Dear Mark: Rest Days

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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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending more than three decades educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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