The Importance of an Off Day

While having the motivation to get up off your couch and get to the gym is important, almost equally as important is knowing when your body needs a day off. No, I’m not talking about skipping a lift because you forgot your ponytail holder, or because you can’t tear yourself away from that episode of Real Housewives (Yes, I know, it IS hard to stop watching Taylor having a breakdown!), I’m talking about real, physical road blocks that may make lifting more hurtful than helpful.

Take yesterday morning, for example. I have been battling some type of mild virus for the past couple of days. Nothing that has really knocked me on my ass, but just enough to give me a sore throat and make my entire body feel fatigued. Add on to that the fact that I have not been sleeping well the past few nights, and you can imagine how motivated I felt at 6:30 am.

Clue #1 Why I shouldn’t have lifted: Riding the T to the gym/work, I felt a little feverish and dizzy. Although at the time I figured maybe that was just the fumes from the guy sitting to my left, and the T driver who apparently was just learning how to use the breaks.

Clue #2 Why I shouldn’t have lifted: While changing for my workout, I still felt a little feverish, dizzy, and just overall crappy. Did I listen to my body? NO, of course not. I hopped on the bike for a 20 minute warm-up ride, and at that point felt even worse, as well as dehydrated and weak. Yep, there it is: Clue #3. But I still didn’t listen to my body, because Damn it, I was going to lift. The day before had been an off day, I certainly couldn’t take 2 (gasp!) days off in a row.

So even while my body was screaming at me to go hang out, drink some water, and relax, into the weight room I went. Want to know what I did?

  • Squats. At 50 lb less than usual, because I just did not have the energy to put up any more.
  • Lightish RDLs – those were ok, because they’re my favorite.
  • 2 sad, sad sets of SL Split Squats
  • Superset x3 of Kettlebell Split Squats and Glute/Ham raises
  • Some extremely pathetic core work.

All of this was done at about this pace:


The lift itself is not pathetic, because it’s honestly all I could muster at the time. But what IS  pathetic is that I just didn’t listen to my body. At. All. The whole time, my back was aching, my hips were aching, and I kept telling myself “I really shouldn’t be doing this today”, but just kept pushing nonetheless.  Eventually I did come to my senses and spent the last 15 minutes just foam rolling the crap out of my hips and IT bands.

Ahh, relief.

Now, the smart thing would have been to actually take these 2 days off in a row, get a little more sleep, and help my body to kick this nagging virus. Instead, I may have set myself back a couple more days before I’ll actually feel good enough to get a good lift in. Normallly, I’m pretty good at listening to myself and realizing when a rest day is essential, but yesterday, not so much, and now I’m paying for it. Now I’m nursing extra sore hips and even more general fatigue.

So, moral of the story is,take a lesson from me, and listen to your body! Sometimes a day off is the best thing for your body and your health.

9 thoughts on “The Importance of an Off Day

  1. rest days are definitely your friend… i’m totally guilty of pushing too hard too often instead of listening to my body sometimes. i’ve gotten better but this is a great post. & i love the sloth hahah i literally laughed. 🙂

  2. You have impeccable timing. Two whole days off always sounds incredibly absurd! I have to force myself to take off one, and now you’re really pushing it. BUT, it is so much smarter. I need your voice in the back of my head sometimes!

    1. It’s REALLY hard for me to take 2 off in a row, but sometimes it is so necessary. If your muscles don’t get enough time and the right environment to repair, how can you expect them to get any stronger? And I don’t know if you want me in the back of your head… I might sing songs or something 🙂

  3. Aaaaamen!! My otherwise highly intelligent husband is super guilty of this. He also continued a back workout after tearing his bicep. I think that says it all right there 😉

    1. I would say it’s a man thing but clearly we all do it 🙂

  4. I struggle with listening to my body too! I suffer from migraines (used to be 1-2 a week, but now down to once every 1-2 months!) and it’s difficult knowing when I’ll be okay to lift. The day a migraine comes on, heck no, but the following day when my head still feels a bit tender it can go either way: sometimes it actually gets rid of the headache, while other times it can make me feel much worse. The last time I tried to work out with a migraine I trained legs, and came *this close* to vomiting all over the place in the middle of deadlifts. It was then that I listened to my body and walked away!

    1. Oh boy. I’ve never had a migraine so I haven’t been through this, but judging by the amount of pain that my coworker is in when she gets them, I can’t imagine lifting in that state! Also, thanks for stopping by the blog!

  5. Off days are really key to remaining healthy and able to train. I used to do 3 day splits when powerlifting to make sure my body got the proper rest. Although I agree to listen to your body when you are sick , It also does the body good to sweat it out if possible. Good read. New to Word Press and just made a blog. Feel free to stop

    1. I agree with you it definitely is good to “sweat it out” sometimes! But that’s when I have to listen to my body… it was days like that one when I ended up making myself feel worse.

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