It’s commonly said that the best and most elite athletes have the discipline to rest. This sentiment is a warning to aspiring athletes and fitness enthusiasts who don’t believe in the concept of over-training. However, over-training is nothing to brush off, nor are its consequences.
If you don’t give your body time to recover, it doesn’t give your tissues a chance to repair, grow, and get stronger. Instead, you’ll simply continue to break everything down. This can lead to weakness, joint pain, chronic fatigue, and more.
What’s the solution? The simple answer is taking a rest day.
However, we need to get a few things straight about what you should and shouldn’t do on your rest days. Keep reading for everything you need to know.
1. Do Get Plenty of Sleep
Your body recovers while at rest, it’s quite an amazing system. We work hard in the gym or on the field and breakdown muscle tissues. In response, our bodies grow stronger, faster, and more conditioned while we take a break.
A vital component of rest is sleep, not just a lack of exercise. Did you know anything less than seven hours of sleep is considered sleep deprivation? If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, your body can’t fully repair itself and your fitness progress will suffer.
Aside from that, sleep deprivation has a myriad of other negative side effects. These include:
- Inability to focus
- Memory loss
- Digestive issues
- Weight gain
- Mood changes and irritability
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure
- And more
We recommend making sleep one of your top priorities both in your everyday life and on rest days. Take your rest days as a chance to sleep in, take a nap, or go to bed early. Find the best memory foam bed for maximum comfort and an undisturbed night of sleep.
2. Don’t Neglect Your Nutrition
One of the most common mistakes people make while taking a day off from the gym is failing to maintain their nutrition. Just because you’re not working out it doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need the proper amount of nutrients and hydration.
It’s just as important to fuel your body with foods high in vitamins and minerals and drink plenty of water while your body is in recovery. Repairing muscle tissue and becoming stronger and faster takes a lot of work. Therefore, it requires a lot of fuel.
3. Do Work On Your Mobility
Whether you’re a powerlifter, Crossfit enthusiast, or runner, one of the most important aspects of health and fitness is mobility. As we continue to work out and build up our lean muscle mass, those muscles get tighter and less flexible over time. That is unless you maintain a mobility routine.
This can include anything from mobility exercises to yoga or simple stretching. We recommend implementing mobility training as a rest day workout. You’re not taxing your muscles, so it won’t lead to over-training.
Additionally, a lack of flexibility is one of the most common causes of fitness-related injuries.
4. Don’t Binge On Junk Food or Alcohol
Earlier, we said you need to maintain your nutrition and make sure you’re getting enough calories during your rest day. However, don’t take this to mean you should use your rest day for binging on junk food or consuming a ton of alcohol. In fact, doing either of those things can seriously impede your progress.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight with diet and exercise and have yourself in a moderate calorie deficit, a single day of binging can completely decimate your progress. Let’s say each day you stay 300 calories under your BMR. If you then consume an extra 1,500 by eating a ton of junk food, you’ve completely negated five days worth of dieting.
That may sound unrealistic, but there are over 200 calories in a single slice of pizza. As for alcohol, it can lead to more weight gain and impede your performance days after consumption. It has seven calories per gram (carbs have four) and dehydrates your body.
5. Do Partake in Active Recovery
Let’s talk more about having an active rest day. It’s important not to become a complete couch potato on your days off. If you remain completely inactive, you’ll be more sore and stiff the next day.
Additionally, as mentioned above, you should use this time to focus on other aspects of your fitness, such as mobility and flexibility. However, this also includes things like walking or jogging. For example, if you are weight-lifter, use your off days to do some light cardio to keep up your heart and lung health.
6. Don’t Turn Active Rest Into a Real Workout
We feel like we must mention, however, that your rest day active recovery should be a light workout. Remember, you need to have the discipline to rest. For example, don’t turn your rest day jog into a marathon.
Additionally, it’s okay to do things like sprints, but don’t run yourself into the ground. Remember, active recovery should focus on actually recovering.
7. Do Take Some Time for Self-Care
Finally, depending on how dedicated you are to your exercise routine, it likely takes up a decent amount of time out of your week. You, like most, have probably made sacrifices in other places of your life to make space for fitness.
Take your rest day as a nice reprieve from the routine and take care of yourself. Go to the spa, get a massage, play video games, hang out with friends, etc. The key to any sustainable lifestyle is balance, make sure you’re still enjoying your life.
Looking to Make the Most Out of Your Rest Day?
Do you want to have a beneficial and healing rest day? If so, be sure to adhere to the advice listed above. You would be surprised by how much people impede their own progress by failing to rest responsibly.
And if you’re looking for any more fitness advice, be sure to check out some of our other articles before you go. Our blog is dedicated to helping fitness enthusiasts of all levels reach their goals and lead healthy lifestyles.