You just completed a tough workout, and you’re so motivated that you want to do the next one right away? It may be tempting, but you won’t be doing your body or your progress any favors. You need to rest and recover from the hard work. That’s what workout rest days are for.
So what should you do on rest days? We’ll tell you which mistakes you should avoid and how to get the most out of your recovery days.
Mistake # 1: You don’t schedule workout rest days
Workout rest days should be a regular part of your training plan. This is when your body has the chance to recover and process the progress you’ve made. When you work out, your muscles are pushed to the limit, which stimulates growth. The muscles have to adapt to the increased effort, and your performance level improves.
…but muscle stimulation is just the beginning
Hypertrophy (an increase in the size of muscle cells in reaction to stimuli) only happens on rest days. That’s why it’s so important to schedule time for recovery between your workouts.
Mistake # 2: You don’t listen to your body
The more experience you have with exercise, the more aware you become of what your body needs. Fatigue, lethargy, and muscle weakness are signs that you have overdone it and you’re already in the overtraining zone. This can be caused by working out too much without taking a break to give your body time for muscle recovery. At this point, your body can’t process the muscle stimulation anymore, and your performance drops. Your motivation to continue working out also starts to dissipate. Your body is crying out for a well-deserved break. If you want to keep making progress, you really need to tune in. This is true for both endurance and strength training.
Recovery phases are just as important as your workout!
Mistake #3: You squeeze in a workout just because
Sometimes it’s hard to resist squeezing in a training session instead of taking a workout rest day or time for muscle recovery, but remember, you’re just putting the brakes on your progress. Your body needs a chance to recover to get stronger. Not taking the time to rest will only slow muscle growth, and over time, you’ll start wondering why you’re not seeing results. Another risk of spontaneous workouts is that you don’t do the exercises carefully enough or you overload certain muscle groups, which increases your risk of injury. That’s why it’s smart to follow a training plan with a goal.
Mistake #4: You don’t eat enough on rest days
Obviously, you burn fewer calories on your recovery days than on the days you work out. But don’t start eating less because you’re afraid of putting on weight. You have to fuel your body with energy and nutrients on rest days so that your muscles have what they need to grow. Keep in mind: a balanced diet can boost your athletic performance.
Mistake #5: You’re a couch potato
Doing nothing at all for a day can definitely be relaxing and something you need from time to time. However, try using your rest day for active recovery by focussing on low-intensity activities like brisk walks, yoga, cycling, or swimming.
Since people usually don’t stretch enough, we recommend that you take more time to develop flexibility on recovery days. You’ll relax your deep muscles in the process. Yoga, massage, relaxation baths, and a foam roller are great ways to loosen up tight muscles.
Seven years ago Christian never could have imagined that he would soon run a marathon or be seen by those around him as a motivated athlete. The road to becoming a fit, healthier version of himself was not always easy – but Christian succeeded and tells us here how he reinvented himself.
“I feel much better in my body now.”
I was a chubby kid, and over the years, I just kept putting on weight. In 2015 I got on the scale and had hit 180 kg. My son was four years old at the time. He was actually the one who inspired me. I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me. Plus, I wanted to be a good role model.
“I was out of breath after climbing just three stairs.”
When I decided to lose weight, I started with walks that gradually got longer and faster. That’s how I eventually started running. I liked this kind of exercise and thepositive effect on my healthso much that I focused more and more on jogging and regularly set my goals higher:
“Getting in shape is not a goal – it’s an attitude.”
When I decided to lose weight, I started with walks that gradually got longer and faster. That’s how I eventually started running. I liked this kind of exercise so much and the positive effect on my health that I focused more and more on jogging and regularly set my goals higher:
One year later I was celebrating my first half marathon.
With an ambitious training plan I made another dream come true in September 2019: I ran the BMW Berlin-Marathon.
“Nothing changes until you change yourself. Then suddenly everything changes.”
A lot depends on your environment when you decide to lose weight. I was lucky that my lifestyle change was welcomed with enthusiasm. Some people may have secretly thought that I couldn’t really change. But I am proving to these people that change is possible and worth the effort. Exercise is not a necessary evil anymore – I love to work out and it is contagious. Many of my friends and colleagues started running too and come to me for advice.
“Anyone can achieve great things if they believe in themselves and don’t give up!”
Running changed my life. Today – after losing 80 kg around my middle – I work out every day and alternate between strength and endurance training. Instructions and tips from blog posts combined with workouts and training plans in theadidas Training app andadidas Running app helped me stick with it and stay motivated.
Seeing and feeling the progress in my daily life is an incredible feeling that I wouldn’t want to give up. In this process, I also learned that you can’t only listen to your ambition. You also have to pay attention to your body. All of my motivation and enthusiasm led me to an overuse injury, which forced me to skip a planned marathon in 2018. It was a small setback that taught me to always listen to my body and never give up.
I lost the first 75 kg between the spring of 2015 and the summer of 2016. After that, I plateaued until the spring of 2020. That was followed by a phase of weight gain to 125 kilograms until just before Christmas of 2020. I had fallen victim to the famous yo-yo effect, triggered by a stress-related burnout. I had gained another 20 kilos. I was able to climb out of this hole by spring 2021, shedding not just the 20 kgs from 2020 but an additional 5 kilos. I had lost a total of 80 kilos, bringing me down to my magic number: 100 kilograms.
Now I weigh 100 kg and feel much healthier and more confident. I would never have managed it if I hadn’t been persistent and disciplined.
If you are at the beginning of changing your life like I did, start slowly, and don’t get discouraged!“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” The first step is always the hardest, but it’s also the most important. Only those who dare to take this first step will reach the finish line.
If you’re going to journal when stressed, keep your diary open on your work desk.
If you’re going to drink water before any emotional eating, keep your full glass near you.
If you’re going to take a short walk, keep your kicks near the door.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking overly complicated or burdensome activities.
#2) Place your Stress Response Menu somewhere visible.
Once you make your list, print it out and place it in your kitchen or pantry (or wherever you typically stress eat).
You could also write out a couple of your favorite activities and attach them to your refrigerator.
If it’s right in front of you, it’ll be harder to ignore (however, it’s okay to ignore it from time to time, as we aren’t striving for perfection).
Just please don’t write it and then stick the list in the junk drawer that opens to another dimension.
You never can find anything in that drawer.
#3)Track your usage of the Stress Response Menu.
This will help us in two ways:
First, by tracking your usage, you’ll start to feel better about using the SRM. You’ll see an accumulation of all the times you successfully deployed a stress response, helping you visualize the momentum you’re building.
Second, the data will help you understand your patterns of emotional eating. Maybe five deep breaths steered you away from ice cream but the large glass of water did not. You can then use this information to update and revise your response plan.
For the first point, Coach Justin has his clients keep a “Jar of Awesome.”
Every time they have a small win in the day, like taking five deep breaths instead of chugging soda, they place a marble or small token in a jar. After a while, the jar will have a decent amount of marbles or “small wins” in it.
This will then stand as a visual reminder of all the progress being made, proof of their ongoing wins.
How Common Is Stress Eating? (Lesson #3: Learning Self-Compassion)
The American Psychological Association has found that about a third of Americans respond to stress with food.
This research was done BEFORE the global pandemic.
If you find yourself binging in response to stress, know that you are not alone here.
Heck, both clients and NF Coaches turn to food and alcohol for comfort every now and again.
Personally, somewhat recently I mindlessly devoured an entire tub of Animal Crackers after a stressful week. It was only when the bag was gone did I understand what just happened.
So yep, many of us (even fitness “experts”) are prone to stress eating.
Now, don’t take this as a free pass to stress eat.
If the behavior goes against your goals, it’s something we want to work towards improving.
But there’s a reason they call it “comfort food.” Food can often be used to make us happier.
At the end of the day, we’re all emotional bags of meat on this floating hunk of space rock, and we’re doing the best we can.
Give yourself a bit of a break, my friend.
You’re here, you’re reading, and you’re trying. That’s great!
This will bring me to my last point with our handy guide:
Is It Okay to Stress Eat? (Next Steps)
There are times when food is the perfect response to stress.
It’s something Coach Justin mentions in his video.
“Stress eating” might be appropriate if:
After a long workday, a glass of wine with cheese helps you unwind.
To celebrate the coming of the weekend, you have an ice cream party on Friday night.
The week already seems long, and it just started, “Taco Tuesday” might help you survive until Friday.
The important thing here?
“We are making a choice.”
We are choosing to deal with stress or anxiety with food. By making it an intentional activity, we can remove the guilt around emotional eating.
Food can be fine as a reward, as long as it’s us controlling the behavior, and not the food itself.
In addition, if we can recognize the action (or plan for it), we can then adjust our calories before and after and not go off the rails.
If it seems like you aren’t quite there yet, start with your Emotional Eating Notes and your Stress Response Menu.
Even just the process of taking notes on specific episodes of stress eating may be enough to slow down the behavior.
Remember, no matter what happens:
You are not a bad person if you stress eat.
You are not a bad person if you forget to take notes.
You are not a bad person if you ignore your Stress Response Menu.
You are not a bad person (unless you’re a Death Eater, but come on, you know what side you’re on).
If you need any help along the way, we are here for you.
We have three specific paths to continue with Nerd Fitness:
#1) Our Online Coaching program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.
As I said before, “stress eating” is the number one issue faced by our coaching clients, so we know exactly how to help recognize and address the habit.
You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you:
#2) If you want an exact blueprint for leveling up your nutrition, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).
If you follow our Mindset missions, you’ll learn to de-stress while earning XP! Sah-weeeet.
Try your free trial right here:
#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!
Get your Nerd Fitness Starter Kit
The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
Full guide to the most effective diet and why it works.
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Alright, I want to hear from you:
Have you been stress eating more over the last year?
Do you have any tips or tricks to interrupt the pattern?
Some people find it easier to eat three times. Others are able to better adjust the amount of food they eat if it is spread out in smaller meals so they never get hungry. That’s why the right number of meals for you is whatever is the easiest to meet your nutritional needs throughout the day. Simple as that.
The fact is:
If you want to lose fat or gain weight the most important thing is to adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
Remember, eating smaller meals won’t speed up your weight loss if the calories stay the same. And here’s why…
Your meal timing and metabolism questions answered
Will eating small meals often speed up your weight loss?
It is a fact that meal digestion increases your metabolic rate. But, it depends on the amount of calories and not how often you eat. Eating 900 calories in three small meals or just one big meal doesn’t make a difference.(1) As long as calories stay the same, eating more often won’t make a significant difference for weight loss, according to research.
Does skipping meals cause “starvation mode” that stops you from losing weight?
When you eat less, your metabolism has less to digest. So, restricting your calories will slow down your metabolic rate, whether you skip meals or not. But – a slower metabolic rate is most likely not the reason why your weight loss stalled. . Actually, your weight loss will naturally slow down once you have less to lose. It doesn’t mean you are in “starvation mode” and have to eat more often.
This common myth causes people to eat more and sabotage their diets. (Exceptions include conditions like anorexia and rare diseases such as marasmus.)
“Starving yourself” with a severe caloric restriction is not advised for health reasons beyond weight management, such as malnutrition that could lead to other serious health issues.
Should you eat right after your workout if you want to gain muscle?
If your goal is to build muscle, there are a couple of scientifically proven tips to increase muscle protein synthesis.(3) Consuming high-quality protein up to 2 hours after your workout can help muscle recovery and gain. For optimal gains, you should consider eating 20-40g of protein (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) approximately every 4 hours. If you are not exercising, the timing is not crucial and you should care most about the total protein intake per day to build more muscle.
Still, you might be left wondering – are there any reasons why you should eat more or less often?
Should you eat more or less often?
Consider eating less often if…
The “smaller meals approach” is complicated for you
You want to think less about food but still stick to your planned calories
You can’t lose weight even by restricting calories
You have digestive problems – a longer break between meals gives your body a chance to digest food completely
There is no magical number of meals a day that will work for everyone. Trust your hunger – if you like to eat smaller meals more frequently, then go for it. If not, feel free to eat less often.
You don’t have to force yourself to eat on a schedule, but it would be good to create a habit of eating the same number of meals each day. Why?According to research, meal irregularity can have negative effects on your health. Whether it’s 2 meals, 3 meals, 6 meals a day – try to choose a number of meals that you can stick to most days of the week.
Don’t forget the number one rule: the best number of meals for you depends on what your body needs to meet your goals.
Running is one of the easier sports to get into. All you need is a good pair of shoes, some fitness clothes, and music – if you’re into working out with a soundtrack. But to make it a habit you’ll be sure to keep, you need to follow a running program that challenges you without overwhelming you.
This beginner running plan is designed to help you start slowly, preparing your body to get into the sport while preventing injuries. Download the PDF below to get started on your journey toward becoming a runner.
Before You Start: Learn How the Beginner Running Plan Is Structured
This running for beginners training plan takes a holistic approach to health and fitness based on four pillars:
The running plan is separated into two phases:
Phase 1 helps you get used to your new routine
Phase 2 helps you amp up the effort
Each phase lasts three weeksand includes the following:
Strength training sessions
Adequate time for recovery
Every workout you do will start with a warm-up to prep your body for exercise and end with a recovery session.
How to Prepare for Your Run
When you’re just starting to run, it’s essential to ease your body into the experience. It’s learning to work in a whole new way, after all. Starting with a quick warm-up will help get your muscles ready to work. Follow the video to prepare for your run:
Cool Down to Keep the Benefits of Your Run
We can’t stress it enough – don’t skip your cool down! After a run, your muscles are warm and pliable. Stretching after a run is one of the most important steps to preventing injury. It will also help make you less sore the next day. Follow the foam roll exercise video below to cool down:
Start to Run: Download The Beginner Running Plan
Download this running program to become a runner in no time!