Have you ever felt sore after a workout and needed a rest day?
A healthy, active lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to be pushing yourself in the gym every day! In fact, rest and rehabilitation as just as crucial for wellness. Your muscles need time to recover and adapt, particularly in the early stages of a new workout program. I recommend allocating a one day a week where you take time off from intense workouts and do some things for yourself.
Your body needs time to rest between workouts to repair and recover — those of you following my High Intensity with Kayla workouts would know that I do three resistance workouts each week, with rest or LISS (low-intensity steady-state cardio) on other days!
Great things to do on rest days
I’ve seen many women in the Sweat Community worried that they’ll lose their progress when they take a rest day.
This simply isn’t the case! You actually NEED your rest days as part of your training program in order to MAKE progress.
To help you to use your rest days effectively, here are my favourite things to do on a rest day to help me recover and feel ready to get back into it!
Take at least one rest day a week
A rest day doesn’t mean lying on the couch watching Netflix (although that does have its place!). A rest day means you don’t do a workout, including LISS.
Your rest day is when you don’t do any scheduled workouts.
Lots of women ask me if they can do yoga on their rest days. You absolutely can! Yoga can help to relax both your body and your mind, and that’s what rest days are for.
Ideally, you should have one FULL rest day each week. Use the day to focus on yourself and spend time with family and friends. Sunday is a very popular choice for a rest day, but you can move it around to suit you.
Do an active recovery session
Taking a gentle walk or swim can help with recovery and reduce muscle cramping.
Gentle recovery allows time for your muscles to adapt to the work you’ve done and get stronger. Making time to recover can help you to stick to your workout program.
Add in some yoga
When your body has been working hard, or if you have been stressed at work, you might notice signs of tension or muscle soreness. Yoga is a gentle way to stretch, which can ease tight muscles and increase your mobility. Yoga is also great for flexibility and is known to be gentle on your joints.
Foam rolling and stretching
I make time for stretching every day, including on my rest days!
For those women following a High Intensity with Kayla program, you’ll find that there are foam rolling and stretching sessions that you can complete. You can choose a full-body session or target an area of your body that feels sore.
Stretching also helps you to stay flexible, and may also improve your workouts.
Book in a massage
Just the thought of booking a massage helps me imagine being on a tropical holiday! Laying on the massage table is a good time to switch off your brain for a little while, even when the massage therapist is kneading out those sore spots!
A remedial massage or sports massage can also really help you continue achieving your fitness goals. The physical manipulation of your muscles can help to release tension, as well as encourage good circulation and blood flow.
Eat to recover
What you eat on rest days is just as important as the food you choose on the days you are training. Proper nutrition with plenty of protein and carbohydrate gives your body the building blocks it needs to recover fully.
You could use your rest day for meal prep so that you have food ready for the rest of the week. Having healthy lunches you can take when you’re on the go can save money too!
Your body needs water to help maintain blood volume and carry nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.
Carrying a water bottle at all times will help to remind you to drink regularly.
If you struggle to drink water, herbal tea or fruit-infused water are healthy ways to stay hydrated!
Not every rest day has to involve activity. It’s okay to take a full break when you need one!
Resting at the right time can help to boost your immune system and allows your muscles to rebuild and recover.
We all know how damaging stress can be to our bodies. When you are stressed you can be more susceptible to headaches, illness, insomnia or anxiety. Treat your rest day as a time for self-care, when you can take a little time to completely relax and unwind.
Enjoy a little extra sleep
As well as helping your body to recover, getting extra sleep can help you to look and feel refreshed as well as give your skin a boost. Every once in awhile, I recommend having a day where you don’t set the alarm and let yourself sleep in.
Often, when you are in a routine, your body may still wake up early, but having the luxury of extra time in bed can be a nice change. Of course, you’ll need to choose a day when your day isn’t jampacked with work, catch ups with friends, or other appointments!
Always remember to listen to your body and get plenty of zzz’s if you’re feeling exhausted. Your body will thank you for it!
Benefits of taking a rest day
Here are some of the benefits you can see when you avoid overtraining and enjoy regular rest days as part of your healthy lifestyle plan.
Your immune system has time to recover
Excessive training can really wreak havoc on the body’s immune system. Think about how easy it is to get sick when you‘ve been under mental stress and spreading yourself too thin. The same can apply to physically training too much. If your body doesn’t have a chance to rest, your immune system may not have the strength to defend against germs, which may lead to illness.
Rest can help to repair muscle
It’s completely normal to experience a little fatigue in your muscles after a workout. Muscles contract and extend naturally during movement, and this is amplified during more intense exercise. As they adapt to particular workouts, your muscles may develop micro tears and feel sore (I’ve written before about post-workout muscle soreness). These micro tears repair themselves as your body rests, so your muscles can grow stronger. That’s part of the reason rest is so important.
It can give your fitness a jolt
Without enough recovery time, your body simply may not have the resources or ability to complete your workouts. Instead, your body kind of enters its own protective mode, which can slow your progress. Taking some time off for rest allows your body to recover, so you’ll be ready to jump back into training again when your next session rolls around.
You’ll have renewed focus
Just like any other activity, workouts should be varied so you don’t get bored. That’s why my programs in the SWEAT app have a range of different exercises targeting all muscle ranges. Spending all of your free time planning for workouts and then actually doing them can lead you into a bit of burnout.
Skipping a session now and then can have you feeling reinvigorated and ready to jump back into your workouts with more enthusiasm. Even the so-called ‘runner’s high’ can disappear if you’re pushing yourself too hard. Taking the occasional break from a regular fitness plan is good for both your physical and mental health.
Make rest days an important part of your fitness routine!
Now you can see that recovery days are not “off” days, they are an important part of your training program!
Taking scheduled rest days can help you avoid overtraining and injury. Part of being healthy is learning to listen to your body and adjusting your routine so that you feel your best!
What’s your favourite thing to do on rest days? Comment below!