Building muscle and getting stronger isn’t just about pumping iron: planned recovery and downtime are just as important.
It’s important to understand that there is no distinction between lifting heavy in the gym and picking up a pillow. Both require conscious awareness of positioning and how best to organize your body. No matter what you are doing throughout the day, you should always be thinking about improving your position and movement mechanics, as well as spending at least 10 to 15 minutes performing basic body maintenance. Likewise, you don’t want to take a day off from good nutrition or miss a night of sleep. Of course, there will be times when you can’t eat perfectly, exercise, or get eight hours of sleep. But you should cultivate a habit of always being in a good position, regardless of what you’re doing.
The fact is, if you want to play and train at a high level, you cannot slack off for even one day. You have to think about your position constantly, whether you are at work, playing a sport, lifting, or lounging around. This is the basis of the No Days Off rule.
Here’s a simple example to help illustrate my point. A DEA [US Drug Enforcement Agency] agent buddy of mine told me about a friend who used to walk past his boot every time he got out of the car. It didn’t matter whether he was on or off duty, or whether he had parked at a supermarket, at home, or at a restaurant — he would walk all the way around the car and past his trunk every single time. He did it because he kept his rifle in his boot and wanted to ingrain the pattern of approaching his boot into his motor programme. That way, if he ever found himself in a dodgy firefight, he wouldn’t hesitate or think — he would automatically find himself by his boot, ready to grab his rifle.
Remember, your body is an adaptation machine. If you spend a few minutes a day working on improving your position, you will improve your position. But if you take a few days off, you will get stiff, and your movement and position will reflect that adaptation. Even if you’re taking a day off from the gym, you should never take a day off from mobilizing. In fact, a lot of muscle soreness and tissue stiffness aggregate the day after training, and those are the days when you really need to work on restoring normalcy to those tissues. For this reason, it’s best to break up mobility into short doses. Doing so gives you plenty of time to effect change within the context of movement, and, more important, it is manageable over the long haul.