Folks often get confused when trying to "decide" how many days they should actively rest - rest, as in, not go about their regular workout routine on the day.
And truth be told, this isn't an easy question to answer in one syllable (yes/no). There are a lot of factors involved, and the real answers would probably be "it depends" and. . . "it depends".
Yeah, that sounds kinda cryptic, but that's how it is - and I'll attempt to explain a bit.
First off, I'd like to make one thing clear - that one can only achieved the desired results and get to one's goals if one is fully committed to the plan required - be that exercise, or be it another plan to achieve whatever it is you want to. And being committed means STICKING to the plan as far as possible - not procrastinating to "do it another day".
Not saying "Oh, I didn't sleep well last night - bring on the potato chips, beer and DVD's - and let the workout wait".
Not saying you need rest when you don't - and so it goes.
But, having got that out of the way, how does a serious trainee know when it's time to take a break?
Well, there are several "rules of thumb" here which I detail in Fast and Furious Fitness(http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book), and I'll get into some of these in this email as well.
First off, I don't recommend going below a minimum of three days of exercise a week, no matter what the reason be. Hit it hard one day, take a day off, then hit it again the next (perhaps a slightly less intense workout), then rest, and so forth - that sort of routine seems to work well for a lot of folks, regardless of age or level of training achieved.
Second, you must remember that while exercise is an important part of your life, you also have other responsibilities and activities that are just as important and take up as just as much time. So while an athlete with not much else on his/her plate other than exercise might be able to give it his/her all day in and day out, you likely will burn and crash if you try to do the same. I'll expound more on this beneath via a personal example, but remember that you must (honestly) look at your overall stress levels, degree of fatigue, intensity of workout routines and other similar factors when making this decision.
Third, listen to your body. If your truly exhausted even after a rest day, it might mean you need another day of rest - and so be it. If your sick (and I mean truly sick, not a minor cough or something like that), rest and recuperate. Only YOU know what your body is really trying to tell you - and if you really need to listen - so do so judiciously.
Fourth, remember that while exercise is king, diet is queen, and sleep is the trusted court aide that never fails to deliver. 'nuff said on that one.
There's more where this comes from, but you'll have to read the book to get the complete "low down" on this.
So, what do I personally do in terms of rest days? How many days do I work out per week?
Well, the answer is - "it depends, and it's been evolving as things change around here".
Let's rewind a few years back to China (2006 to be exact), when I was single, 25 years of age, worked a full time job that was more of a 12 hour per day job than 8 hours in real terms and didn't follow a diet worth speaking of (more due to necessity than choice, though). What did I do then?
Long time readers know the answer - work out DAILY, WITHOUT fail - and that means climbing a long, steep hill daily without fail. I still get misty eyed when I think of that hill (it's provided me with some of my best memories ever), but to put it briefly - it was over an hour's hike in hot and humid weather, 40 minutes of that on the steep hill. Wasn't any joke, and got me into the very best shape of my life. I followed this up with my bodyweight routine, which I also never missed.
Fast forward to today - and I usually take one, or even two rest days between my exercise days. Don't have the hill here any longer or I'd probably climb that daily even now, but the other exercises I do aren't exactly easy on the body either. But overall, I'm probably doing less volume now than I was then, and I'm resting far more - and whats more, I'm IMPROVING at what I do. For instance, I hit a personal best of 7 (in one set) hammer grip pull-ups, and this after two days of rest.
Some more "background". . .
Back then I didn't really have any responsibilities other than going to work, and exercising - and I slept like the proverbial log once I hit the hay. I was 25,single, enjoying life, the ladies, and, ah, I think you get the gist. So even a 24 hour period of traveling, partying and no sleep didn't deter me from hitting that hill come 9AM next morning (yes, thats actually happened!).
Right now, I'm married, and have an adorable little baby girl that takes up most of my time. Sleep is a premium for both Mrs Rahul and me (her more so than me) and we have a lot more to do than simply exercise. Doctor vists, "time with the family", and of course figuring out ways to beat the economic slowdown (something that wasn't prevalent back in 2006). More than enough to deal with, and exercise sometimes just has to take a back seat - not due to choice - but because handling 10 sets of 5 pull ups, for instance, along with other stuff isn't that easy on two hours of sleep and a bawling baby to boot. Trust me on that one.
But, and here's the kicker - I still make it a point to exercise whenever I can (and that doesn't mean once every month).
I still make time for it even though I'm sometimes dead tired and don't feel like even moving.
And I still make it a point to improve at every workout - and so should you, my friend.
So, thats the long answer to a relatively short question. And as for what works best for you - well, I'll let you figure out by yourself, my friend - because YOU are in the best position to do so.
All for now!
P.S.:- Along with the right amount of rest, diet is of paramount importance, and if your serious about your training routine, then you need to grab a copy of the Simple and Effective Diet ASAP. This diet, combined with my exercise routines will quickly strip the extra fat off you while building durable muscle, superior health and lasting endurance. Grab your copy NOW: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/84-the-simple-and-effective-diet