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Time off

January 11, 2010

I’m taking today and tomorrow OFF. No gym. Sandwiched between 2 regular “off days”–Sunday and Wednesday–that makes a 4-day rest period. No weight training. No cardio, either. TOTAL rest for this body.

It may be tough for you to consider taking a “break” if you’ve just started getting into a regular routine with working out. But there will come a time when it’ll be smart to take some time off the gym.

Especially if you’re over age 50. Your body just doesn’t have the recovery ability it did 20 (or even 10) years ago.

Because I’m in the middle of changing my gym routine–working different body parts on different days, and in different combinations–I’m only going for a 4-day break this time. In the past, however, feeling really burnt out, I’ve taken a full week off.

So figure out what you need. Base the length of your break on what YOU are doing, and the tenor and demands of your life in general. If you have considerable stress in your life, you may need more time off. If a child is home from college (as mine is right now), you may want some extra time to spend with her.

Plan your “day back.” That way, your “break” won’t turn into an extended vacation. I like to take a break right before starting a new workout program. That’s usually every 4-6 weeks or so. And since I take breaks that often, I can generally keep them short.

If you fear a break will turn into months off, inches gained and STRENGTH and progress lost… Try incorporating a few days of 45- to 60-minute “stress relief cardio” during your break. During week-long breaks, I hit the treadmill at the gym and just walk at a reasonable pace. No intervals! And, I don’t slam myself if things come up and I don’t make it. After all, these “relaxed cardio days” are “extras.”

The benefits of this kind of “low-intensity cardio only” break:

  • It keeps you on a regular exercise schedule.
  • It keeps you moving. (I feel like I’m “working out some kinks” when I’m walking.)
  • If you hit the park (or the streets) instead of the gym, it gives you a change of scenery. You’re more apt to “solve problems” or “get creative” about other areas and goals in your life.   

Psst! Don’t fret about those government recommendations to “exercise” every day. These are general recommendations. Health experts who call for daily exercise don’t differentiate between those who do a 30-minute brisk walk and those (like me) who do heavy weight-training, plus intense interval cardio. YOU CAN’T COMPARE.

Obviously, a person performing a very intense exercise routine will need much more recovery time–and more frequent recovery time–than an individual taking a brisk daily walk.

This, by the way, is me goofing off on my boyfriend’s deck in Highland Mills, NY. Brrr! Cold but fun when we don’t have to schlep to the gym!

So have some fun. If you can, sleep late. Take naps. Make an extra pot of tea for yourself. Get some things done in other areas of your life. Clean out a closet or play a game with your kids/grandkids or visit a relative.

It ALL adds up to improved health for you–whether mental, emotional or physical. And that’s the name of the game, right?

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