Rest days are NOT optional. We all need them and living in a go-go-go world makes them all the more significant. If you are work out a regular basis, you may know that your body changes not when you are lifting those weights, but when the body is at rest. Strength training in particular continues to burn calories and rev the metabolism for up to 36 hours post-workout. (This is why lifting every other day is the ideal for recovery!)
Here are some things you can do to make your rest day feel as productive as your workout days, since it really is the secret weapon of your routine.
1. Take a walk. To clarify: Rest days do not mean zero movement, they are just better suited for gentle, low intensity movement. Walking is a great walk to decompress and actively stretch your muscles, and is a great cardiovascular workout.
2. Go through your yoga flow. Now I’m not saying to go to an hour of power yoga. I’m talking more along the lines of a gentle vinyasa or restorative class/video/self-practice. Moving your body through gentle poses, and being aware of sore areas can be great for recovery.
3. Take a hot bath. It is very relaxing, yes, but also incredibly beneficial to those sore muscles. Soaking will help loosen muscles, and decrease any pain and inflammation in achy joints. Add in some lavender essential oil for a calming effect.
4. Pick up a foam roll or lacrosse ball. For a good loosening up, use either a foam roller (for large muscle groups) or a lacrosse ball (for specific muscles). This is considered self-myofascial release, and it happens to be an excellent practice to do prior to and after a workout as well.
5. Journal. This is one of my favorite things any day of the week, but when you have some extra time to spare, jot down your daily gratitudes to keep you thankful for where you are on your journey. This, in turn, will get you excited for the continuation of what is to come.
6. Hydrate and refuel. Make sure that you are not eating significantly less or consuming less fluid just because you are taking it easy. You still need your food to fuel your recovery, and hydration needs to be maintained so your body is ready for the next workout.
7. Prep your food. When you have some down time, take the extra time to prep some food for the rest of your week. Sauté some ground beef that can be used in a multitude of meals, roast some veggies, cook up some rice or sweet potatoes, or make some homemade mayo!
Keep in mind if you’re not giving yourself the chance to rest, yet you find yourself wondering why you aren’t seeing results after putting in so much work, well, this rest may be what your body is missing. An added benefit to this rest day (in addition to the aforementioned recovery and muscle-building) is that your body is given a day off from stress; a constant stressed state (or “fight or flight” mode) increases your cortisol, which inhibits fat loss. So even if working out is your go-to for de-stressing, not taking a day off can turn it into just the opposite.
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