challenge to help you gauge just how flexible you are and how you can improve your flexibility.

what do you Do On Your Off Days?

maldives relax

As we know, a healthy body is made in the kitchen, not in the gym. It’s important to stay diligent with healthy nutrition even on days when you’re not hitting the gym.

One of the best ways to do that is to use one of your non-training days to prepare your meals for the week! NF Team Member Staci Ardison does all of her meal prep for the week on Sundays, and looks at it like an activity that is furthering her fitness journey.

I like to use one of my off days to break a mental sweat too! On Tuesdays, I take fiddle lessons, which is a mental workout so taxing that I can’t wait to get back to deadlifts!

Here’s another thing you can do on off days: Have fun. 

Whether it’s playing a video game, getting caught up on a movie or TV show, or reading a book, it’s important for us to do the nerdy or fun things that make us who we are. As the Rules of the Rebellion state: fitness can become part of we do, but not at the expense of who we are!

I’m currently playing through Batman Arkham Knight (add me on PS4 and Xbox One: “RebelOneNF”!), and as I collect the Riddler Trophies, I think to myself: “I am rebuilding muscle like Batman.”

If you’re somebody that is too smart for your own good (certain a possibility with you reading “Nerd Fitness”), you might be overwhelming yourself with paralysis: “I want to get in shape but I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing for my goals. Should I train 4 days a week or 3? Lift weights and cardio? What about my macros for food!?”

If this sounds like you, you might want to check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

We help busy people like you cut through the clutter and noise and just tell you exactly what to do each day to keep you on target with your goals! You can schedule a call with us when you click on the box below to learn more:

How do you stay on target even on days when you’re not “training?”

I’d love to hear from you – do you take the day off completely? Do you challenge yourself in a different way?  Do you try to do something every day to keep the momentum up, or do you actually take days off?

Leave it in the comments!

-Steve 

PS: We have a ton of free resources too that you can grab when you join the Rebellion (free).

Simply sign up in the box below so I know where you to send your bonuses and e-books:

 

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  • What do I do on my “off days”? Actually, I’m wondering if I’m over-doing it.

    On my non-weight-training days I do circuits of jogging, running, push-ups, and pull-ups, then I do three sets of planks or side planks. More specifically, I jog a quarter mile, then run faster for a quarter mile (increasing the speed each circuit), do x number of push-ups (right now 14) and y number of pull-ups (right now 5), and repeat for a total of 2 miles. Then the dreaded planks. I also dance (swing) 2-5 times a week.

    I know the old saw about not working the same muscle or groups of muscles two days in a row, but I also remember the article about the PLP workout some time ago, which argued that there was a benefit in some cases to working the same muscles without a rest day. I’d definitely like to know if I’m not allowing my body a chance to recover. I’m not hell-bent on losing weight (like you said, that’s what food is for), but I do want to be strong, useful, and fit.

  • rhiannion

    Followed your suggestion several articles ago about yoga and do the Hatha Yoga video with Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation on You Tube in the mornings on the days ‘off’ (shows him on a rock with the sounds of water – it’s just excellent) then some meditation; and later in the day stretches. In evenings I have been reading a book ‘I Will Teach You To Be Rich’ by Ramit Sethi; he provides a 6 week set-up program on how to get your financial and investing life together, a little bit at a time like the Nerd Fitness on exercise and nutrition, and Steve, I think his sense of humor is as great as yours (awww, your better :- ) ). Thank you all for all you do.

  • Matthew Dimalanta

    keep teasing us about the NF Yoga…

  • Zara Greer

    I run or swim on my off days. It’s a great jump-start to my morning!

  • Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe

    Sometimes I do Zumba, and sometimes I do mobility training-I have bad knees, and a bad ankle so that intentional work is very important for me.

  • That seems like quite a lot… but the real question: does it seem to be working for you? I’m doing everything I can to lose weight, but I’ve hit a plateau that I just can’t break past.

  • Tony Langdon

    My days off vary for me. Currently, I am in the gym Mondays and Wednesdays, with either cross country running or athletics training (or possibly both, but hasn’t happened yet!) on the weekend. That leaves 4 days. One of those is a working day, and my work is actually quite physical (I ditched the office environment years ago), so it’s probably in the class of active recovery.

    The final 3 days are highly variable, with the probability of short walks on at least one of them, and other active volunteer work (firefighting training!) on another. And hobbies like ham radio fit in on these days too. Though even ham radio has not escaped the active lifestyle, I am one of a number of local hams who are also recreational cyclists. We have ham radio setup on our bikes, to mix radio and exercise, and are even in the process of planning a repeater system dedicated to bicycle based users! 🙂 I guess that qualifies as nerd fitness! 🙂

    And in just over a month, as my summer competition training kicks in, my week will change dramatically, and I will have to rearrange my training schedule accordingly.

  • Ann Plicque

    Since I own a home and have a tenant who lives in a back apartment, during summer, I’m busy. I sweep my porch, steps, front sidewalk almost every day and since I mow with a push mower, mow every three or so days. It rains a lot in New Orleans June to July with evening thundershowers, so grass grows. I hand edge my small lawn and keep a small vegetable/flower garden. Have to weed, prune, occasionally spray for pest vines, weeds. On off days I do light strength training, lots of stretching weeding and edging, much bending down. Was house painting earlier and that up and down the ladder was great for glutes! Did that daily for about eight weeks April to mid-June. Lots of overhead stretching. Will resume same at the end of September when it cools and humidity and mold spores lessen. Making your work a second workout is efficient and the payoff is great for body, mind, spirit, home. Weekly cooking is another plus. I do seasonal freezing and have loads of strawberries, blueberries that can be defrosted later when their season is long over, as well as stewed okra and tomatoes, corned beef and cabbage. Bounty like the 32 blue crab my son caught for me three weeks ago, led to a huge pot of gumbo. I froze half and used half. Just started on the second half. Made boulliabasse from several pounds of shrimp heads from the cousin my son crabbed with and made shrimp etouffee from the bodies. Did the half/half equation again. Lots of great protein with veggies. Delicious! Even house cleaning. Mopping the floor works up a sweat! First I strip it, then Mop n Glo it. Several layers. The work is a workout. Still need to get enough sleep. Have to force yourself to shut down! Power naps help midday, if you can do it! 90 minutes hit the spot. Then five to six hours at night! Oh and I work two days a week 8 and a half hours and sometimes a few hours on a Saturday, as I will this Saturday, teaching. I write every day. The magic is to keep mind, body active, get enough rest, eat healthily and not too much. Though I err on the side of sweets. I’m working on it. When I feel tired, I conk out. If I’m overtired, I’ve overdone it. I Body Pump twice a week, and if I’m not feeling the add more weight, I cut back and get rest that way too. In winter, I add yoga because I do less outdoor work. But summer works me hard, hard, hard!

  • Bas van Sambeek

    It sounds like a lot, but you sound quite active too. Activity can restore you by better blood flow but also hurt you by overdoing it. A good nerdy way is to do an hrv measurement in the morning. A Bluetooth heart rate monitor with an app like hrv4training (iPhone only, but there are lots of apps for different platforms) can give you insight in your recovery and prevent overtraining.

  • Joseph

    I loved the bad news bears reference
    On my rest days I either pick up my longsword and I either spare with my brother or against my imagination if he has something else to do.
    I am also taking fiddle lessons

  • Anna Cohen

    I’ve been struggling to achieve my optimal weight for years.

    Melissa Green from internethealth (dot) org helped me out with some awesome reviews and articles.

    All I can say is, never give up!

  • I play ultimate (frisbee) quite seriously, so that’s what I do on my “off” days! (It might be more like training in the gym is my off day from ultimate, but it’s just perspective.) It’s either training, or ultimate practice, summer league, or working on my throws. It’s a fun way to get running and do some sprints, so I’d recommend checking out a pickup game if you’re keen!

  • I like to think of them as “Active Rest Days”. Easy walking, rollerblading, light jog with our dog…..just some movement to get the blood flowing. Cheers

  • I love to load some podcasts or audiobooks to my phone, then turn on airplane mode and do my long walks while listening to inspiring stuff.

    If you’re trying to get stronger, doing some *easy* sets of your target moves can help with recovery. Pick an exercise you can do for 20 reps, then do a couple sets of 15 witht that exercise.

  • Ann Plicque

    If you aren’t having injury or pain issues, it’s likely you aren’t overdoing. I wonder if the push-ups and pull-ups are necessary since you are stressing the same muscle groups as with weight training. Though planks are a core trainer too, you are again stressing the same poor shoulders and arms you’re using with weights. Why not curls and sit-ups on your back? There are a host of core workouts that won’t involve arm and shoulder use. I say give those shoulders and arms a rest. But just because you aren’t hurting now doesn’t mean this sort of heavy training won’t cause cumulative damage. As Slaughter says, seems like a lot.

  • Ann Plicque

    Dear Dan:
    Remember, plateaus are just that. Temporary flat points. You just have to wait them out and push through. It may take a few weeks or a few months, but just keep up the good work and the clothes will get looser and the needle will move. Check your eating plan too. Is there anything “new” you’ve added that you weren’t eating before. Could be the monkeywrench! And notice if your clothes are fitting looser. Sometimes you’ll lose fat and gain muscle, which means the scale numbers won’t budge. But muscle is denser, weighs more and burns more calories. If you find your clothes are fitting looser, it’s a sure sign you are losing fat. Have yourself weighed underwater and see what your body fat ratio is. Or get something as simple as a caliper test at your doctor’s if that is too cost prohibitive. It’s not as accurate, but provides a baseline. Come back in a month and see if you’ve improved!

  • Thanks for this nice tips, right now on vacation soo…. maybe I´ll try to do all this.
    Cheers.

  • Thanks, Ann! This particular plateau has been plaguing me for months. I’m getting stronger, and I can see some changes happening, but my weight is still too high: I’m at about 295 (6’5″). It’s a little frustrating; everything indicates that the issues with my knees will go away when my weight goes down… oh well. My lifestyle is still healthy, and I suppose maintaining is still better than the norm.

  • Exercise is probably 10-20% of the equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90% . Great info!!! Regards. Alex COO Zumba en Miami http://www.entrenaya.us/gimnasios/en/miami/con-clase-de/zumba

  • Pingback: A Nerd’s Guide to Yoga: 4 Movements to Try TODAY. | Nerd Fitness()

  • Angie

    Test

  • Angie

    Exercise on your days off!

    Losing weight doesn’t have to take long. If you’re looking for something that works to lose weight quickly and keep it off, I recently discovered The 3 Week Diet online (go to HEALTHIERBODY -dot- TK ) on our local news and it really helped me. I went from 195 pounds all the way to 145, so I’m glad I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! Get up off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you’ll wish you have started today… good luck and you can do this! I promise 🙂Text me if you need some help staying motivated! (706) 968-7729 – I might be a little slow at replying but I’ll do my best to be your free personal trainer. We can be here for each other 🙂xo,Angie

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