I never used to believe in days off.
Days off meaning….a day at the gym? Vacation days at the office? Days off from—?
Yes. The answer to all of the above is YES.
For all the major pillars of my life—career, health, side hustle, you name it—I went hard, seven days a week. I mean, why not? Why would I take a day off when I didn’t have to? My leg was not broken. I wasn’t dying of a terminal illness. I had the time available to me. So WHY in the name of everything good, would I take a day off and risk falling—oh God—behind?
If there was something I wanted—a goal, raise, promotion, harder ab lines—I knew one strategy on how to go after it. And that strategy was MORE. More sit-ups, more mileage, more hours, more blog posts. More, more, more.
And it wasn’t until very recently—the last three months in fact—that I realized I could get to whatever finish line I aimed for by doing less.
“Do you remember when two-a-days were punishment?”
I stopped stocking the towels I was folding and looked up, “Chris, I used to be like that. I used to be the girl who ran eight miles then walked into a Crossfit class. I get it.”
“But what even drives that??” he asked.
Ugh, what a loaded question. Different stages of my life led to different explanations. Sometimes, I truly wanted to get stronger, faster, leaner. Other times, I hated my job and needed a release. Then there were those periods when I worked out for two hours a day, every day, just because I could.
Chris and his wife Alex are the co-owners of my gym, the only two people I’ve referred to as coach since college, and the co-creators of my latest addiction, Cut Seven. It’s the hardest workout I’ve done in my life. I throw up—roughly—once every three weeks.
Crap. Alex told me I have to stop talking about vomiting because I’m scaring all the newbies. Ah well.
Crushing two-a-days back-to-back-to-back is not an uncommon thing. I have running friends who wake up, run eight miles, go to work, and do it all over again come 5 o’clock. I know dozens of people who workout two, three times a day. Before getting injured and blowing a goodbye kiss to running, I was one of them.
Ironically enough, the two people who designed the very workout I’ve come to love, helped snap me out of it.
In the past two-ish years of my life, I put on twenty pounds.
For a thousand reasons why. I’m sure—SURE—the majority was stress-related. The remaining thirty percent was split between takeout, a running hiatus, and not being twenty-two years old anymore.
As someone who never fluctuated more than two pounds in a decade, I was pissed. Frustrated does not even begin to describe it. As someone who is a masochist in the gym, I was physically angry to walk around in a body I could no longer identify.
So, what was my solution? More.
More, More, More. I waitlisted myself for Cut Seven every day of the week. I threw pool workouts on top of it. My body responded in the exact opposite way I asked it to—by swelling to this bubbly bloat of pain and inflammation.
I refused to listen to common sense. I continued to load-up on workouts. I ignored the obvious fact that something was clearly not working—until one sentence forced me to wake up:
“I only work out three-to four times a week.”
Are you kidding me?
Two weeks later I heard:
“We never let someone go to back-to-back classes. It’s pointless.”
Take a wild guess at the people who dropped those comments.
Without knowing it, throughout the month of February, Chris and Alex shattered my MORE philosophy.
This couple—whose bodies resemble those of Greek gods—work out four times a week. They never hit more than five. They cap their sweat time to strict 45-minute sessions (the actual go-time of Cut Seven), whereas my workouts could easily exceed two hours.
I could write pages on what ran through my head those four weeks. I mean, HOW was it HUMANLY POSSIBLE that these two had abs I would KILL FOR yet worked out a FRACTION of the time??
Translation: WHAT in the actual FUCK.
After two years of trying everything, staring at the scale wondering what I was doing wrong, I waved the white flag and said FINE.
Screw it. If More, More, More showed zero results, I would do the ONE THING I never tried:
I gave myself a goddamn break.
The last week of February, I took my first day off Cut Seven in twenty-one days. I cancelled one class. Then I cancelled another.
I hit the pool. The water did wonders for the chronic tendonitis that had been my living nightmare for the past two years. I cut all my workouts at thirty-minutes max, most ending twenty-five minutes in.
I lost eight pounds in one month.
After two years of More, More, More, I realized what I needed more than anything was to do less.
It was like a switch had flipped. I looked at my life. I watched how I carried myself. Where else was my More, More, More mindset hurting, rather than benefiting me?
At my previous job, I took one, lone PTO day my entire duration there. I spent my vacation day in the African American History museum, sitting on a bench talking to my boss on not one, but TWO CONFERENCE CALLS. Now that I work from home, I can’t remember the last time I took a real day off.
So I closed my laptop. I scheduled days off at work. I settled into a 4X per week regimen at Cut Seven. I didn’t think the world was ending if I missed a workout.
I felt refreshed. I felt creative. I felt leaner. I felt good.
I went from working harder, to working smarter. I went from working out at eighty percent, one hundred percent of the time; to working out at 110 percent, seventy percent of the time.
As I worked to break down More, More, More; I realized the people I look up to—envy even—are the ones who do less.
The most productive people I know—like my friend Steph—are the first ones to leave the office. The people whose bodies you’d think MUST be Photoshopped—like Tara, Chris, and Alex—limit themselves to four workouts a week because they’ve refined their programming to a pure science. Even my college coach, a silver medalist in the Olympics, once told me, “Kara, as soon as championships ended I didn’t even think about running for two months.”
We live in a society where we glorify eighty-hour work weeks, long hours at the office, and hours spent at the gym. In reality, the most efficient people out there are the ones who glorify their days off as much as their days on.
I never wanted this post to be about weight loss. Weight loss was just a side effect of giving my life what it desperately needed. Less and Rest replaced More, More, More—and I got better results.
Your rest day is more important than your hardest workout. Your Saturday is more valuable than your most important meeting of the week.
It’s your rest days, not your go-days, that allow your muscles to rebuild, your brain to recover, your sanity to come back, and your creativity to grow.
If you think you could NEVER give up your two-a-days or your endless-hour work weeks, just look at the most successful, most ripped, and most at-peace people around you.
These people accomplish more by doing less.