5 Signs You Need a Day Off From the Gym

Stop buying into the idea that 'No Days Off' is the best way to live.

Today I woke up mentally and physically exhausted; in the past month, my life has been in speed mode.

A new baby boy….


Today I woke up mentally and physically exhausted; in the past month, my life has been in speed mode.

A new baby boy….

Has led to a lot of changes, including:

  • Non-stop vacuuming
  • 8,000,000 loads of laundry
  • Washing and scrubbing the kitchen floor so clean we could eat off it—then doing it again a few days later
  • Running to the grocery store multiple times a day, forgetting something, then having to go back AGAIN
  • Somehow trying to find time to make dinners edible enough to eat
  • Holding, comforting and trying darn near everything to keep Noah from crying and fussing at all hours of the day/night
  • Changing and cleaning the little man
  • Helping my wife recover and rest and being her biggest cheerleader through something I cannot even fathom doing as a man

Add in the lack of sleep and still managing to run a business and coach, and I'm a little tired (and sometimes more than a little). And that's OK. Many of us pride ourselves on being in the gym every single day. What this new life event has led me to more deeply consider are the signs when a rest day is sorely needed.

I woke up this morning feeling like a 90-year-old man. The night before, I was so exhausted I accidentally put soy sauce in my BCAA drink. I was barely able to roll out of bed and could hardly open my eyes as I fumbled my way through getting dressed. Then and there, I declared to myself, "I'm taking an off day."

This is something that's extremely rare for me. But even then, as my body was crying out for additional rest and recovery, my inner demons are telling me:

  • "Stop being lazy."
  • "You're going to get fat."
  • "Don't be a wuss."
  • "Man up, stop being so emotional."
  • "You can sleep when you're dead."

I hear all the voices telling me to keep surging through and to just go get a workout in. But ultimately, I had to ask myself, "Why?" What purpose would it truly serve?

I truly believe I am quite fit as an individual. And while those voices in my head telling me to toughen up or keep going have helped me do some great things, there comes a time you have to realize a day off here or there is NOT going to ruin your goals or physique. Sometimes, a day of Couch Side Planks is the best thing you can do for your mind, body and spirit.

I could persevere and feel even worse, but how would that affect my ability to be a great husband? My wife is the one with the most important jobs right now. I cannot imagine doing what she's doing right now, feeding and doing her thing as the mother of a newborn. She is battling true fatigue, emotional changes, and all sorts of powerful feelings and experiences.

But it's not just new dads who need an off day. While it is possible to train every day and function at a high level provided you structure your workouts correctly and recover intelligently, there comes a time where no matter how fit or how determined you are, the best course of action is a true day off from the gym. Here are five signs your body is crying out for a day of rest and recovery.

1. You're Not Sleeping Well

This may sound backwards, but when you are actually overtraining and in need of a break, you'll often have a hard time sleeping. This can relate to an elevated resting heart rate and weakened immune system. I found that back in my triathlon days, long, intense bouts of training often left me unable to sleep. If you find yourself spending a lot of time in bed without actually getting much sleep (whether you're having a tough time falling asleep initially and/or constantly waking up in the middle of the night), that's a sign you need to think about your training load and overall stress levels.

During sleep is when you produce hormones for muscle growth and repair. When you're not sleeping, your cortisol and adrenal fatigue can rise, compounding the issue. Growth hormone is a key for building muscle, and it's primarily increased during these stages of deep sleep. Going off that, even if you don't think you're doing enough to be "overtraining" but you're still getting little sleep (hello, newborn baby), a rest day may still be in order. Stress is stress, and rest is always the right answer!

2. You're Always Sore

DOMs (delayed-onset muscle soreness) is one thing, but feeling beat up, exhausted and unable to perform daily activities day after day, week after week is another. If you find yourself dragging during the day to the point it's affecting your ability to do your work or even help with chores, you may be overdoing it and need to take a day!

There is no reason to train through pain! Listen to your body! I had a hard time doing this over the years, but once I started listening, my workouts and recovery went through the roof! If you are feeling "weak" and "dreading" your workouts, this is a sign that you need to take a day off!

3. You're Extremely Thirsty

This is one many people don't know about. But if you're drinking tons of water yet constantly feel parched, that can be a sign of overtraining. Why? Overtraining can put your body in a catabolic state where you're actually burning muscle tissue for energy. This naturally causes dehydration and could even lead you to develop an electrolyte imbalance. Proper hydration is hugely important, but if you're noticing your craving for water suddenly seems insatiable, it's time to take a step back and examine what else is going on in your life.

4. You Feel Weak

Everyone has a day here and there where the weights just feel a little heavier than normal. But if you're constantly feeling weaker than you believe you should be, nine times out of 10, you're over-doing it or not fueling properly. All that stress can interfere with your ability to crush workouts!

Signs of this may even include feeling more "out of breath" than normal or your heart pumping harder than you'd expect in response to certain activities (maybe even just climbing the stairs).

Ask yourself during your upcoming workouts:

  • "Did I feel STRONG today?"
  • "How was my breathing?"
  • "Did I get tired faster than usual?"

If the lighter weights you used to be able to crush are suddenly feeling slow and exhausting, it can be a sure sign to slow things down or scale back the volume.

5. Your Motivation Has Vanished

When you are stressed or burned out....the gym feels more like a chore than a privilege. Plain and simple.

When I'm feeling good, I feel so thankful on my way to a workout. I'm thanking God for the ability to train and the ability to release endorphins to help me feel happier and release stress.

But if you're dreading the gym and hating the thought of walking through those doors, it's time to take a day or two off from the gym. You can still move your body via a leisurely walk or some light biking or roller blading, but you need to escape the weight room. Go for a hike and take in some fresh air. I find these days come up quite often, and when I do take these mini breaks, I feel night-and-day better about myself, my journey and my goals.

There are so many of us who "try to be strong" and push through days when we just need a break. You've got to realize a day off here and there is only going to optimize your body and your progress, not destroy it. If you're body is telling you to take a day off, TAKE IT. Don't ignore the warning signs. Stop buying into the idea that "No Days Off" is the best way to live. BE YOU.

If your off day includes something like hiking or walking, awesome. If it includes nothing but lying on the couch and watching sports, also awesome. Just allow yourself a day here and there to fully listen to your body.

And if the simple act of getting to a gym even when you are up for training can feel difficult, check out my Playbook channel where I share several workouts you can do in your own living.

And if you want to get kick-ass workouts that you can do with a set of dumbbells in your living room, head to my playbook channel here and be apart of the tribe of men and women who want to change their bodies without the need of a gym membership!

Photo Credit: skynesher/iStock