Rest Days Create Themselves

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Guy Plays Table Tennis Every Day for a Year is the title of the 1 Second Everyday YouTube video I made of Sam that went viral last month.

I realised yesterday that the title isn’t completely accurate.

There were plenty of days during 2014 when Sam didn’t play table tennis. I began to wonder exactly how many there were.

My guess was 52 (roughly one day off per week). I sent Sam a text and asked him; he guessed 35. Then I began pouring through all the old Expert in a Year diary posts and notes I had. About an hour later I had a number…


I was shocked. That’s over three months. Don’t believe me? Here’s the breakdown…

  • January 2014 – 4 days off
  • February 2014 – 13 days off
  • March 2014 – 6 days off
  • April 2014 – 8 days off
  • May 2014 – 10 days off
  • June 2014 – 10 days off
  • July 2014 – 7 days off
  • August 2014 – 5 days off
  • September 2014 – 13 days off
  • October 2014 – 6 days off
  • November 2014 – 5 days off
  • December 2014 – 8 days off

It’s fairly even. Each month Sam had roughly 8 days completely off from table tennis.

Rest is important, I’m not arguing with that, but that’s plenty of rest days in my book. At most, only 10 of those days were planned rest days (days that we had decided in advance should be take off for recovery).

The reasons for all the other days include; holidays, injuries, the dentist, church commitments, stag dos, meetings, public holidays, illness, travelling, weddings and volunteer police shifts, to name a few.

The point is; for the average person, rest days create themselves.

If we had also planned in a weekly rest day for Sam (like taking every Wednesday off, for example) he would have got close to 150 days off during the year. The year where the aim was for him to play table tennis every single day!

Most of the articles online about rest days preach the importance of planning them regularly into your training schedule. I believe that is because they are writing with an elite and highly motivated audience in mind. The kind of athletes that would train 365 days in row, if somebody didn’t stop them.

For most of us that isn’t the case.

I’m not saying Sam wasn’t motivated and dedicated during the year. He was. Our first session was on New Years Day. In March he left the opening of his coffee shop to go home and play table tennis. He trained all through the summer holidays. Christmas and New Year 2014 was the busiest period of all table tennis wise.

It’s just that even with that kind of dedication he still had 95 rest days, which in my mind is plenty.

Here’s an idea…

If you are thinking of starting your own Expert in a Year challenge (where you practice something every day for a year), instead of planning in a weekly rest day, try taking a rest day if you happen to do seven days of consecutive practice.

If Sam had followed that rule he would have only taken an extra seven rest days. There were only seven times during 2014 when Sam played table tennis for seven days in a row (whoa, that’s a lot of sevens).

I think that is a better way of ensuring you get some rest without ending up taking half the year off.

You could always utilise some kind of active recovery too. What that entails will vary between domains but it simply means continuing to engage in your chosen skill but doing so in a way that is less stressful than your typical practice.

For Sam that could have been in the form of playing table tennis with his flatmates, or doing some service practice, on his days off.