“No pain, no gain.” “No rest for the wicked.” Can we put these sayings to bed? We need a rest day, or two. Although whoever wrote them likely had good intent to motivate people, these phrases can send harmful messages. Let this be your reminder that it is okay to rest and take it easy. In fact, in order to reach your fitness goals, it’s not just recommended, it’s a necessity.
Rest days are when your body can adapt to the stressors placed on it during exercise. Your body needs downtime in order to fully repair, replenish, build more muscle, and burn fat. Without it, you can get stuck in the breakdown phase, which can lead to fatigue, depression, decreased performance, injuries, and sleep issues.
So, ‘active recovery’ days are essential. What are these days? Glad you asked.
By engaging in active recovery workouts, you help get blood—which carries oxygen and other nutrients—to your repairing muscles, without stressing your body out more. Another perk of active recovery, is that it ensures you’ll be less sore and enhances your performance when you return to your regularly programmed workouts.
On these active recovery days, focus your movement around fun. There are plenty of feel-good activities to choose from! Meander in a park with your dog, shoot some hoops, ride your bike through a new neighborhood, swim around in the pool… the opportunities are endless.
It’s always important to keep moving to release tension and bring balance back to your body. Here are some more suggestions on activities to do that will provide your body the recovery it needs – but let you remain active in the process.
A gentle yoga flow can help to open tight areas of your body, increase flexibility, and promote blood flow so your muscle tissue is nourished. Plus, there’s the additional benefit of giving you time to breathe deeply and clear your mind.
Steady-State Walking and Running
When your arms are in pain from strength training, do some activity that uses your legs instead. A good brisk walk or slow-paced jog around the park is a good way to keep on sweating while avoiding straining your body too much.
If you’re going for a walk, why not enjoy a good view while you’re at it? Go to the nearest peak in your area where there’s a known spot to enjoy an overview. Invite someone to accompany you as well.
While yoga has the proper breathing styles and poses, stretching is like the freestyle version of it. You don’t need an entire session of yoga, you can stretch wherever and however you want. Stretching also has better muscle recovery and flexibility effects than yoga.
Even when your muscles are too sore to move. The more movement you make, the better you keep your blood circulation up for muscle recovery.