Rest days are a vital component of any exercise program and shouldn’t be skipped. Having a day off once or twice a week, particularly after or between hard workout sessions, aids in muscle growth and repair to help increase strength, endurance and prevent injuries. Make the most of your rest days by following the tips below to maximize workout recovery. This will get you ready and roaring to go for your next workout!
Yes, it seems obvious, but you actually need to rest on your rest days. A proper rest day means that you avoid doing the same type of activity that you usually do the rest of the week (i.e. running, swimming, weight-lifting or whatever your sport or exercise). Preferably, you should also avoid doing cross training on those days as well, and instead delegate an actual cross-training day as part of your training plan with a separate rest day. With that said, active rest in the way of a leisurely walk, bike ride to the shops or even a stretching yoga session at home is fine and can help keep your body limber and mind engaged. Just don’t overdo it and instead focus on having fun.
Sleep is crucial to a healthy body, mind and aids in recovery from training. Inadequate sleep can lead to increased cortisol levels in the body, a stress hormone that disrupts tissue repair, hormone levels and also lead to weight gain. Poor sleep also leaves you feeling groggy and less mentally focused which can lead to a poor training session on the roads or in the gym. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night by hitting the sack an hour earlier than usual and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine too close to bed-time.
Nutrition plays a significant role in recovery time from training. You may think you need to eat less or skip meals on rest days but this is untrue. It’s imperative to fuel your body with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals to not only repair muscle fibers that leads to injury and soreness but also to restore depleted glycogen levels in preparation for tomorrow’s workout. Aim to include a serving of complex carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats at every meal such as a veggie omelet topped with avocado and a side of sweet potato “fries”.
Rest days should be about you. Unfortunately, it’s common for many fitness fanatics to feel they should be exercising or they simply feel lazy. Not true! Utilize those precious rest days to make a movie or coffee-date with a friend, go to the park with your kids or prepare a delicious home-cooked meal. Better still, get a massage, take a mid-day nap or soak in a hot bath to work out muscle soreness and feel revived.