Need an excuse to rest and recover? Here you go.
Most of us know giving our bodies time to rest and recover is important, but we don’t make it a habit. Here’s why rest days should be incorporated into your workout plan and tips on how to help the recovery process along.
Are Rest Days Necessary?
Worst Case Scenario
Regular, intense exercise puts the body under stress which leads to exhaustion. Though exercise is definitely a critical way to stay healthy, too much of a good thing can lead to overuse injuries like stress fractures, joint pain and muscle strains. Ultimately, daily doses of small movement is good, but intense workouts like lifting, resistance training and basically anything that causes minor to severe soreness should be mitigated with rest days.
According to NASM certified master trainer, Crystal Reeves, not enough rest can lead to something she refers to as over-training syndrome including these side effects: decreased performance, fatigue, altered hormonal states, poor sleeping patterns, reproductive disorders, decreased immunity, loss of appetite and even mood swings. #YIKES
If you’re convinced, you’re probably wondering, “well, how many days can I workout?”
For cardio workouts, the suggested standard is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week. This might look like 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Or, 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous activity three days each week.
For strength training, you’re allowed to train each major muscle group two to three days every week with at least 48 hours of recovery in between sessions. In fact, studies show it takes 72 to 96 hours for full recovery after resistance and strength training. A good-to-know fact is soreness is generally a sign of microscopic tears in the muscles. However, in order for the muscle, bone, nerve and connective tissue to rebuild and grow back stronger, they need rest days.
Other factors to keep in mind include your age, overall health, prior injuries, and if you’re getting enough sleep alongside proper nutrition and water. The takeaway is to listen to your body and pay attention to the biggest indicator your body needs to recover — soreness.
Now the most important part — what to do on your rest days to promote recovery!
1. Foam Roll
Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with foam rolling? And by love/hate we mean totally avoidant and haven’t taken the foam roller out on the town in over a year.
We know you know you need to foam roll to help combat soreness and maybe even as a good way to loosen up trouble areas before a solid workout. So, we won’t hover on this point for too long. With that being said, it might be a good idea to learn how to roll out properly from a trainer or instructor or (hint) an HCI RX class. Or, perhaps an instructional YouTube video?
Finally, just a little bit of encouragement, fight through the pain and discomfort (unless it’s bad injury pain) because it will get better and your body will thank you on your next workout and as you continue to stave injuries! Foam rolling is a solid injury preventative as well as other mayo-fascial release techniques like using lacrosse balls to dig into target areas like the calves and deltoids.
2. Go get a massage
If you’re training regularly, it might not be a bad plan to incorporate a monthly or weekly (drool) massage from a trained sports massage therapist. They may also be able to give you tips and tools to help you, help yourself as needed.
3. Do Restorative Exercise
When we talk about rest days, it seems counterintuitive to suggest anything other than sitting on the couch all day, which is tempting and also absolutely okay. BUT, restorative exercises can actually help move along the healing process and get you back to flexing in no time. Restorative exercises are also a great way to round out your training and make up for any deficits. Say you’re working out your lower body a lot and experiencing a lot of tightness, yoga stretches can loosen things up, prevent injury and relieve pain in other areas like your back or hips caused from imbalances and tight muscles from focused training.
So, here is what we consider “restorative exercises.”
- Tai chi
- Light, light, light resistance training
- Hip and core exercises – plank, glutei bridges, fire hydrants (bodyweight only)
- Steady-state walking or running
- Steady-state cycling
- Rollerblading (wear a helmet and your favorite 80s hairdo)
4. Eat, Sleep, Drink
We’re not your mom, but we feel like these basics are worth mentioning…again and again. Get enough sleep, because sleep is a time where your body works overtime to repair itself and keep you young, fresh and healthy.
Nourish your body. In fact, use your rest days to really treat yourself right. Like a self-care Sunday. Eat enough and eat all of the right things your body needs to recover. Everyones’ bodies and diet preferences are different so, get to know what makes you feel healthy and perform optimally. Check with your doctor on supplement recommendations with your training in mind.
Hydration is key to recovering sore muscles and combatting natural fatigue that accompanies growing muscles. So, know how much water you need and keep track!
5. Rest + Epsom Salt Baths
Aside from these active recovery suggestions, resting is part of recovering. So, put your feet up. Soak in an Epsom Salt bath if that’s your thing. If you pressure yourself to be at the gym daily, let it go and give into really making regular time for resting, because, if you don’t, you might be forced to do the very thing you’re trying to avoid.
A couple of (obvious) Don’ts on rest days: HIIT or Strength Training and lay in bed all day eating junk food.