Do you become incredibly bored or anxious if you don’t workout? Are you chasing a goal and feel like you’re falling behind if you lay on the couch all day? Well I have news for you… you improve your fitness primarily on rest days! In this blog, I’m going to explain a little bit about why that is so and list a few recovery methods that you can employ so you don’t feel useless on those pesky rest days!
How Fitness Is Actually Improved
You may be surprised to hear this, but the gains you see from working out don’t happen while you’re working out, but when you rest! Strength and energy system training cause micro-tears in the working muscle, which bring inflammation and nutrients to the area in an aid to rebuild the muscle bigger and stronger than before. So you see, while you are working out, you are only causing the muscle damage, not actually improving your strength and endurance. Over the course of a few days, the muscle will regenerate itself the best it can, so you can come back a little bit stronger the next session.
That’s obviously a very basic breakdown of how our bodies adapt to our training, but my goal with this is more to inform you of some different things you can do during your rest day so you still feel like you are progressing towards your goals and not go insane at the same time.
This is not by any means a complete list of recovery options, but here are some options for activities you can do during your rest day:
- Sleep – The most obvious, and important, recovery tool out there. You may not want to sleep the day away, but a nap or getting to bed a little bit earlier on a rest day will do your body good.
- Cryotherapy – Cryotherapy is cold treatment, whether it is an ice bath, a cryotherapy chamber, a cold shower, or even icing a sore/injured body part. Cold has been shown to decrease swelling and pain, and can have a potent regenerative effect on the nervous system.
- Mobility work – This can mean foam rolling, stretching, or low intensity activation work. Foam rolling and stretching have a positive impact on the length-tension relationships between your muscles, and can improve blood flow to aid in recovery as well.
- LIGHT walking, rowing, biking, swimming – The main benefit of light activity is blood flow to tight/tired muscles. The more blood you can flush through your system, the faster you will eliminate the toxins and waste products that accumulate from working out. The reason why running isn’t in this list is that it’s very hard on your joints and includes a lot of eccentric contractions, which have the most damaging effect on your muscles.
- Meal prep – Something positive you can spend some time on during your rest day is prepping your nutrition for the upcoming days. Along with sleep, proper nutrition is the backbone of a well balanced health and wellness plan.
- Physical therapy, chiropractor, massage, or other body work – We all have those pesky injuries or painful spots. Regularly going to see a professional that can help you find the root cause and loosen the area up. This will go very far in terms of your recovery and performance. Don’t overlook this, it helps tremendously!
- Yoga – Along the same lines as mobility work, yoga is great for loosening up your body and providing a meditative effect as well. Many types of yoga are also great for increasing your stability, which is an essential component to working out with proper technique.
- Hang out with friends/family – Everyone has stress and anxiety, and spending time with your loved ones goes a long way to improving your mood, stress, happiness, and overall quality of life.
As I mentioned, there are other modalities out there to improve recovery and eliminate the boredom that many associate with rest days. If you can manage to use that free time to do just a few of the things I listed above, you’ll be much more recovered, feel better, and perform better!