The Necessity of Regular Rest Days
Everyone knows that regular exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. But, it’s important to remember that regular rest days are also necessary.
Rest days help you avoid injuries, continue to see improvements in the gym, and keep your immune system functioning properly.
Five Rest Day Hacks to Maximize Recovery
In order to maximize your recovery and get the most out of your rest days, make sure you’re doing these five things every time you take some time off from training.
#1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Most of your muscle repair occurs when you’re sleeping. During deep REM sleep, your body produces growth hormone, which is necessary for rebuilding and repairing the muscles that you’ve broken down during your workouts.
You should be prioritizing sleep every night, but your rest days can be good opportunities to catch up and get a little extra rest. Let yourself sleep in a bit, or hit the hay earlier than usual for some additional shut-eye.
#2. Make Sure Your Diet is Still on Point
Taking a day off from the gym doesn’t mean you should take a day off from eating a healthy, balanced diet. It’s fine to treat yourself every once in a while, but don’t treat every rest day as an opportunity to eat everything in sight.
Make sure you’re still consuming a sufficient amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. And, don’t forget about micronutrients. Make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables and fruits to get all the nutrients that your body needs to recover, such as vitamin C and magnesium.
Be sure to also eat plenty of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight the inflammation that can occur after a tough workout. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, olive oil, sardines, eggs, and avocados.
#3. Keep Moving
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at a time lounging on the couch. In fact, low-impact movement can actually help speed up your recovery. It does this by keeping your blood circulating, which helps distribute essential nutrients to your muscles.
Some good options for low-impact exercise include:
Your rest day can also be a good opportunity to get out and do something fun that you don’t typically have time for. Go for a hike or take a family trip to the park.
#4. Roll Out Sore Muscles
Self-myofascial release, also known as SMR, is a great option for getting rid of tension and speeding up muscle recovery.
Some of the benefits of SMR include:
- Relaxes tight muscles
- Improves circulation to reduce soreness
- Improves range of motion
- Improves muscle elasticity
- Boosts the production of cytokines, which help minimize inflammation
SMR works best when you use either a foam roller or a massage tool like a roller ball. Foam rollers work best for massaging large muscle groups like the legs and upper back, and massage balls can be used for smaller knots in the neck, shoulders, or feet.
#5. Stay Hydrated
When you’re working out, it’s easy to remember to stay hydrated, but it can be harder to make sure you’re drinking enough water on your days off.
Don’t forget that adequate hydration helps your muscles recover faster. It improves your body’s ability to flush out toxins, including the lactic acid that builds up in sore muscles.
If you get bored just drinking plain water, add some calorie-free flavoring in the form of lemon, lime, or cucumber slices. You can also drink herbal tea if you prefer a warm drink.
How Often Should You Take Rest Days?
Everybody is different and needs a different amount of time to recover. But, a good rule of thumb if you’re just starting to workout regularly is to take one day off for every two consecutive days of exercise.
Remember, it’s better to start slow and then increase the frequency of your workouts later than it is to take on too much and get burned out.
Are you taking enough rest days? Could you be doing more on your rest days to improve your recovery? If you’re not getting enough out of your rest days, give these five hacks a try to start seeing better results.