I've been maintaining extremely high levels of activity for the past 2 weeks, (biking an hour each way to work and back plus strength training) taking it a little easier on weekends, plus being extremely strict about what I eat. That can backfire. Last Friday I ate a double cheeseburger for lunch (in my defense I consciously decided to indulge and ordered a single and they gave me a double by mistake. I still ate it all) and yesterday I did precisely nothing. I couldn't even be bothered with a 10 minute walk home from the grocery store and caught a bus instead. I'd had a busy weekend helping a friend move and a really crappy sleep Sunday night. Today I'm back to moderate eating, biked to work today and will be biking home. Having a rest day or the occasional indulgence, especially when your body DEMANDS it, is fine. I really had to eat that cheeseburger and I'm not sorry I did! But don't let one rest day turn into a week of inactivity. Don't let one burger turn into a week of binging. Because forcing yourself to be strict all the time will eventually cause an internal rebelion where part of yourself says screw it! and you fall off the wagon hard and undo all your good work. Go easy and be patient.
If it is your joints that are hurting, and not just muscle soreness, then taking a rest day might be a good idea. Especially if it is disrupting your sleep (which you also need to be healthy).
Light cardio (eg. walking) can actually help the recovery process, as it encourages blood flow.
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If I feel I really need it (pain, too tired, etc.) I just reschedule my workout and workout on my planned rest day.
It's really subjective though, only you know whether you truly need one or not. If you're not the type who is in the habit of making excuses to not work out, then I'd say you probably do need one. I'm the type who pulls out all the stops to *do* my workout so I know if I'm heavily considering a recovery day, it's probably because I do need one.
The other option is to do some low-mod. intensity cardio or yoga.
I'm not scheduled for a rest day today. I feel so tired though. My joints hurt so much last night I had a terrible nights sleep. These all sound like excuses to me though. Should I push through or let my body rest? How do you determine whether or not your body needs a break?
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