Ask any fitness expert and they’ll tell you that rest days are a fundamental part of any good workout routine. Those are the days that allow your body to recover, giving it the opportunity it needs to regain both strength and energy. Skip your rest days and you’re liable to overwork your muscles which could ultimately lead to overtraining and possibly even injury. But taking a day off doesn’t mean that you have to be completely inactive, nor does it give you liberty to disregard your fitness goals.
With that in mind, here are some simple tips that can help you get the most out of your rest days.
Continue To Stretch
One of the side effects of taking a day off is that your muscles and joints will tend to tighten up since they’re not getting the usual amount of exercise they would on a typical workout day. This can lead to soreness and stiffness which could follow you back to the gym when you return to your normal routine. To avoid this, take a little time to stretch on your rest day. It’ll help keep your muscles loose and improve flexibility. You also might be surprised at just how good a light stretching routine can make you feel.
Watch Your Diet
There is often a strong temptation to turn rest days into cheat days by allowing yourself to eat foods and drink beverages that you normally wouldn’t consume on days that you’re working out. While it is fine to indulge from time to time, don’t let your rest day turn into something you’ll end up regretting later. Eat normal, healthy meals that contain lean meats along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Your body still requires fuel on its day off too, so give it what it needs with proper portion sizes. And don’t forget to hydrate by drinking plenty of water as well. Maintaining a healthy diet will help your body to be ready for a return to action when you start working out again.
One sure way to avoid thinking about your lack of exercise on a day off is to stay busy doing other things. Go run errands, get caught up on your housework, or meet friends for lunch. If you keep yourself occupied with other activities, you’ll not only find that rest days can be very productive, it’ll make the day go by much faster too. Staying busy is also a good way to burn off excess energy as well and will still provide you with a nice sense of accomplishment when the day is done.
It’s Okay To Move
While the purpose of a rest day is to let your body recover, that doesn’t mean that you should just sit on the couch all day. While you’ll want to avoid any high intensity exercises such as running, cycling, or lifting, it is okay to go for a brisk walk around the block, or better yet, take a hike in the woods. Even swimming is a good rest day activity provided you’re not trying to crank out laps in the pool at a fast pace. The point is, a bit of activity will be good for you, but limit the type, length, and intensity of the workout so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on your recovery period.
That said, you also need to respect the rest day and allow yourself to enjoy the downtime that comes along with it. Do things that are truly relaxing to both your body and mind. Read a book, catch a movie, or just sit on the porch and watch the world go by. Some athletes find that they get extra fidgety on their days off because they have excess energy to burn. Learning to cope with that will help you to truly appreciate your rest days and allow you to get the most out of them too. But most of all, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about skipping a day at the gym. Not only have you earned it, you’ll return with renewed energy and vigor soon enough.
Just remember, rest days are essential to continuing to make progress towards your fitness goals. By making the most of them, you are actually getting stronger and healthier. Plus, your body will appreciate the chance to recover, which is essential for staying on track.