7 Secrets for Maximizing Your Weekend Without Maxing Out

A Sequel to "7 Tips for Balancing Work, Life, and Getting Outside."

By: Rachel Davidson + Save to a List

Two and a half years ago I pitched my first ever journal contribution to the Outbound; a collection of tips on how to maximize your weekend to the fullest. Since then, I’ve learned quite clearly how much you can pack within the 64 hours between 5pm on Friday and 9am on Monday. But I’ve seen it overdone, with weekends spilling into weekday mornings and tornado-ing friend’s desks, apartments, and social lives into complete chaos.

The truth is this: You need to be careful and calculated in your daily work-to-commute-to-home planning just as much as your weekend planning if you want to sustain an adventurous lifestyle without burning out. Read on for my secrets on how I manage to squeeze in the outdoors between chores and a desk job.

1) Follow “The Shower Rule.”

After every single adventure, whether a day trip or a full week outing, I follow this one simple rule: No matter how tired, how dirty, how battered my body feels, no matter how many bags I have with me, no matter the state of my apartment, and no matter how late I get home - I always unpack and organize my gear, trash, and dirty clothes before showering.

Yes, this can add hours to an already exhausted state of mind. It can be the very last thing my body wants to add to the end of an all-weekend epic with virtually no sleep. But it’s the one thing that can maintain any sort of resemblance of normalcy in my otherwise hectic schedule. Keeping things clean, organized, and ready for the next adventure always trumps sleep.

2) Always alpine start.

Given the option to leave at 9pm or 4am for a 3-hour drive, I will always choose to wake up (obnoxiously) early. I think better in the pre-dawn hours of the morning, I have the opportunity to grab last-minute gas station necessities, and there is a 99.9% guarantee of less traffic than night driving. Plus, since I’m probably loading up a liter of coffee for the drive, I’ll be bouncing off the walls and ready to rocket the moment I pull into the trailhead.

This “secret” may vary from person to person, I understand there are night owls out there who would argue opposite (and if you’re reading this, let’s hang out, since we’d obviously make great road trip partners). The general rule is this: If you know you’ll feel better rested a couple extra hours in your own bed, don’t sacrifice that sleep to stay on someone else’s schedule.


For the love of your limbs, you need to stretch your body after extreme physical exertion if you want it to continue to work as hard as you do outdoors. Stretching allows your super-tight muscles to extend and heal, it promotes circulation throughout your entire body (not just your legs, where blood concentrates on long days on your feet), and it prevents injuries. The easiest and fastest way to recover from one adventure and to be ready for the next is to stretch; like you mean it.

My friends and I usually leave closed-cell foam pads in our car to spend a good 20-30 minutes stretching after any type of backpack, climb, run, you name it. If you’ve ever transitioned immediately from an all-day activity to an all-night drive and and spent the following three days staggering around feeling stiffer than cardboard, you know you deserved it. And you know how to prevent it.

4) Optimize nighttime shopping.

I only grocery shop after 8pm - closer to 10pm or 11pm if I’m playing outside after work. By that time in the day, I have a dialed list of exactly what I’m looking for, not to mention a grocer completely free of crowds. When I’m less hungry and less prone to distractions, I can get in, get what I need, and get out far more efficiently than if I was browsing with time to spare.

5) Clean often and stay tidy.

I’m constantly micro-cleaning my apartment and work spaces, spending half an hour every other day to take care of corners, countertops, floors, and other small details. As long as I’m diligent and keep a semi-regular cleaning schedule up, I’m never forced to do a full-blown scrub-down that sucks up an entire afternoon. Besides, the longer you let your things get funky and spaces gather dirt, the longer and tougher it will be to get them back into good shape.

6) Schedule out your rest days.

If you’re anything like me, you’re a go-getter, schedule-packer, rest-delayer that would trade a couple hours of sleep for a sunrise hike any day of the week. But it’s easy for those couple hours to add up, and for your schedule to overflow before you know it. That’s why it’s so important to schedule in rest days - even if it means blocking out a day weeks in advance.

Whether your rest day looks like laundry and weekly errands, or “rehydrating” at happy hour before calling it an early night, allow your muscles and mind some time to recover, heal, and sleep it off. Cut yourself some slack - you’ve earned it!

7) Eat fast, easy, and healthy.

“Fast” and “easy” aren’t two words often heard synonymously with “ healthy food,” but they’re attainable if you know what you’re doing. Meal prepping is the easiest and often healthiest way to knock out a week’s worth of work lunches, as long as you make the time on your rest days. Protein shakes and juices are also a great supplement to any athlete’s nutrition plan, especially for packing in rejuvenating calories post-weekend.

Most of my breakfasts can be carted around in an old plastic peanut butter jar, and usually consist of some combination of oats or yogurt, dried fruit, and nuts. For lunch, I make a lot of wraps and salads that don’t need a ton of prep time, usually just a handful of ingredients that take 3-5 minutes to throw into a tupperware container for an easy, veggie-filled, balanced meal. If I’m really strapped for time, I’ll leave a small bag of groceries at work that will sustain me for the whole week.

The key, I’ve learned, is to eat as healthy as possible on your non-exercise days. Riding a century, running a marathon and summiting a peak are all going to demand a TON of fuel - oftentimes even for days after the adventure ends. And while your metabolism may demand burgers and bagels all day Monday and Tuesday, by Wednesday you’ll need to kick back into a balanced diet and give your body the greens it craves, too.

All in all, it’s so important to listen to what your body is telling you before, during, and after extreme exertion. Clean, stretch, fuel, and rest as your body demands any given day. Just as no two weekends look the same, no two recovery periods may feel the same - it’s up to you, every week, to take care of yourself in order to be ready for all the adventures ahead.

Cover photo: Kaiwen Lee

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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