In comes a common question from a reader: “Hey Jeff, what should I be doing on days when I’m not training? Do I continue to eat the same foods? What about cardio on these days?”
A splendid question indeed. And, an important one as well.
The way you handle your non-training days are just as important, if not more important, than your training days.
The reason for this?
These are the days where your body gets some much needed rest and recovery. It’s a day off from the pushing and pulling you do in the gym.
Rest days also allow your CNS, or central nervous system, some time to recover. Letting your CNS recover is a very important, yet rarely talked about, part of your training.
If you fail to allow your CNS ample time to recover, you will find yourself more and more demotivated. You’ll have a sort of mental fatigue and your lifts will suffer.
What you do on your non-training days depends on how you feel on that particular day. Listen to your body and decide what it is you would like to do.
Let’s go over several different things you can do on your days out of the gym. Lets go!
Know Your Health Goals
First things first: you must clearly know what your fitness goals are. Your goal is unique to you. Therefore, what you do on your rest day depends on your current situation.
If you’re trying to lose weight and burn body fat, then you’ll most likely want to find something to do that will burn some calories on your off day.
On your training days, you are already burning a few hundred calories. So, you’ll want to keep this up on your off days unless you choose to consume less calories. But, I highly advise against lowering calories on rest days.
Your rest days are for you to recover. Eat at least the same amount of calories that you would eat on your training days. If you don’t, you won’t give your body enough nutrients to recover properly. You’ll feel like crap when you head back into the gym tomorrow.
So, keep your calories consistent each and every day. You may also choose to eat more calories if you wish. These are called refeed days which I won’t discuss in this article. It’s an advanced topic.
Perhaps you are already lean and your goal is to maintain your current physique. In this case, continue to consume the same amount of calories week after week. You only adjust calories when you notice your weight fluctuating.
It is also a good idea to use rest days as your HIIT days while maintaining. This will guarantee that you aren’t putting on any unnecessary body fat during the week.
It’s also a good idea to do intervals if you have had a few cheat days recently. It’s important to enjoy your life. Don’t feel bad if you went out with friends three times this week. Make up for it later with interval training!
At the end of the day, you want to enjoy your journey of building a the best version of you. Feel free to have fun on your non-training days and enjoy yourself.
Flexibility and Mobility Day
One of my favorite activities to do on a rest day is to take care of my muscles. After an intense week of training, I’m not that flexible.
Therefore, it’s important that I dedicate at least 30 minutes to mobility work. I’ll perform lots of different stretches and make sure my muscles are loose.
If you’re new to weight training, you’ll be feeling the soreness for sure. It’s crucial that you spend some time loosening up your muscles on your rest days. This will speed up the recovery process so you can get back to feeling 100%.
A foam roller is a great investment for cases of tight muscles, especially the legs. Hitting the legs can cause soreness for several days until your body gets used to it. Rolling out your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves will greatly speed up the recovery process.
Once you’re finished with the rolling, do a few sets of jumping jacks. This will help warm your muscles up and get the blood flowing.
Anything that gets your blood pumping is good as the blood will transfer nutrients to your sore muscles. This speeds up the recovery process.
Another issue is if you’re a desk jockey. You’re going to naturally have tight legs. Therefore, it’s important you perform several different leg stretches to help you stay flexible and relaxed.
Get Involved In Fun Activities
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to be involved in fun activities. The possibilities are endless so I’m going to use a boxing class as an example.
I think boxing is really dope. It’s also one of the best workouts you can do for your body. And, it makes you feel really well.
Therefore, I would actually schedule your training program around your boxing days. Specifically set up your schedule so that your boxing class is on your off days.
You want to make the Lean Warrior lifestyle a great time for you. So, the activities that you enjoy should be a top priority. Let your “boring” days be the days when you’re in the gym.
These activities give you something to look forward every single week. And, the possibilities are really endless. It doesn’t have to be a fitness class.
You could sign up for a kickball league. Or, maybe softball is more up your alley. Go ahead and sign up for that and commit to the team. You’ll make friends and have a great time on your off days.
Plus, you’ll be burning calories on these days as well. They will only help increase the process of losing weight and burning fat.
So start brainstorming. Like I said, the possibilities are endless here. Find an activity and schedule your entire workout routine around it.
Cardio and Interval Training
For those of you who are more serious about getting yourself into the lean state, interval training on your off days will speed up the process.
However, I only recommend this option if you’re not trying to build muscle. If you’re already a lean warrior, then don’t do this on your off days. You’ll only make it harder to add size.
Some people will claim that you don’t need cardio to burn fat and get lean. While they’re correct from a scientific stand point, I can asure you that intervals speed up the fat loss process.
Not only do they give you a good calorie burn, but they also boost your metabolism which helps your body process foods and nutrients much better than before. This is good news if you’re overweight and struggling to lose fat. You can consume even more calories and actually help the body speed up the weight loss process.
There are various different types of interval training you can do on your off day. Everything from the treadmill to the bike to bodyweight exercises at home.
Feel free to try whatever training you enjoy. Do a search on yourtube for a 10 minute home HIIT workout and you’ll definitely find something dope that you can do right now.
Now again, if you’re trying to maintain the body that you currently have, you don’t need a lot of cardio or HIIT work. One session for 10 minutes max per week is all you really need. Anything else might cut too much into your calories.
At the end of the day, it’s all about calories in vs calories out. Some people will claim that all calories are created equal, but I disagree.
Processed foods and sugars can really fuck with your gut oer time. Cutting certain foods out of your diet will actually speed up the weight loss process, even if you’re increasing the calories with healthier foods.
I’ve seen this time and time again. People cut out processed sugars, breads, tortillas, rices and other starches. They increase their intake of healthier, whole foods. They’re eating more calories per day, but losing fat at a quicker pace than before.
This is why I’m skeptical of anyone who says that all calories are created equal. It’s simply not the case for everyone due to many issues that can go wrong in our stomachs.
Another good way to burn fat while in maintenance mode is slow cardio work on the treadmill. Or, go for a walk outside for 30 minutes. Or, get involed in an outdoor activity with friends as I suggested earlier.
I personally enjoy incline treadmill walking while watching videos on my phone. I’ll do this for 30 minutes or so until I feel warm and a bit fatigued. Nothing crazy though.
At the end of the day, it really depends on your goal. Some people need cardio work while others don’t. If you need to kickstart your metabolism, then do add some HIIT work on your off days. 10-15 minutes is all you need.
A Healthy Body Is Made In The Kitchen
At the end of the day, your best body is going to come from the food that you’re sticking in your mouth. It’s not going to come from all the lifting and activities you do.
All the training and conditioning won’t mean shit if your diet is wack. This is the problem with 95% of the people you see in the gym. It’s why they have the same bodies year after year. They never figure this part out.
The more you study the science behind nutrition, the faster the results you’ll get. Weight loss becomes almost effortless when you know how to count calories.
As the same time, building size becomes easy as well. However, it’s best to get lean before you move into a mass building diet. Going from lean to muscular is a much more pleasant journey than bulking while already overweight.
So, if you’re really busy throughout the week, I recommend that you use your off days to prepare a bunch of meals to eat throughout the week.
Figure out exactly what you need to be eating every day and prepare as much as possible. This will make the weight loss process almost effortless for you.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Leave them below.