It might seem counterintuitive to take a break when you’ve been putting in a lot of work to achieve your fitness goals, but taking the time to rest will allow you to recover and become more resilient, making it easier to achieve your fitness goals in the long run. During a challenging fitness routine, your muscles get torn down. When you rest, you give your muscles a much-needed chance to rebuild. Muscle fatigue and mental burnout are two factors that can impede your workout progress, and taking some time to reset can help you return to your regular routine stronger and more focused. You can take an active recovery day, which involves some moderate movement, or if you’ve been doing a lot of high-intensity workouts, a full rest day with little to no movement might be what your body needs.
What is Active Recovery?
Active recovery includes low intensity movements like walking, stretching, and bodyweight exercises which increase blood flow to sore or strained muscles, helping them recover more quickly while also improving breath quality and reducing mental stress. Strength training aims to max out muscle contractions, and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts maximize heart rate, increasing physical fitness. Active recovery slightly elevates the heart rate, blood flow, and central nervous system activity, allowing nutrients to reach the muscles that need to be repaired and effectively removing waste like lactic acid.
Stay Active: Options For Your Recovery Day
On your active recovery days, there are a lot of different ways you can move your body. It’s a good opportunity to do some cross-training and try out a different form of exercise than you’re used to. If you’re a runner, you can switch it up and take advantage of VASA’s indoor swimming pool and sauna or take a yoga class. If you’ve been focusing more on bodybuilding, going for a moderate hike is a great way to get out and enjoy the scenery while still getting some movement in and activating different muscles. It can be helpful to schedule active recovery days in advance, or you can fit some active recovery time in at the end of your workouts. Even just 5-10 minutes of stretching and cool-down exercises at the end of a workout can help reduce post-workout soreness and speed up your recovery time. Foam rolling is another great way to relieve tight muscles and improve range of motion. When foam rolling and stretching, focus on the quads, hamstrings, calves, and upper back.
What is a Rest Day?
Taking a full rest day with little to no physical activity can be extremely important, especially if you’ve been doing a lot of high-intensity workouts. Think of it as a reset for your mind and body. Overtraining can be damaging to your health and fitness goals and can lead to burnout. When your body is fatigued and sore, it’s a warning sign you’ve been pushing too hard and not taking the time to take care of yourself.
Rest Day Activities Away from the Gym
A full rest day is a chance to check in with yourself and listen to what your body needs. It’s important to take some time off to rest completely, but if you’re still wanting to get some gentle movement in, you can do some light stretching or walk at an easy pace while focusing on your breath. Full rest days can even be a good opportunity to try out a different type of class, such as meditation or restorative yoga, which includes gentle poses and a focus on deep breathing and deeper stretching. Whatever activity you end up choosing for your rest day, just make sure you are giving your mind and body a much-needed break.