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Thoughts About Rest Days

I was recently asked how i think about rest days, indulging, and being too hard on yourself. After a ton of blabbering and blind wandering, here are some of the nuggets i found along the way.

Plan Your Rest

I plan everything. Probably to a fault. But everything about rest, relaxing, vacations, discipline, to me came back to planning. So if you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here is the simplest answer to the question:

I plan my rest. I plan my rest days from the gym, i plan family time, i rigidly plan my breakfast and my snacks everyday so that for lunch and dinner i can basically have freedom to basically eat what i want. I plan my work. I plan how much time i need to spend on my projects every week. And i plan “flexible time” to react to whatever else comes in during work hours or to meander through slack and other people’s problems as we all like to do for the dopamine. It’s not perfect, but if i am rigid enough with the important things, then in the rest of my time i can be free to rest or be as unstructured as i want.

After like a week of writing and rewriting i think that sums it up. But if you wanna hear some of my more detailed thoughts on rest, feel free to continue.


We know what to eat to lose weight. We just don’t wanna do it every meal, every day, forever. What we don’t know how to do is ride the balance between what is maintainable with some discomfort and what is too uncomfortable to maintain. The more structured we can be with even our unstructure (distructure? Un structure? Non structure?) the more freedom we have in our minds. Practically this means that cheat meals are acceptable if they are planned for in your overall week. Cheat meals that just sort happen whenever, will ruin you. Planned flexibility.

Another example: my workout routine is designed to have days off. And over time i have learned how many i need before my body and mind start to break down. Currently it is between 2-3 days a week off. I run a 5-day program week A followed by a 4-day program week B. This scheduled break means that i do not need to re-decide every morning if today gonna be a rest day or not. I’ve already planned my rest days. So when tomorrow comes and it sucks and its cold and im tired, i know that i just need to grind through, and i can look forward to my next scheduled rest day.

By scheduling in your rest ahead of time, when you are not tired, when you are not craving, when you have a clear vision of your goals, you are more likely to maximize your potential. If you are forced to make decisions about rest when you are tired, you are more likely to rest more often than needed. As you continually practice scheduling in this way, you will learn how often your body and mind need rest and how much it can push forward. I’m guessing you’ve got more in the tank than you think.

I am also pretty rigid the delineation between work time, me time, and family time. Family time with two young kids is often more tiring than everything else, but can occasionally be restful too. I also plan vacations too. I plan my planning too.... yeah.

Know Your Why

I hope this section sounds repetitive by now. Cause it is...

The deeper the connection we have to our goals, the more we can draw upon that “pull” in our times of faltering. If your goals are meaningful they will likely be difficult. Easy come, easy go. If your task is difficult, your brain will immediately look for reasons to stop. You must feed it the reasons to keep going. You will need a deep foundation of why you are putting yourself through this. If you don’t feel strongly about your WHY, you might wanna start there.

One of the major sticking points for me as i write this article is that i don’t really care for rest. And i cannot decide if that is just foundational in my personality or what. And i really don’t want to sound arrogant or hardcore, or any of that. The truth is, i have a vision for my life. I meet with my 10-year-in-the-future-self at least once a year, and that guy’s life is awesome. I mean i love my life today too, but that guy’s life is even cooler. And i wanna be that guy. So rest to me feels like not chasing that dream. And it’s not that appealing.

When Your Habits Become You

I LOVE Jocko and Goggins videos,

it’s literally the first thing i do when i wake up everyday. Alarm off, earbuds in, youtube motivation playlist, Jocko telling me to GET AFTER IT.

But it’s interesting as i continue to digest the Habits of Identity concept from Atomic Habits by James Clear (affiliate link here), the more i think that those guys don’t even use “discipline” anymore to push themselves through hard things. I think that their identity tells them, “this is who you are”, “you push through hard shit”, “you execute no matter what”. It might be splitting hairs, but i think that their mindset has been so tuned, that they almost enjoy when it’s hard. Because it is a chance for them to reprove who they are. I am not trying to say that getting up everyday or running 1 billion miles, or whatever, is easy for David Goggins. I know it’s hard and challenging for him. I know he thinks it sucks. But i am just saying i think he has shaped his identity and beliefs about himself that doing sucky things is something that he does everyday. And when you have that identity, taking a day off doesn’t really resonate with you. It sorta feels like, “that’s not who i am”. I think what you say (and then start to believe) about yourself makes a huge difference as to how hard you push yourself.

I dunno. i warned you there was gonna be blabbering.

When Do I Need Extra Rest

After building in all of these things into my schedule, there are still two reasons why i will i decide to rest instead of wake up early.

1) If i feel like i might be catching a cold.

2) If some part of my body feels a specific pain (and i am scheduled to work out that part of the body).

Obviously if i hurt myself then i take a huge step back on the journey. So i take special attention to like my lower back before squat or dead days. Or if my shoulder feels tweaked and im supposed to overhead press. The cost benefit of pushing through these workouts just doesn’t make sense to me. But instead of just sleeping in, i may just swap my workout for a different one, or use the time for paperwork/computer work (which is what i do on my scheduled rest days).

Getting sick like catching a cold is always a tough one for me cause i never really know if i am getting sick or if i am just tired. But if that scratchy throat or stuffy nose lasts a few days, then i usually take a day to get extra sleep. I am sure there are people out there who would say, “whatever, get sick, keep working”. Which i can sorta get on board with. Sorta, its probably debatable which is always more efficient. But specifically for my life, if i catch a cold, it makes everything harder for my family. It means i need to try to stay away from everyone and not help as much. it might mean that i am the third kid that my wife needs to take care of. And it likely means that i’ll get everyone else sick too. So its all around bad, not just for me, but for everyone in the house. If i can feel it coming early and take an extra day or two of sleeping in, i think the benefit vastly outweighs the cost.

Again you will find the motivation for rest here, aligns with my long term goals. Resting today will save more time on the journey than not resting today.

I think about this Jocko video that i watch often, and i have discussed signals vs noise before. But essentially the thought is that we should listen to our bodies, we might be burning out, we might actually need rest. But just push through one more day and then see how you feel tomorrow. Get it done today, don’t make the decision when you feel like this. Wait one more day and then if you are still feeling tired, hungry, worn out, then take a day off, rest, eat, and sleep. But learn to push back against your desire for comfort. The more you do, the more attuned you will become to what is signal, and what are lies.

Discipline Equals Freedom

Another Jocko-ism. Discipline in your life will create space for you to do whatever you want. Show up, do the hard work first, check facebook after. Being disciplined about only taking breaks when the plan specifies, gives me freedom to truly rest and enjoy those days off. Because i know i am on the path to where i wanna go, and there is nothing more productive for me to be doing right now, than nothing.

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