Recover hard: the other side of non-zero days

Recovery: just as important as killing fish with your bear hands.

Recovery: just as important as killing fish with your bear hands.

So after my post on Non-Zero Days, a couple of people asked a very sensible question:

What about rest days?


There are a couple of answers to this.

Firstly: You can have a non-zero day without necessarily disrupting your recovery. Doing a single press-up isn’t going to make you overtrained – once you get to a certain stage, neither is doing 100 press-ups. If you’re still at the stage where keeping a habit alive is more of a concern than burning out your adrenal glands, just do something. Anything. Keep the streak.

Secondly, and more importantly:  Stop thinking about rest days. Instead, think of recovery days. A well-planned recovery day is still a non-zero day. Remember: a non-zero day is one where you do something that gets you closer to your goals, not one where you can post about something cool you did on Twitter. Recovery is just as important as training, but few people attack it with anywhere near the same intensity. What promotes good recovery? A few things that work for me:

  • Band pull-aparts. These counteract all those press-ups you’ve done, as well as the way you slump at your desk – and they’ll give you a more impressive set of lats. Most Sundays I do at least 100 of these while watching TV, because I want a back like Hanma Yuujiro’s. Your motivations may be different from mine, but it’s worth considering.
  • Foam rolling. Everyone’s obsessed with this at the moment, but honestly I don’t think you need to do it every single day – once or twice a week, while you watch TV, is fine. You can get a foam roller cheap, but in the long-term a firmer one might actually save you money – I use a combination of The Grid and a lacrosse ball I bought for £2.50. Do the collection of exercises in Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11, and then chill.
  • Shopping. Very few people think of shopping as badass: that’s because they’re doing it wrong. Set aside half an hour a week to buy a gigantic pile of meat and vegetables and butter. Farmer’s walk them home, and you’re excused from press-ups that day.
  • Cooking. Learning a new recipe or batch-cooking three days’ food makes any day a non-zero day. Please refer to this post for more advice.

Now: how does this relate to non-training goals? I have one suggestion: do something fun. Hopefully whatever your goals are – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, writing, music, Photoshop, coding – you’re doing them because you find them enjoyable on some level. My advice? Don’t break the streak, but allow yourself a fun day once a week. No dry technical exercises or repetitive drills (unless you like them). Just something fun. In order, this might be: practising flying armbars, writing something stupid and short, playing that one Green Day song that only has three chords, Photoshopping Batman into historical pictures, and…I actually haven’t got a suggestion for coding, so please leave one in the comments if you’ve got something that might work.

Forget rest. Think recovery. Think fun. And keep the streak alive.

HOMEWORK: Sit down and work out a recovery/fun strategy that works for you. Re-read Rest Hard, which is a companion-piece to this post. And do some god-damned band pullaparts.


About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.