I am a self-proclaimed gym rat. I workout every single day; I follow the philosophy that the body is designed to move, so, therefore, I am faithful to movement of some sort daily. I typically lift weights 3-4 days per week, do cardio and mobility work 2-3 days per week, and yoga twice each week.
Over time, my body was feeling beat up. I was sore for longer than the usual (1-2 days post-lift) and noticeably sluggish. I had also noticed that I had a couple of injuries – an AC joint injury and sore knee, that seemed to feel more inflamed than ever. I began to read the research and implement more functional movements and mobility work into my everyday regimen, and read up on rest and recovery recommendations backed by research and practice.
The research recommends taking one week off from weight training every 8-10 weeks if you are an avid, consistent lifter (5-6 training days per week). I suspected boredom and losses in strength, but I can vouch that to my surprise, taking a week off from the weights is worth it! I still moved daily, but I didn’t touch a weight or perform any weighted movements for an entire week. Here is what happened after I took a week off from weight training.
1. My weight didn’t change.
I maintained the weight I was at prior to my one week “cleanse” from weight training. I didn’t lose weight, nor did I gain weight. If anything, I appeared leaner and appeared to be carrying less water weight than my typical composition.
2. I felt rejuvenated.
The feelings of lasting soreness, aches, pains, and tiredness had diminished drastically and nearly disappeared altogether. I woke up feeling great and went to bed feeling great, and not once did I feel the need to cheat on my cleanse, rather I felt excited to see how much better I’d feel long-term in implementing one week off every few weeks.
3. My strength didn't take a hit.
After my return to weight training, I was fearful that my numbers would go down and that my rate of perceived exertion would go up. I found the opposite – I had no losses in strength, and actually was able to add a few extra repetitions to most exercises, utilizing the same weights I had used previously.
4. I focused on my nutrition and hydration.
Since I wasn’t lifting heavy or nearly as often as I am accustomed to, I focused on my nutrition and hydration. This helped me mentally and made feel like I was staying on track, even though my routine was slightly different than the usual. I tried to limit my intake of simple carbohydrates and ingest 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which is about 66 grams of protein per day for me.
5. I still had good workouts.
In addition to performing 20-40 minutes of cardio each day, I took the time to work on the areas where I need the most improvement: flexibility, mobility, and core strength. I still broke a sweat each day and based on how much better my body felt, I will absolutely incorporate more flexibility and mobility work into my routine more regularly moving forward. This is an area of training that many of us skimp on, or skip altogether, but it truly is so important. It will aid in injury prevention and aid in strength gains in the long run.
6. I couldn’t wait to lift weights again.
After taking some time off from weight training, and sticking strictly to cardio, bodyweight core movements, and a slew of stretching and yoga, I could not wait to get back to the weights. I was itching to train and push my body to its limits, curious as to how my performance would improve after giving my body a break and honestly, the rest that it needed.