Why Rest Days Are Really Important
Rest and recovery are just as important to muscle growth and overall health as training can be, if not, even more so. But taking time off to heal and rest up from training or after competing can be something many athlete’s struggle with. It can be like pulling teeth with when my coaches tell their student that they “need to sit this one out.” Sometimes it’s the fear of missing out on learning something new or finally being able to get the form down. Other times, it’s the fear of being perceived as being lazy. These thoughts need to be pushed aside for successful training and muscle recovery.
Rest Day Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
You may have heard that doing as close to as little as possible on rest day is not as beneficial for you as previously thought. Some studies have found that by keeping moderately active on rest days can in fact help reduce stiffness and soreness typically called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, known as the DOMS. Low impact activities help combat muscle stiffness and muscle aches that are commonly worse when a person does little to no activity at all after work outs. Restorative activities also help to balance out the stress an athlete may be putting on their body and mind during intense training. Think of it this way, the harder and more intense the training, the more calming and low impact the rest day activity should be to act as a counterbalance.
- Yoga – Athlete’s probably get tired of hearing how awesome yoga is to help with soreness and flexibility. The fact is, if you’re not taking part in a regular yoga routine – you really are missing out. Yoga is perfect for active rest days to really
- Walking – Don’t undermine a nice leisurely stroll. One of the great benefits about taking a walk is getting some quality time to think and make plans. Being outside in general is great for the change of pace and sense of well-being that admiring sights on a pretty trail can bring!
- Foam Rolling – Foam Rolling or Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is great to help combat muscle stiffness as well as possible aide in improving flexibility and range of motion to the area being massaged. Typically, a solid 20-30-minute session is all that’s needed and is perfect for an active rest day so you can still get plenty of things done on the agenda!
- Bicycle Ride – Depending on the intensity of your regular training (and if you didn’t train legs already) a bicycle ride is a nice way to relax and get some cardio without over exerting. The key is to choose an easy cycling path that is mostly flat (unless you do want to work legs a bit).
- Swimming – Getting a good swim in is perfect for an active rest day. For example, the reduced stress (i.e. weight) on aching hips or knees allows for easier movement and gives those tender spots a break. Go leisurely or swim some good laps, but most of all, enjoy!
So, if you’re feeling stiff and sore the day after a killer workout – barring any injuries that only fully resting will heal, try out one of these Restorative Rest Day Activities we’ve suggested to help loosen you up, treat your body (and mind) right, and keep on track of your fitness goals!