Staying in shape can be pretty exhausting. Everything it entails, ranging from the workout sessions to the dietary restrictions, is very demanding. This makes rest days particularly important in your fitness regimen.
Rest days are fundamental for your body’s overall recovery. During this period, your body repairs any worn-out muscles for optimal performance in the subsequent sessions. So what does an active rest day entail, and how is it different from a passive rest day? Here’s everything you need to know about active recovery.
What Is Active Recovery
Simply put, active recovery is when you engage in movements of lower intensity compared to your regular workouts. These movements range from a leisurely jog or a walk, yoga, or even some light stretches. Active recovery exercises should not exceed 60-70% of your maximum effort (3).
So what does 60-70% of your maximum effort mean? For instance, if you’re actively recovering from marathon training, walk a few gentle miles. So no, it isn’t bad if you’re on your rest days working out. Doing that only helps you recover.
What To Do On Rest Days: Benefits Of Rest Days
So what can you do to recover during your rest days actively? And how do the activities affect your performance? Well, some of the benefits of rest days include:
Rest Days Reduce Your Risk Of Injury
Safety is crucial in any exercise to avoid injury, and taking sufficient rest intervals facilitates this. See, when you overwork yourself, chances are high that you’ll make a mistake that can be fatal. For instance, you could fall out of form, take a wrong step or drop a weight, all of which can lead to injury.
Your muscles are also exposed to repetitive strain and stress whenever you overtrain. This ultimately increases your risk of getting overused injuries. Eventually, you’ll be forced to take more rest days than you had planned for.
Rest Days Gives Your Body Time For Recovery
Rest days are supposed to be lying on your couch, resting, right? While this is technically true, it’s not always entirely accurate. It’s during your rest days that your body starts experiencing the beneficial effects of exercise. Here’s how that happens.
It’s not uncommon for microscopic tears to be formed in your muscle tissues during workouts. However, when you’re resting, cells known as fibroblasts repair these tears (1). This ultimately aids your muscular tissues to heal and grow into larger and stronger muscles.
Additionally, there’s the issue of glycogen use during exercise. Whenever you’re working out, your body uses up glycogen to fuel itself. Rest days will allow your body to replenish the used-up energy reserves before your next workout session.
Rest Days Protects You From Muscular Fatigue
The best way to tackle exercise-induced fatigue is through resting. We’ve already established that working out eventually depletes your muscle’s glycogen levels. If these stores are not replenished, you’ll start experiencing muscle soreness and fatigue.
It’s also important to note that glycogen is essential for normal muscular functioning, whether you’re exercising or not. Resting, therefore also prevents general fatigue by filling up your glycogen stores.
Rest Days Will Improve Your Overall Performance
Going about your regular routine can be difficult if you’re not getting enough rest after exercising. It’ll even be harder for you to challenge yourself in your subsequent workout sessions. For instance, you may be less motivated to run the extra mile if you’ve been exercising all week without resting.
Putting effort into your workout sessions is not and should never be similar to overtraining. Overtraining will decrease your overall performance. This can create a domino where your endurance and agility are reduced, and you start getting slower reaction times.
Resting, on the other hand, will have the opposite effect on your performance. Specifically, it will increase your energy, thus preventing fatigue, preparing your body for better subsequent workout sessions.
Rest Days Can Improve Your Sleep Patterns
The importance of sleep in your overall well-being cannot be overstated. That being said, regular exercise can positively affect your sleep. However, rest days can be just as important for your sleep.
See, physical activity triggers the release of energy-boosting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol (2). While this is a good thing when produced moderately and intermittently, overproduction of these hormones can be counterproductive. Working out every day leads to their overproduction.
When the energy-boosting hormones are oversupplied, it becomes difficult to get quality sleep (2). And when you’re sleep-deprived, your bodily fatigue will only get worse.
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Activities That Warrant Rest Days
So when should you have rest days? Sure, taking breaks is vital in any workout. However, are there specific activities that warrant the need for having rest days? Let’s find out.
Rest Days And Cardio
Ideally, rest days are not a requirement for light cardio. Light cardio includes activities like slow dancing or just leisurely walking around. There’s no problem if you perform these activities daily unless there are express instructions from your doctor.
However, moderate and intense cardio requires rest days. Three to five days should be just fine for moderate aerobic activities. On the other hand, it is recommended that you take more frequent rest days for intense cardio. You can actively recover from cardio by performing light exercises like gentle stretches.
Rest Days And Bodybuilding
What about bodybuilding? Does it warrant rest days? And if so, when bodybuilding what to do on rest days will give you the maximum benefit of the process. Also known as weight training, bodybuilding uniquely incorporates rest days. During these periods, you rotate between the muscles that are being worked.
This means that after working a particular muscle group, you let them rest for a day or two. This break interval gives them time to heal and repair themselves. On the other days, work on different muscle groups. Always ensure that you’re working on opposing muscles for balance and stability.
You’re probably wondering now what to do on rest days bodybuilding. One of the best approaches is assigning a day to a specific muscle group. For instance, if your leg day is on Monday, make Tuesday your chest day, and so on.
Rest Days And Weight Loss
Trying to lose weight does not mean you shouldn’t have rest days. Rest days rebuild your muscles resulting in more calorie burn when you’re sedentary. Why? Because muscles use up more energy than fats. Also, when you’re refreshed and well-rested, chances are you’ll stick to your regular workout routine.
What To Do On Rest Days?
Stay Hydrated And Eat Right
Your body needs to be properly hydrated and supplied with the correct nutrients through any workout routines. You should continue doing this even during your rest days. Several people think that rest days are similar to cheat days. As a result, they end up eating anything which could ultimately negate any positive effects of rest days.
It’s crucial that you supply your body with the nutrients it needs during rest periods. After you’ve done this, you can start thinking of finding something extra to treat yourself with. The trick is in finding the right balance.
This principle also applies to hydration. While it may look exciting to drop the clean drinking water for sugary drinks, ultimately, it will be counterproductive. Hydration is vital to being healthy; that doesn’t change when you’re on your rest days.
Do Some Stretches
Working out can be very exhausting and demanding. Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, it’s common to find yourself in some kind of pain. This could be due to any number of reasons, from muscle soreness to muscle tears.
Stretching and exercises like pilates and yoga can help you alleviate these pains while keeping your muscles healthy. Additionally, it can also improve your muscular flexibility and agility while helping you relax. Foam rolling can also be used as a form of self-massage that helps you relax your muscles and reduce pains.
Get Some Quality Sleep
This is probably the most obvious activity to do on your rest day. Nothing says resting better than sleep, right? Its importance, however, should be emphasised, and that’s why we’re talking about it.
Most of your muscle’s healing, repair, and growth happens when you’re sleeping. It not only has physical benefits, but it can also help you improve your mental health. So if you find yourself tired or bored, lie down and get the extra hours you’ve been missing. Your body will ultimately thank you for them!
Do Some Corrective Exercises
Corrective exercises are one of the harder ways of spending your rest days. This is majorly because they are difficult to pull off the first time. That being said, you should talk to a medical professional for the best and safest experience.
Ideally, you’re supposed to exercise specific areas in your body where issues are building up. This ensures your muscles remain in mint condition while repairing any damages. Corrective exercises involve a variety of exercises. They could range from exercises that improve your knees to relieve pain or exercises that generally relieve strain injuries.
Simply put, corrective exercises require a broad knowledge base to be done properly. If you’re trying to make corrective exercises part of your rest day workouts, you have to be certain. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, try training your abs. They are extremely resistant to wear and tear due to their role and can be trained more frequently.
Try Some Light Cardio
Sometimes you can’t help but think about what workout to do on rest days. When you find yourself in this situation, missing your regular routines, light cardio can be of great help. And the bonus is that you don’t have to be at the gym to get some cardio reps.
Leisurely walking through parks or jogging are some activities you could try. It’ll put less strain on your muscles while giving you a different exercise that’ll keep you busy.
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What To Avoid On Rest Days?
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. Here are some of the things that you should not do on your rest days.
HIIT Or Strength Training
It follows that if you have to take a rest day, then you’ve been pushing yourself. The whole point of having rest days is giving your body a chance to recover naturally. This will ultimately help it in the long run.
If you’re ever wondering what to do on rest days from lifting, the answer should never be lifting more weights. Instead, try lighter activities like static and dynamic stretching. That’s how you get the most out of rest days when you’ve been doing lots of strength training.
HIIT and Strength training are great workout ideas for your overall fitness goals. However, they are exercises that you should stay away from during your rest days. They are physically draining and will only worsen the situation.
Overeating can be a real problem during rest days. The temptations and cravings for sugary snacks are things that we all have to endure during cheat and rest days. It is, however, important to stick to healthy foods where you can.
See, the problem with cheat days is that it’s like a pandora’s box. You open it, and a cheat day becomes a cheat weekend, then a cheat week. This could ruin the progress that you worked so hard to achieve. Take that into consideration before you dig into that parfait.
Getting Too Comfortable
Rest days can sometimes become a little too exciting. All that time off, the fun activities, the food, it can get overwhelming. That’s why you should not lose sight of your fitness goals and the progress you’ve made.
Giving in to the delights of rest periods can put you at risk of losing everything you’ve worked so hard for. The point is, don’t break your routine. Keep a positive mindset and reach for your fitness goals.
Working out is not always roses and cherry. It is never that easy. Instead, it is demanding and takes a huge toll on your body. Continuously powering through exercise will only lead to muscle injury, which ultimately beats the whole point of working out.
Rest days will help your body recover from all the strain and stress of exercise. Relying on active recovery during this period will facilitate better and efficient muscle repair and growth. Time to give it a shot, don’t you think?
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!