How to talk yourself into taking a day off from exercise each week

This post on the importance of rest days is sponsored by Premier Protein. Thanks for supporting our sponsors, and there’s a little giveaway at the end too.

Hi, friends! Hope you had a great weekend. This one’s all about fitness …

If you read A Lady Goes West regularly, it’s no secret that I constantly bring up the word “balance.” Balance in the way you eat, balance in the way you live your life and of course, balance in the way you exercise.

How to talk yourself into taking rest days and the importance of rest days and a Premier Protein post by A Lady Goes West

I don’t think you should have a strict no-carb diet every single day with zero sugar, and I also don’t think you should exercise every single day without rest either. The funny thing is, even though I mention this a lot, I know that some of you actually struggle with both of these things.

While some people have trouble keeping up with a regular workout routine or making themselves eat healthy food, there is an entirely other group of people who struggle with letting go of their strict routine and straying from their perfect diet. And these are both problems. And both of these groups of people have trouble understanding each other’s struggles! Funny, right? πŸ™‚

The importance of rest days

That’s why we’re going to talk about balance — like real balance. Not so much the straying from your diet thing, because I’m not a nutritionist, even though I’d like to think I know a thing or two about macros, healthy food and what to eat and when. Instead, we’re going to talk about balance in exercise and the importance of rest days. And by rest days, I mean taking a day off from exercise, at least one time every single week.

And by the way, fitness is a very individual thing. Some people may need more rest than others. And elite athletes may be able to push their rest day further out than once a week, but this post is for the everyday average worker-outer, which you probably are right now.

Reasons WHY you should take a rest day each week

I know it’s hard to get yourself into the mindset of knowing that you need rest. So let’s talk about the reasoning …

Your body will recover.

Your body does not improve during the workout itself, it actually improves AFTER the workout, when it recovers and rebuilds the tiny tears in your muscles that you make during exercise. The day after a tough full-body strength training session or a long run is the day when your muscles are repairing and getting stronger. If you work out every single day, you are never getting the chance to have this full day of improvement. The same goes for taking the same low-impact barre class every single day. You are not getting better at that class if you never have a day away to rebuild away from the repetitive movement. A day of rest is a gift to your body, helping it to improve. Receive that gift!

You will feel stronger in your other workouts.

If you are someone who exercises every single day, you may not know what it is like to have fresh legs or lungs when you exercise, because you constantly have fatigue — perhaps even nagging fatigue that you don’t know is plaguing you. I have felt this before — when I was teaching and doing more than 12 workouts a week as a group fitness instructor and trainer living in San Francisco. Even though I could go hard in each of these many workouts, I was NOT working at my maximum potential, because I didn’t give my body enough time to rest and totally rebuild. At that time, I took one rest day, but I likely should’ve been taking two to counteract my massive amounts of activity. Once I started taking more days to rest, I felt myself perform better in my other workouts (I also reduced the overall load too in order to improve my hormones, and if you want to know more about why — check out this post on how I recovered from exercise-related hypothalamic amenorrhea and my full story with other tips in my ebook, “Fit and Fertile.”)

You will reduce your chance of an overuse injury.

If you have any pesky injuries, like shin splints or stress fractures or sore knees, I can bet that taking a full day off each week from exercise will help those problems. In addition, if you have a regular day away from workouts, you will likely have an even better chance at avoiding future overuse injuries. If you’ve never had an exercise-related injury, then props to you and knock on wood. But once you get one, another one is bound to happen elsewhere in your body as you try to compensate for the messed-up spot — it’s sad, but true. (For instance, hurt your foot? Your hip or knee on the opposite leg may be next ailment based on how the body works together.) And if the injury gets bad, you may be forced to take a LONG time off exercise and require medical intervention. So learn to be proactive by taking a rest day regularly.

Some ways on HOW you can take a rest day each week

And now that you’re thinking about the why, here’s how you can do it … 

Find something to do with your extra time.

If you are someone who goes to the gym each morning after you wake up without fail, plan an activity for your rest day in the morning. Maybe you can sleep in a bit that day or maybe you can read a book, or maybe you can take yourself to your favorite coffee shop for a special latte, just to keep busy. You could also try doing a very leisure walk on your rest day, and maybe even recruit a friend or family member to go with you on that walk and turn it into social hour. And your rest day doesn’t have to be on Sunday either. If you want to rest on a weekday, may I recommend Monday? I LOVE taking Monday rest days, because that’s usually the hardest day to get to the gym anyhow. And that saying “never miss a Monday” — who cares. Just take a rest day. Your choice on when, and the same day each week is ideal, but it doesn’t really matter.

The importance of rest days and a Premier Protein post by A Lady Goes West

Remind yourself that you are getting stronger with rest.

The biggest battle for getting away from daily exercises is usually the feeling that you are lazy if you don’t work out. Try to flip that mindset and tell yourself you are SMART and STRATEGIC if you don’t work out for one day each week. Here’s some mental imagery — picture your broken and sore muscles building up as you leisurely walk around, enjoy some TV, catch up with friends and use that time you would have for the gym for something else productive and good for the soul. Visualize your body regaining its full potential with your smart rest. It’s a beautiful thing.

Know that taking a rest day will get easier.

Once you start removing that workout from one day a week and replacing it with a massage, a walk or even a trip to your favorite farmer’s market with a ready-to-drink Premier Protein shake in hand, know that it will get easier and easier to take that day. In fact, you may start to look forward to it. It’s pretty nice when you don’t have a super sweaty intense session to dry off or clean up from sometimes. One rest day at a time, one week at a time, you will become more accustomed to it! 

Understand it will help you to avoid burnout.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if you ever find yourself getting sick of your every single day workout routine, a weekly day away from exercise may be just what the doctor ordered to get you pumped up and ready to hit the gym the next day. I promise!

And that’ll do it. While I know that it can be hard to veer off your routine, especially if you LOVE to exercise and get that post-workout high, it can be done. Take it from me: You will actually learn to love your weekly rest days, and while you don’t have to sit on the couch all day to rest (and probably should never sit on the couch all day unless you’re not well), you will benefit from avoiding exercise for a full 24 hours at least once a week. Trust me, peeps! End rant!

GIVEAWAY: Win some Premier Protein

Because I want to thank you for stopping by the blog today to read about the importance of rest days, I’d like to offer one lucky winner in the U.S. the chance to win an assortment of Premier Protein ready-to-drink shakes and a few protein bars like this … you’ll get various flavors of both delivered right to your door!

The importance of rest days and Premier Protein post by A Lady Goes West

As you know, I’ve been working with Premier Protein on #TheDayIsYours campaign for the last few months, and it’s all about doing your best and feeling your best. Premier Protein offers some super-convenient protein-based products to help you recover after a workout or serve as a protein-filled snack, so you can keep up the great work on rest days and on active days.

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. 

To leave a comment, click on the blog post title, then scroll to the bottom of the post and put in your name and email (your email will not be shared publicly), and then leave your comment. That’s it. The more comments, the more chances to win. I will pick a winner on Friday of this week. 

If you need some ideas of what to leave in your comment, you can answer either of the questions below at the end of the post. Or you could just say “hi”! You can also leave a separate comment if you follow A Lady Goes West on Instagram and on Facebook. Good luck!

WHY and HOW you can make yourself take rest days with a #protein #giveaway by trainer @apstyle ... Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: This post about the importance of rest days and the giveaway is sponsored by Premier Protein. I received compensation and complimentary product, but all opinions are my own. 

Questions of the day

Do you take a day off of exercise each week? If so, which day?

What is your favorite way to unwind and relax?

94 Comments

  1. Hey, great article! I agree that rest days are extremely important. One could say that even more than actual workout days, because the muscles have to grow sometime!

  2. I love this! I saw a friend post today excited because she worked out everyday last week. It made me want to cringe! I was like rest momma!

    1. Hi Bethany — I know. I hate to hear people who think they need to work out every single day to go hard and be on a routine — but of course, that is a recipe for a burnout. We’ve got to spread the message hehehe! Hope you had a nice weekend!

  3. Rest days are so important! I like to take Sundays off from structured workouts and just take a long walk or move in a more gentle way. So far so good this summer-let’s see if I can keep it up!

    1. Hi Jackie! That’s great to hear. Long walks are also good because they flush out the stress in your legs from other workouts and a lot of sitting. Thanks for reading! Oh, and I like Sundays too!

  4. A nice walk is a good day off exercise in my book or chasing the kids in soccer in the backyard

  5. Ummmmm. Who exactly was this post for?!!!

    I’ve never looked at it this way, but it is definitely funny that I have NO problem eating ice cream and sugar and being “balanced” with eating, yet I struggle MASSIVELY in the rest day department.

      1. Hi again! Of course, different people think different things — but what I’ve always felt, and what is mostly accepted in the fitness world I run in, is that you do NOT eat less during rest days. Because rest days are when your muscles are rebuilding, so you need adequate carbs and protein to support that growth. You would eat the same basic amount of food as the rest of the week. Of course, you will naturally not need your post-workout protein shake or whatever, but eat regularly and make sure you get some carbs in. πŸ™‚ This changes if you are doing carb cycling, but even then, your lower carb days are usually on sprint/HIIT days, not rest days. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Courtney! Well I know this one speaks to you — but don’t fret — because you are not alone in having trouble taking a day off from exercise. It’s not always easy for us type-a routine-oriented gals … but if you work at it, it will get easier, especially if you start to see some of the benefits above. πŸ™‚ And umm YES to ice cream hehehe!

  6. Thanks for a reminder to take a day off. I struggle to allow myself a day off. I think it will be helpful to remind myself that recovery time is actually making me stronger.

    1. Hi Sarah! You are not alone — a lot of people have trouble staying away from exercise. But if you take it slowly and incorporate a rest or light walk day here and there, hopefully it will get easier for you. Thank you for reading! πŸ™‚

  7. I have to admit that my workouts aren’t so challenging to really *merit* a rest day, but regardless, I usually take a day (or two) during the week to concentrate solely on work and regular routine activities. Nice to have that time to catch up!

    1. Hi Heather! Even if you aren’t going super hard in the gym, if you’re working up a sweat or doing some intense yogic stretching or other — it’s still good to have a day away — so rock those rest days as you have been hehehe! πŸ™‚

  8. The timing of this is perfect because I woke up this morning not feeling great and decided to skip my run, and was just beating myself up over it. THANK YOU.

    1. Hi Becca! I know, lady! We can be so hard on ourselves. But honestly, if you weren’t feeling well, you would have added more stress to your body to go on that run. And now you’ve done your rest day. πŸ™‚ Hope that brings some comfort.

  9. This topic hit home for me, I really struggle with taking a rest day.

    I almost scrolled through your post today because I knew your post would provide me with information about rest that I SHOULD be following but do not currently follow. I am happy to see you promote Premier Protein. I really like the product, I drink the chocolate milk after a workout and sometimes use the vanilla in a shake.

    1. heheheh Susan! That’s funny that you almost didn’t want to read it, but I’m sure glad that you did — even if it was the giveaway that called you in. It’s totally okay that you struggle with taking a rest day — and maybe you aren’t even ready to do one a week, but perhaps you can start with one every other week and build up from there. I hope you can use these tips to give it a try. Just know you’re not alone in feeling how you do. πŸ™‚

    2. I needed this! I work out strength training followed by power yoga four times a week, and even those days I drop the strength training, I still do an hour of power yoga. And even in the evenings everyday, I practise some Half Moon and Boat before some relaxing yoga. And the last week, Ive had a painful ache in my left bicep, which didnt stop me working out, so I carried on, but its not improving either and I feel is slowly getting worse. I kept telling myself I ptobably just need rest, but it felt impossible lol. But here I am now, lying in bed at the time I normally get up to work out lol. Im also diciplined in diet, a strict healthy choice vegan, and yet last night, orderes myself a vegan pizza from dominos, amazing! I also work myself hard with reading and studies too and this last week, Ive just felt constantly knackered, mind, body, the lot. Time to try and let it all go for a while. GULP. Ill keep this bookmarked, thanks haha.

      1. Hi Leigh! Sometimes those of us who are the most disciplined work ourselves TOO hard. I’ve been there and done that. I think it sounds like your body needs some real rest days and maybe an additional day of much lighter workouts too — power yoga and strength training on the same day is a lot. I COMPLETELY understand how you feel, but know that when you start to feel more recovered by doing a little less, you will appreciate it! A slow outdoor walk is always a good choice too. I hope your bicep heals up soon. Thank you for reading!

        1. Thanks for your reply. Ive been working on it. I still dont take a FULL day off. BUT, Ive cut back a lot on the strength training and mostly just focus on power yoga now and walks. But Sunday is my sorta day off. Sundays I still do my morning woodwalk (gotta connect to nature daily!) And I just do relaxing yoga instead. So yay! Getting better.

          But intellectual stuff was also burning me out. Its self-study, so its something I can change, but I had bad anxiety over letting things go and not learning them, but my anxiety reached a high a few nights ago, and I had to take a valium for the first time in a year. So now, Ive dropped some books, dropped dropped a science channel, dropped a few other documentaries that felt important and have even made time to play Pokemon daily and get back into films! Its been months since I allowed myself to immerse myself in another world. God Ive needed it lol. So doing much better.

          Ive been doing the monthly yoga program with yoga with adriene on youtube and she sends you a motivating daily email, and the thing she always adresses is congratualting people for showing up and saying the hardest thing is showing up and getting started. I have to laugh. Im like ‘Girl, I just did another 20min video of yours before I even started this one!’ 🀣 Like you say, funny how this opposite extreme is often ignored over the less motivated. (I hope this doesnt post twice, I just didnt see the reply appear.)

          1. Hi Leigh! Even a little bit of progress is progress, so props to you for trying to take it a little easier in many ways. It’s totally worth it to give your body and mind some breathing room. Thank you for your update and keep in touch!! πŸ™‚ xoxo

  10. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I love how when I read God’s Word there are so many passages on being still before the Lord, on walking beside still waters, on resting in the Lord, and even sleeping because it’s so essential to get that bodily and spiritual refreshment.

    It’s so important to me to get at least one rest day per week, and Sunday is a great day because we do a lot of church things with church family. I have to say that I appreciate the visual you gave of our muscles repairing; God made our bodies in such a cool way, to repair while we rest. I can definitely tell the difference in my running when I take 2-3 days in between runs to refresh. My legs always feel so much fresher.

    1. Hi Emily! I think that may be why Sunday rest days are so popular, is because it’s also more of a family day — but of course — any day works to rest. Thank you SO much for reading. And I love to hear that you see the benefits of rest days in your own life. πŸ™‚

  11. Sunday is usually my rest day and I use the extra time to sleep in and get some meal prep done. I definitely miss the workout ‘high’ though on these days, but that’s a great idea to come up with a different activity to replace exercise. Happy Monday!

    1. Hi Patricia! For sure — love that post-workout feeling too — but I also love having the extra time to do whatever instead of exercising and then having to shower haahah. Sundays are my rest days usually too — great work on sleeping in on yours. πŸ™‚

  12. I always take at least one if not two rest days every week. This is almost always on Sundays and maybe Friday or Saturday. Rest days are the best days!

  13. OOoh! These Premier Protein bars sound and look really yummy! I checked out the protein content online and they are PACKED with it! Wow..30 grams?! I hope I win the Giveaway.

    Anyways, great post today. I agree that taking a rest day is so important. I’ll readily admit though that I have a really tough time doing it. Perhaps I’m a little addicted to hiking. But about 1.5 weeks ago, I suffered from sciatica (due to my pregnancy with the twins) and I’m still in pain. (My right glute and leg are on-fire much of the time. I think Baby Girl A is right on-top of that nerve, bless her heart!) So, I’ve been pretty much “forced” to take time off. It’s hard. My endorphins/mood isn’t as high, but I’m trying to remain positive. Getting extra rest is good for ALL of us…and I know that right now, at 24.5 weeks pregnant, is good for me and the babies too. I need to keep reminding myself of that. Anyways, again, great blog post, Ashley!

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for reading — and yes — you totally need some rest right now, so enjoy it. Pregnancy isn’t a reason to stop exercising, but once your body introduces pain, you know that it’s telling you that a hiatus from your workouts is needed. Your body is working in major overdrive, especially with twins. Put your feet up, lady! πŸ™‚ heheh!

  14. This was great timing as I’m home sick today with an annoying cough, but otherwise feeling okay and I was debating if I should go to class still today. It’s important to not underestimate rest days!

    1. Hi Ashley! Taking a rest day when you are not really feel well is definitely okay to do. It will give your bod a chance to recover. Feel better, lady! πŸ™‚

  15. I take either Thursday or Friday off each week. I don’t know how people run or work out every single day because some days I just can’t get going and know that mentally, I just need the day off. Plus it gives me a day to catch up on the other stuff I miss out on from workouts.

    I love those premier shakes, especially mixed in with cold-brew coffee over ice, it’s like a coffee shop drink but healthier.

    1. Hi Amy! What a cool idea to mix the shake with coffee over ice. I’ve also heard of someone using the shakes in French toast batter — so creative hehehe. And YES for rest! I’m on that love-the-rest-day train now too! πŸ™‚

  16. I don’t struggle with taking rest days! I love them! I typically take them whenever I feel like I’m going to have a busy day. So if I know I have a lot going on on a Wednesday, I just make that my rest day. But I usually have 2-3 rest days a week and I also take plenty of entire rest weeks. I’m on my first 21 day challenge right now where I’m working out every day for 21 days and I’ve never done that before. A lot of it is lower intensity than I’m used to or not using any weights (although, this is in addition to going to the gym a few days a week). But this is NOT normal for me and I will probably take a 3-4 day rest when I finish this up, AT LEAST. But this is why I don’t exercise on vacation! Taking a up to 2 weeks off for me is totally fine. I live a healthy, active life, so I don’t NEED to go to the gym ALL the time. If I’m walking around all day long on vacation anyway, that’s enough for me. I feel like I come back WAY stronger from my week-long rests than I do from just 1 or 2 days off.

    1. Hi Liz! I agree with all of this! I sometimes take a full week away from workouts on vacation — just stick to walking or nothing, it really just depends. And as far as your 21-day challenge, you are smart to bookend it with longer rest sessions — it’s okay to do those challenges, because they are finite and you don’t do them all the time. Good luck to you! Thank you for saying hi and sharing!

  17. I am the worst at true rest days. I do make myself go for a slow walk about once a week, but I always need the reminder! I have fibromyalgia and not moving/getting my heart rate up usually makes for a rough day. Figuring out that balance is a work in progress.

    1. Hi Ellen! I feel ya! And I don’t quite know the prescription for fibromyalgia, but I’m sure that a day or two of nothing but leisure walks is good for you too. Totally okay to be a work in progress. We all are! πŸ™‚

  18. i love premier protein, i love relaxing on the weekends with a good book by the pool since it is summer!

  19. You are so right! Being strategic and planful about my rest days has really helped a ton, as you suggest. Now it’s part of my overall workout plan to take two rest days a week, rather than just sometimes waking up and not feeling it – and then feeling bad about it.

  20. Hi – I love your life stories and fitness tips! Thank you for this giveaway as I’m also always looking to get more protein in my diet.

  21. I love posts like this! My body needs rest days or I get sick or just feel blah! I want to look forward to my workouts instead of dreading them! πŸ™‚

  22. I would have to say the best way for me to unwind/take a rest day is to watch some good tv shows. I have had the opportunity to find some new shows as well as finish up some older ones that have finally made their way to Netflix!

    1. Hi Ashley! TV can definitely help your mind to wander and let the body rest. What are some of your favorite older series on Netflix? Mine is “Friday Night Lights” for sure! πŸ™‚

  23. I always take at least 2 days off each week (mostly because I can’t make it to the gym due to overtime at work). But I like to take my pup to the dog park and go on long walks since he has energy to burn and it gives me a chance to enjoy fresh air- it’s a win, win!

  24. Sometimes its so hard to take a rest day without feeling guilty, but they’re crucial to bettering your performance and repairing your muscles! I LOVE a Monday rest day. I’m all for it. I might do some light yoga in the evenings, but I typically take a Monday to rest. Saturdays are another go-to since I usually wake up and want to get out of the house to do things! I aim for 1-2 a week and don’t feel guilty in the slightest, because I know its what’s best for my body. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Kaitlyn! I’m with ya! Definitely love the rest days — for the extra free time and benefits for the body. I’m happy to hear you have a good rest routine. Keep it up! ?

    1. Hi Starla! Thanks so much for reading and saying hi. And YES to rest days — they are so important and definitely have a lot of benefits. Glad you agree!

  25. That’s such a great article ! I really feel the difference and the boost I get on my workout the day after a rest day, my performance is alwys much better and longer. πŸ™‚

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