Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 10, 2008

Dear Mark: Rest Days

By Mark Sisson
66 Comments

HammockHi Mark,

Do you ever take a rest day? I know Jack LaLanne claims he exercises even when tired and Art DeVany says you should do something every day. Spent last weekend splitting wood and lugging it into the barn and then Monday I did a 6 mile fall foliage hike in the mountains. Tuesday I was too tired to do anything. Today I took another rest day as I struggled getting up for work after 8 hours of sleep. I imagine Grok must have taken rest days where he dozed or just rested in camp after an especially grueling hunt. What’s your opinion on taking a day off?

Thanks to Peter for this week’s question. First, let me say that your long weekend describes the best of authentically primal exertion. Grok would be proud. And I imagine he’d tell you to enjoy your hiatus.

Last year I did a post on my typical weekly workout sequence. I had something on the docket for every day of the week – the switch off among sprints, strength training and fun stuff like a weekly Ultimate Frisbee match. A lot of weeks still resemble this plan, but many don’t. Sure, I usually do something fitness related each day, and if I need a lighter load day I’ll oftentimes opt for a good walk. However, there are other times when I just take a day off. Actually, I take rest days now a lot more than I used to. Generally unplanned, but never with guilt.

The fact is, if I can’t fit in a workout one day, I know I can hit it harder tomorrow. And I do. Once in a while even when I make it to the gym I’ll do some lifts or sprints on the Lifecycle and realize either my heart’s not in it or the energy just isn’t there to push through. In that case, I’ll pack up my stuff and head home. And, then there are days when I just flat out need a rest and recovery day – say, after a really hard game of Ultimate with my family or the occasional long and intense trail run/hike. (Yup, I do some long stuff once in a blue moon because it’s fun and my fitness level allows for it now and then.) After a good rest day I always find myself ready and motivated to get back on track, and I’m none the worse for it.

This is all possible because my diet ensures that I’m not losing muscle or storing fat if I miss a workout. If you remember, I was to a large extent laid up with that knee injury for twelve weeks earlier this year. (It was a “rest” period that felt like relative hibernation to someone like me, but I was still able to maintain the same body composition just through diet and a little upper body work…)

That’s the beauty of the Primal Blueprint in my view. While activity is a crucial part of the picture, ultimately the blueprint works as a whole design. Sure, I have no doubt that Grok took it plenty easy when he needed to, and that instinct, I’d argue, was an important adaptive trait. Working in rest days when you need them definitely fits good old Grok’s primal precedent. But it works for modern times as well – in the context of a diet and lifestyle that complements our long-standing physiology. Knowing you can give yourself that permission will let you push yourself in your workout routine (whether it’s weights or wood) once in a while, and that’s something worth doing. And, well, you’ll also be less hesitant to enjoy some of the more fun but exhausting challenges life presents. (Mountain hike, anyone?) Rest assured that doing a day off isn’t going to set you back when you’re taking care of yourself across the board.

What do you think? Have you found that once you zero in on the Primal Eating plan it is much easier to maintain body composition without incessant workouts?

Are your rest days planned or do you simply listen to your body and choose accordingly?

Captain Blackadder Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Beach Sprints Video

2 Minute Salad Video with Daily Caloric Breakdown

Low-Carb Diet Talk on LA Fox News

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66 Comments on "Dear Mark: Rest Days"

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Son of Grok
Son of Grok
7 years 10 months ago
I have found that living primally, I listen to my body more. I usually do something every day, even if its only a walk but if I dont feel fully recoverd, I don’t hit another intense workout day until I do. This sometimes results in an extra “rest day” where I just take a walk or stretch or something but I have no guilt about it at all! In fact, I sometimes think of rest days as being more productive becaue the real benefit from excersize comes in the healing and recovery. If my body is stil sore, I am… Read more »
Rob
7 years 10 months ago

I can feel for Peter. I spent a total of 12 hours cutting and hauling wood this weekend. Im totally drained. Im probably going to derer my training until tomorrow…maybe 😉

Donna
Donna
7 years 10 months ago
It just makes total sense to take a day out of the week to rest. I mean, after all, think about it, we sleep at least 8 hours every night and get “rest” we need for “Good Health!” Rest is just part of keeping our bodies healthy. Now, i don’t do this on a schedule, just listen to what my body tells me. When that red light inside me goes off once a week and says stop and rest today, i do it that day. The rest of the week, it’s green light, GO!!! Yeah, i do believe in taking… Read more »
Andrew R
7 years 10 months ago
I agree with Son of Grok. I take a rest day, usually on Saturday only because I’ll be at a college football game during the day and watching the rest of the games at night. On Saturday, I know that I have earned my rest day because of my diligence towards a more active, primal focused lifestyle all that week. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you should always stick to a planned rest day. There are times when I end up going to the gym 4 days in a row without even noticing it and suddenly feel at… Read more »
Kathy
Kathy
7 years 10 months ago

It’s funny, I usually schedule my rest day on Sunday. And for some reason because it is a “rest” day, I always consider that to be the day I take care of the little unimportant chores like laundry, shopping, mowing the lawn. By the end of the day I realize I’ve spent most my day on my feet, walking around, lifting bags, and pushing a mower! Maybe I need to make rest day a Wednesday, the day I watch all my Tivo’d Soaps.

Roy
7 years 10 months ago
Thoughts Mark, please? I struggle with this one a great deal from a different perspective, perhaps some others can relate. Everything I know, everything I have learned suggests that I need rest to maximize he investment of my eating and exercise. That said, I live with depression also, and my daily exercise helps keep me away from medications — in this sense, my exercise is my daily medication to combat depression. If I don’t do something — reasonably intense something, then I get very down and depression takes over. If I take no rest time, my body takes on the… Read more »
Frederick
Frederick
4 years 8 months ago
Dear Kathy With depression you need to fight with every possible weapon available and use them ALL at once at any given time. I will give a few guidelines of what I do; 1 I am 100% strict with primal eating during such times. Primal food is excellent in creating the neurotransmitters that helps to improve that feeling of brokenness. Absolutely no refined foods and sugars.I am becoming more and more convinced that depression is very closely related to eating foods that causes a drop in blood sugar levels. Therefore green fresh salads together with good fats helps a lot… Read more »
Mark Sisson
7 years 10 months ago
Roy – When I talk about listening to my body it means more than just the physical aspect. As I mentioned in the post, sometimes I’ll skip out of a workout early if my heart’s not it it. By that I mean that there is a psychological factor at play as well. Though they’re fairly rare in my case, there are days that my body is ready to go but my mind isn’t. Listening to your body is by definition a very personal, subjective act. If you find that your body is telling you to get some activity on a… Read more »
Earth Beauty
7 years 10 months ago

Yoga, can be easily done everyday, especially alternating from mild to intense. I try to vary my routine so that I can do a little something each day. Sunday is typically my day of rest.

Phillip
Phillip
7 years 10 months ago

I used to “workout” just about everyday. Talk about burnout. Now I do about two kettlebell workouts a week. Feel a lot better.

Still active on non-workout days, usually just walking the dog.

Marco
Marco
6 years 1 day ago

Same here!I Feel a whole lot better!!!

Roy
7 years 10 months ago
Thanks Mark. Depression is a real beast and the fear of it setting in can be intimidating. When it does set in, it is disruptive to every aspect of my life. Knowing that exercise keeps it at bay, I know I do overtrain but I’m not significantly broken. Will look more inelegantly at cutting workouts back, but scared to do so. Sleep, lack of sleep, is a factor for me also. I sleep about 6 hours per night — broken. Refuse, REFUSE to take any sleep aids, OTC or otherwise. The standard herbals haven’t worked for me. Any thoughts here?… Read more »
Holly
Holly
7 years 10 months ago
I use to push myself to workout (like running for long periods of time) everyday because, of course, running was “the best way to workout” and I had to everyday “to stay in shape”. This was obviously a terrible idea, especially because I’ve been struggling with knee problems for 11 years and after a week or 2 of my runs I would often end up bedridden for a day or so. I was so beyond thankful to come across this blog that recommends WALKING (something that can still be painful, but infinitely better) and listening to your body. I now… Read more »
RonD
RonD
7 years 10 months ago
I’m like Mark for the most part. There will be times I’m just not into it. Lack of sleep, work, etc.. may have a bearing on whether I work out or not, but typically it’s just decides the level of intensity of my activity. Like Mark, I will try to do some kind of activity everyday even if it’s just walking. I’m not an elite athlete so I don’t obsess and over-analyse my activities to the point of stressing myself out. My primal-based life style compensates for those days. I just took the weekend off from any intense activity because… Read more »
Son of Grok
Son of Grok
7 years 10 months ago
Roy, Just a thought… maybe you can switch out some of your workouts for hour long walks. I find that this kind of excercise does wonders for my mood and the primal bluebrint allows for plenty of walking without overtraining! As for sleeping, a lot of people will argue with me about this one but when I started eating an extremely large meal right before bed time, it fixed all of my sleep problems. Its like my body goes into digest mode and wants to shut down and sleep. I sleep like a baby now. I think I have read… Read more »
Roy
7 years 10 months ago

Thoughts on examples of PM meals, SOG or anyone else?

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
7 years 10 months ago
Roy, My late PM meal is usually my big meal… most people would call it dinner. I usually eat it about 8:30pm and go to bed at 9:30pm. Mostly fat and protien with some veggies. Example of this weeks menu. M- Green Chile Avacado Chicken with zuchini stir-fry T- Mustard salmon and mixed green salad W- Guacamole steak and eggs with mixed green salad Th- Coconut shrimp and veggies F- Buffalo green chile stew and mixed green salad Sa- Buffalo Chile and mixed green salad Su- Steak and veggies The “heavier” the meal, the better for me as it knocks… Read more »
mark bouvier
mark bouvier
5 years 6 days ago

i too have read articles indicaing that from an evolutionary standpoint predators and omnivores biologically tend to eat less in the morning and really chow down in the late evening which helps promote the natural circadian clock thus helping with sleeping patterns and as long as you’re eating good primal foods and controlling insulin while you’re konked out for the night then you don’t have to worry about the conventional wisdom standoint of eating before bed causing fat gains.. mark, have you heard anything like this?
cheers!

Donna
Donna
7 years 10 months ago

Son of Grok,
My hairstylist tells me she does the very same thing. She says that she eats a HUGE dinner @ night. She describes it this way, it puts her in a “food coma” and feels like it knocks her down “unconscious about an hour after she eats and hurries off to bed. From what she tells me, i understand what you’re saying.

Personally, myself, i eat early dinner and nothing after. Different things work for differnt people.

Roy
7 years 10 months ago

Grok on! Will try similar course expecting no immediate results but hopefully in time. Many thanks.

Jen
Jen
7 years 10 months ago

Roy,

I know you said you’ve tried standard herbals for sleep. Our family has had good luck with a formula put out by Metagenics called MyoCalm P.M. It’s a combo of passionflower, hops, valerian, and lemon balm.

In terms of other herbal/dietary options for emotional well-being, have you tried Mark’s Proloftin? I’d check it out on his site.

All best to you!

Jerry the Frog (of the Bull Variety)
Jerry the Frog (of the Bull Variety)
7 years 10 months ago

I have to second that, Jen. I spoke with a rep at Mark’s company at length about Proloftin before trying it. Proloftin is first and foremost an herbal remedy for stress relief. But I have found, and the rep concurred, that after taking it for a couple weeks my sleeping patterns became much more regular and normal and I even lost a few pounds. These are both positive side effects of mitigating the damage that cortisol does on your body. If you can get that right other things naturally fall into place.

Roy
7 years 10 months ago

Jen & Jerry, thank you. Will check it out.

Donna
Donna
7 years 10 months ago

Hi Roy,
Jen & Jerry are right!
I have to 3rd it, I’ve taken Proloftin several times when i was under too much stress and it ALWAYS WORKED FOR ME! I highly recommend trying it, i believe you’d get the results your looking for. PROLOFTIN WORKS!!!! Proloftin has NEVER failed me, it’s “AWESOME!!”

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
7 years 10 months ago
Mark, Firstly, thanks for a very readable and informative blog. This post prompted me to look at your posts on your exercise “routine”. Two questions sprang to mind: (i) You cetainly seem to be shorting in those beach runs. Have you any idea what sort of pace you reach; what sort of 100m time would it equate to. Does Eugene Boult need to sharpen up his training regime. I gather he trains on chicken McNuggets. (ii) What sort of weights do you list. Do you lift heavy to exhaustion?, in single or multiple sets? Do you think you might have… Read more »
Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
7 years 10 months ago

Meant to say “shifting” …. in those sprints.

Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson
7 years 10 months ago
Paul, I know I would have acheived more as an athlete had I known then what I know now. (“couldda been a contender”) The flip side is that getting out when I did (when there was still no real money to be made) allowed me to pursue a far more rewarding career as an educator and developer of supplements. And ultimately, I am healthier today than I would have been had I stayed an athlete and even if I had employed the knowledege I have today. As for my sprints, I have no idea what my speed is nor do… Read more »
trackback
7 years 10 months ago

Rest Days | Mark’s Daily Apple…

Feeling guilty about taking a day off from exercising? Confused about this much talked about “rest day”? Mark’s Daily Apple uncovers the truth about giving your body a break….

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
7 years 10 months ago
Mark, Thanks for the comprehensive reply. A more rewarding career and being healthier is a pretty good outcome in anyone’s book. Being faster at 54 than in your 20’s is pretty good going. Isn’t it also, though, an indictment of your coaches in your “heyday”. Even in endurance events like marathons a quick finish often seaparates the medal winners from the pack. I would be very happy if I could lift anything like 275lbs. Out of interest, how tall are you? I am 5’9 and weigh around 173 lbs. I would like to lose around 14 lbs of fat. (at… Read more »
Terrilee
Terrilee
7 years 10 months ago

Hi, this response is for Roy. I loved what Mark told you,however I feel he left one important thing out: Start taking his Master Formula. I have been working out for Many years, but I have never felt as good as I do now. I started taking his master formula about 2 years ago. Wow! What a difference in my workouts and in how I look and Feel. I would highly recommend you try them. Do you follow his Primal Eating Plan? I would recommend that too… Good Luck!

Mark Sisson
Mark Sisson
7 years 10 months ago

Paul, 5’10” 164 lbs 8% body fat

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
7 years 10 months ago

That’s impressive and something to aspire towards; although I might forgo the rack treatment. I’ll aim for 160 and settle for 5 ft 9. In any case I already look taller having lostmore than 35lb of fat. I consider myself a work in progress!

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
7 years 10 months ago
Terrilee, Genrally I am wary of supplements and hold the view that a good diet, getting outdoors and a good exercise programme should suffice. That said, I take a multi vitamin, timed released vitamin C and cod liver oil daily. Certainly your comments on Mark’s supplements are food for thought. I have been following a very low carb diet for 30 months or so know – basically meat, fish, vegetables (not enough) and nuts. A little alcohol, and probably way too much dairy. I exercise about 14 hours a week – a mixture of running, spinning, weights (high reps) and… Read more »
P
P
7 years 9 months ago
Roy: My dh also likes MyoCalm and MyoCalm PM. Any formula that has a good dose of Magnesium in it can be very helpful for rest/relaxation (including ye olde fashioned bath in epsom salts). One of the reasons that the MyoCalm formulas help is precisely because of the magnesium, but I’ve also found relief from a straight up mag. supplement like “Calm” fizz powder or a liquid ionic mag. However, since you mention depression, I’d be careful about using the MyoCalm PM formula as it contains hops, and hops can aggravate depressive states in people that are prone to them.… Read more »
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