Day in, day out, training hard, doing that cardio! 3 days on/ 1 off, 4 days on/ 2 off, etc... Whatever your routine may be, consistency is the key to any exercise program. Training hard, cardiovascular exercise, and diet are major factors of the equation to get the body and health benefits you want. One major factor that is often forgotten is RECOVERY! Recovery is vital for the body to continue making progress, whether it is muscle gain, fat loss, or both. Not only do we have to recover physically from one work out to the next, but also mentally. Even though we take days off from the gym a couple times a week, after weeks and weeks of pounding our bodies, we may require more than one or two days. That is why the training technique, or should I say "non" training technique, of taking a week off can be what your body needs to break your plateaus and spark your body into better gains and faster progress.
In my experiences over the years I have been training, taking a total week off from the gym has been a major contribution to my longevity and constant progress in bodybuilding and health in general. After 8-10 weeks of continued training, you should give yourself a whole week off to fully recuperate. Physically, this will help the body heal any minor strains, sprains, tears, and joint pain you may have or are on the road to having. It is not always that easy for a compulsive fitness warrior, such as many of you readers' out there, to allow yourselves' to take the time off. Some people may fear they will "de-condition" if they take a week off. Trust me you will not. It takes around 3-4 weeks of total inactivity for your muscles to start atrophying, or breaking down muscle tissue. In fact, I guarantee that you will come back stronger and more refreshed than ever.
During your total week off, still keep your clean eating habits. Stick to your usual diet, maybe throwing in an extra cheat meal here or there to really give that metabolism a change also. One reason many of us do not like to take a week off is the fear of gaining weight and adding fat. If you still remain to eat clean, you will not gain any fat. If the scale goes up 1-3 pounds, most of that is from fluid retention and the extra glycogen that your muscles are holding. This is not a bad thing, and many people find that they even gain lean body mass during this week. IF you do not know, each pound of lean body mass (muscle) you gain, your metabolism increases, thus burning more fat. Sounds like a good deal to me!
OK, now that we understand the physical benefits of taking a week off, there also is the recovery of the nervous system. Again, after a good 8-10 weeks of hard training, and hours on the cardio, your nervous system also takes a beating. Many times over training is do to a lack of recuperation of the nervous system. You may find yourself tired, weak, irritable, getting sick easily, and even losing your motivation to exercise. These are all signs of a much-needed break to avoid burnout. I find that I start to feel "stale" and not as focused than usual. Once again, I put my guarantee, that with a solid week off you will be climbing the walls to get back in to the gym with more motivation and gusto than ever before. This will lead to better more focused workouts, leading to greater results.
So, Give yourself a break! After 8-10 weeks of hard training, take a whole week off and enjoy other activities life has to offer. Spend that time you would be in the gym catching up on chores, enjoying the out doors, or go shopping, whatever makes you happy. You will be doing your mind and your body a great service by doing so. This puts the "smart" into what I always say," Train Hard and Train Smart!" When it is time to get back in the gym you will feel refreshed, energized, motivated, and stronger than ever to take on the next 8-10 weeks of the great progress in store for you.