It’s okay to take breaks –
…when it’s for the right reasons of course. I know consistency is the battle-cry of the fitness world but sometimes we need to step back under certain circumstances if we want to continue for the long term.
If you are SICK or INJURED.
REST! Don’t aggravate your immune system by breaking down more muscle tissue while your body is trying to fight off illness or injury. Not only are you spreading germs if you work out in a public place you are also making it harder to get over your illness which will prolong it. You aren’t performing your best when you are sick anyway so listen to your body. Look at the rest of the animal kingdom – it’s not rocket science. When sick or injured we rest, and recover to get back to full health again.
If you are MENTALLY or EMOTIONALLY burnt out…
…it may be a sign by your body you need more rest and recovery time. Prolonged overworking your body without enough recovery time in between bouts of training, or prolonged intense training without slower, more recovery-based periods, can put you in a state of burn out. Just as when sick or injured, your performance is degraded. You can’t continue to increase your training capacity to see results if you are already in a diminished state.
If you are SWITCHING TRAINING CYCLES or PROGRAMMING.
If you are about to switch up your routine you may require some extra rest time to allow your body to recover fully before starting a new regime. Example.. If your last training schedule had you doing Legs every Saturday and your new one has you doing legs every Sunday, it isn’t a good idea to go straight into your new routine if it means doing legs two days in a row. That example is very obvious, I know. Consider this one too: You’ve been training moderately each muscle group 2 times a week and you are about to switch to doing full body 3 days a week. You are still sore from the focused overload from the isolated training, so it may be a good idea to take an extra day or two before going into a totally different type of training session. You want to go into it fresh, not half-broken because it’s a new type of stimulus on your body.
If you are neglecting OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE.
“Gym Life” to an extent, and that extent should be reasonable extent. This is more of a “you’ll know it when you see it/experience it” type of thing. Fitness is important, but it shouldn’t be all-consuming. Any activity can be performed in an obsessive way, and when that interferes with your basic daily activities in a way that is hurting you, it could even be considered an addiction of sorts. I’m sure you’ve heard negative comments from people before discouraging your from “not being obsessed” or “being selfish” or “narcissistic” for training… and that is usually unwarranted, but that worry comes from somewhere: they may have experienced a situation in which someone close to them or someone else they knew or heard about neglecting their personal relationships, job responsibilities, etc when pursuing their fitness goals. That kind of situation isn’t healthy in the long term, and unlikely to be sustainable if your social circle collapses. Humans are social creatures (even the introverted ones), and it’s important we balance our lives in a way that we don’t neglect important aspects of our lives. If your training is making you late to work often, if it means you haven’t socialized in ages, if you are frequently avoiding family to go train, if you aren’t taking time to take care of household duties, your spiritual wellness, etc then you may need to reevaluate your schedule. You have to determine what matters to you and where your physical fitness fits into that picture and how it will ENHANCE your life rather than REPLACE it.
Analyze The Situation
We have to be careful to analyze the situation correctly whenever we “aren’t feeling it”. It may be nothing, it may just be laziness that day, it may be a temptation to be doing something more interesting to us that day, or it might have validity and be one of the situations above. Don’t feel guilty if you find you need more rest. Don’t feel pressured to keep pushing on when your body needs a break. Extend this decency to others as well: don’t be quick to criticize someone for taking a short break from their training because you likely don’t know all the details. DO encourage people, but talk to them if you are concerned, and find out how they are doing.
The real consistency isn’t “never skip training” or “no rest days”, the real consistency is the ability to start back up again when the break-time is over. To always get back on the horse. No one is invincible, and no one is perfect. We all need rest at some point, and we have to know the right time and way to step back. Make good use of your rest time too. Unless injury or illness prevents it, try to move around, get outside, stretch, etc. Don’t be sedentary if you don’t have to be. You’ll feel better, be healthier, recover faster, and when you do start back up again you won’t be as unaccustomed to physical activity.