Why Can't I Take a Day Off

I can tell the signs of a good team when I watch a training session. The athletes are lively. They are having fun. They are focused, bright eyed, and engaged. On the other hand, I can see the signs of team that isn’t thriving. The training sessions looks flat. The athletes aren’t smiling. The energy seems low.

Now a days, we have the science to help us avoid this problem. We can measure sleep, sleep quality, exertion, heart rate, heart rate variability, brain wave activity, and almost everything else you can imagine with a wearable that allows us to tell our athletes if they are in a state of readiness to train. This allows the coach to get the most out of each athlete. In telling the athlete exactly what to do, how hard to try, when to rest, when to work, and for how long, the coach has complete control of the team.  

But there’s one big problem. The athlete is missing out on valuable skills that can come in very handy when it comes to playing any sport: the skill of making decisions for themselves; the skill of being mindful and paying attention to what’s right for them at any moment in time; the skill of listening to intuition. These are the skills that make exceptional athletes.

The same skills apply to us normal athletes in the gym. The tools are simple. I’ve shared them with you before. Get good sleep. Eat whole foods. Work on mobility. Pay attention to how you feel. Take rest days when you need them…

So if you already know all of this, then why is it so hard to take a day off? I mean, you already know that recovery is part of what is needed in order to continue to lose weight, perform at high levels, and be healthy overall. Well, you may want to look at it in terms of a skill that you need to practice. It’s no different than any other skill. The skill of learning how to hit a backhand, swinging a kettlebell, or learning how to take care of yourself.

It starts with a little mindfulness. Basically, pay attention to how you feel. If you’re tired when you wake up, pay attention to that feeling. If your warm up at the gym feels harder than normal, stop and give it some thought.

Once you are able to slow down and pay attention to how you feel, it's time to practice. Maybe you can’t take the day off yet, but maybe you can do half the distance on your run or slow down just a little bit. It’s about finding ways to make it just a little bit better.  

Once you have begun to practice, you can make outcome based decisions. Are your workouts getting better or worse with more rest? Are you losing more weight? Do you have more energy? You’ll never know until you practice.

RecoveryAaron Leventhal