So I have been on a bit of an abstract, more mindset driven kick with my writing lately (when I have actually been writing that is). But today I wanted to tackle one of the biggest questions we get and, truthfully, one of the biggest complaints we as professionals have regarding clients. What exactly should you be doing on the days you are not training with us?
The specifics of the answer will vary from coach to coach as each probably has very specific (or intentionally non-specific) things they like to recommend for their clients, but the underlying fundamentals of each coach’s advice should be the same. Those fundamentals are what I want to cover.
Most of these fundamentals are not exclusive to “off” days or days you are by yourself. To be honest most of them are just good guides to general health and wellness. But lord knows someone needs to hear them in THIS context so they don’t operate under the assumption that non-training days are a good day to just fuck off and not do anything. News flash, they aren’t.
With that being said, here are The 5 Best Ways Not to Screw It Up When You Aren’t in The Gym.
- Do SOMETHING Physical
This is an easy, yet often overlooked, portion of the client/coach relationship. There are 168 hours in a given week and only 2-4 of those hours are spent with a coach. I’m sorry, but if you are a person who would like to see some semblance of physical change, you are going to have to do a bit more than that.
Now this doesn’t have to turn into you becoming the ultimate workout warrior and running 5 miles a day or doing 500 pushups, 500 situps, and 500 crunches. This can be as simple as adding a 10 minute walk several times a week. It could be adding an additional yoga class one day. It could be taking a hike, chasing your kid, literally ANYTHING! My only caveat would be to consult your coach or trainer about any additional highly rigorous resistance/metabolic workouts you want to add to maximize the benefits of them as well as minimize the risk of injury. Other than that, let her rip!
- Stay Hydrated
This should be an obvious priority, not only on off days from the gym, but in general. And I’m not going to go into the issues surrounding a lack of hydration as they can basically be summed up in, you’ll feel and perform like shit!
Now most people have heard of the 8 – 8 ounce glasses of water a day rule, and this is a fine place to start if you are just getting used to proper hydration. But for the hard charging athlete this won’t do. Individual needs will vary based on the types of off day activities you are participating in, but generally men should be getting somewhere around 130 ounces of water a day, while women need 95 ounces. These numbers are not exact and need to be tweaked depending on certain factors, but they are good general guidelines.
- Do Some Light Mobility Work
Now this one could really fall under the first point of getting some more activity, but I felt like it needed some love on its own. Because if we are being honest, exercise is easy. Or at least the FUN part of fitness. Mobility is boring. It’s slow and uncomfortable and it doesn’t really give you abs. So why the hell would I waste time on it? Because big sexy muscles are cool, big sexy muscles that can move joints through their full range of motion are way cooler.
Having more mobility within your joints not only allows you to reduce your risk of injury during vigorous activity, it also allows you to get more out of your exercise! Muscles that have the opportunity to go through a greater range of motion have even more opportunity to get stronger at a longer muscle length. And since a lack of flexibility is often caused by muscle weakness at a particular muscle length, increasing a muscles strength at more ranges of motion can lead to improved flexibility! More mobility = greater range of motion = stronger muscles at longer lengths = more freaking mobility! Isn’t the body cool?
Now how do you go about practicing this mobility? Static stretching is a good place to start. Finding a routine like this one to do daily can give you some great benefits. But the best way is to truly focus on taking your joints through their full range of motion. Circle your wrists, ankles, and hips. Swing your arms in light circles. These are the joints you need to focus on. You can feel generally the directions they like to move in. Now focus on this and do it often. Becca has a great video focusing on your hip capsule and restoring it to its full range of mobility. Foam rolling and using tennis/lacrosse balls to pinpoint muscles for a little massage can also be beneficial.
There are a million ways to skin the mobility cat, you just have to find what works for you!
- Don’t Eat Like A Dick Head
Once again, this is not just an off day rule, but an every day one. Don’t eat like an asshole. Eat lots of high quality animals, veggies, dairy (as you can handle), and fats (avocado, olive/coconut oil). Limit fruits and nuts. And avoid most wheat and processed sugars (and dairy if you can’t do it, like yuh boy).
Now don’t get your panties in a wad saying Jake is being too mean and restrictive. These are guidelines for people that fall in that big fat middle of the bell curve. There will always be outliers and people who need more or less of certain foods. These also aren’t things that must be followed to a T all the time or else you’ll die. But this what you should have MOST of the time.
Your body is a machine. Give it quality fuel and you will perform for a lifetime. Give it shit and you’ll be stuck in the scrapyard.
- Go to Shleeeeeeep
Ok, now I want you to go back and read everything I’ve said up until now. You do it? Good. Now literally throw everything I said out. This is what you need to do if you aren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep is the king of human performance, the true difference maker in ensuring you are the best human you can be. It’s so dang important, that yours truly wrote an entire article on why it’s so important and how to do it better!
Whether it’s finding a little time in the day to sneak away for a nap, or ensuring you start your bedtime routine a little early to ensure you get at least 8 hours, making sure that your sleep is taken care of should be priority number one when you are thinking of ways to help yourself outside of the gym.
Now ultimately your days off at the gym are yours. Life is about a lot more than ultimate human optimization and the best off day routine or protocol is the one that prepares you mentally, physically, and emotionally for whatever you have coming up in life. If you need to sloth once in a while, do it. If you need a little junk food, go for it. These 5 rules are a guiding light, not an iron cage, and thus are meant to be broken from time to time. Except sleep. Because sleep is awesome.