This is day 7 of the first edition of the book 2 Weeks to Health, a 2-week course designed to kick start a healthier life. The expanded and reworked second edition is set to be released in the summer of 2018.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” – Anne Lamott
The last 5 days I had you doing some form of exercise every day. Today, I want you to take a rest day. After you exercise your muscles need time to rebuild, so taking days off during the week is necessary to achieve better health and fitness. Rest days, however, do not mean you get to sit around, be lazy, and eat cheese puffs. It is important to keep your momentum and mental toughness every day. There are five things you should do on your rest days. The first one is obvious, you should rest. This does not mean you can’t go play a sport, go for a short walk, or go to the park with your family, it just means take it easy. The second thing I want you to do is let your body recover. Rest will ultimately lead to recovery, but the main reason you are resting is so your muscles have time to rebuild. If you aren’t giving your muscles a chance to recover through resting, then you are doing yourself a disservice. So if your friends really want you to play golf on your rest day but your legs are sore, it may actually be in your best interests to rent a cart instead of walking the course so your legs are nice and fresh for the next day’s workout.
The third thing I want you to do on your rest day is hydrate. Drinking plenty of water is important to stay healthy and to allow your muscles to rebuild. Fourthly, you need to stretch. Light yoga is a perfect exercise for one of your rest days. If you are not into yoga, spend at least 20 minutes stretching at home to keep your body in tip top shape. Stretching reduces soreness and ultimately prevents injury, and nothing is worse than getting set back from an injury. Finally, I want you to reflect on your goals and motivations. You just went through several days of working out and you are probably worn out, so it is good to remind yourself why you did it. This is a good time for another motivational video.
I also want to discuss cheat meals. We haven’t gone over how to improve your diet yet, that will start tomorrow, but when you get into a healthy eating routine it is okay to cheat sometimes. Cheat meals are a good way to go out to eat with friends without worrying what you are eating. Aim for no more than 2 cheat meals per week, for example if you go out to lunch with a colleague from work on Tuesday and order a burger and fries, and you eat out with your family Friday evening and order your favorite comfort food dish, then you should not choose to eat poorly on Saturday and Sunday.
Just like you should aim for no more than 2 cheat meals per week, aim for no more than 2 rest days per week. If you are at risk of injuring yourself, then take an extra day or two off and get back into it. But, if you are just sore, push through it and focus on a different muscle group for a day.