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Five Tips For Rest Days | Workout Recovery

Remember, exercise is probably 10-20% of the equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90%.

If you get a buzz from bulking up it’s tempting to keep going non-stop until you’re ripped. But if you never take the time to rest, you’ll never be at your best.

Smashing it on the weights or the treadmill tears your muscles – and they can only repair with adequate rest. This means taking a break is just as important as working out and consuming protein when it comes to developing strength, endurance and muscle.

Your rest days are growth days – and here’s how to do them in the right way:

1. Manage your intake

There are some common misassumptions about rest days. Some people think you can’t eat as much, while others feel you can get away with consuming way more. In reality, neither is good for you.

Ideally, you want to try to follow your regular diet plan – keeping your calorie consumption high with a rich range of nutrients. You might not be burning those calories off on a rest day, but they’ll boost protein synthesis, which is essential to your muscles’ growth and recovery.

Casein protein is a good option for a rest day protein shake. It’s best consumed just before bed. Casein digests slowly through the body, so it’ll carry on feeding your muscles overnight – putting you on the front foot to continue smashing your gym goals the next day.

A decent helping of complex carbs is also a must. Make sure you’re eating a balance of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. And don’t forget to stay hydrated – water is key to your body’s recovery.

2. Do low-intensity cardio

Of course, a rest day isn’t a complete rest day.

Light cardio work improves the blood flow to your muscles – helping to accelerate the rebuilding process and reduce muscle soreness.

Activities like running, swimming or cycling play a big part in your body’s recovery. By promoting joint movement and boosting your metabolism, they put your body back in shape to face the weights or the treadmill when you resume your fitness plan.

But don’t overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you don’t exceed the 30-minute mark, otherwise, you could be risking injury.

3. Plan some stretches

If you’re serious about getting fit, knowing how to stretch your muscles is key. Stretching makes your muscles more flexible, helping you get the most from your workouts.

Stretching improves the range of motion in your muscles and increases circulation – all of which boosts your recovery. It can also calm your mind, which may help fend off illness and injury, as well as bring on a better night’s sleep.

There are different stretches for various areas of your body. Stretching important muscles in your back, arms and legs will enhance your core strength so you can keep firing on all cylinders.

4. Use a foam roller

Another way to keep your body flexible is by using a foam roller, which acts like a sports massage. From helping build your body to improving muscle recovery and injury prevention, the benefits of foam rolling are endless. Among the key body areas to work on are:

  • Quads. As one of the most used muscles in the body, your quads need more strength than most. Strengthening your quads through foam rolling is not just good for your legs –it takes the pressure off your back and hips, too.
  • Calves. From the shoes we wear to the way we sit, there are many factors that keep our calves in a shortened position most of the time. Foam rolling can address this while also expanding the range of function of your ankles.
  • Upper back. If you sit in a restricted posture for most of the day, your upper back won’t be as flexible as it can be – hindering your physical performance. Foam rolling helps your back rotate and extend better so you can put in a better shift in the gym.

female stretching

5. Get some sleep

Last but not least, don’t resist the urge to hit the sack – it’s important. Sleep is a crucial component of your general rest and wellbeing, and you should aim to be scoring eight hours of shut-eye every night.

Even if you have all the motivation and energy in the world, your body can only take so much exercise – and nothing helps take off the strain like loading up on sleep.

And here comes the science: during sleep, your growth hormone levels are at their highest. Up to 75% of this hormone is released while you’re unconscious – so it goes hand in hand with being able to perform well in the gym.

Not taking rest days will lead to burnout, which could set you back weeks, or even months, on achieving your fitness goals. And don’t worry – it takes your body around two weeks of non-activity before you’ll start to notice a dip in progress. You’ll find everything you need to get the body you want in our tailored health and fitness calendars – your comprehensive workout guide.

Rest day lunch, anyone?



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Arabella Ogilvie

Arabella Ogilvie

Writer and expert

Arabella has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology from the University of Glasgow where she covered health topics ranging from the physiological effects of exercise and nutrition, to psychology and neuroscience. She has a lifelong interest in sport and fitness, including running, swimming, hockey, and especially rowing. At university, Arabella was a keen rower and competed in the first boat at events such as the prestigious Henley Women’s Regatta, The Scottish Boat Race, and British University Championships, and won Novice Rower of the year in her first year. In her spare time, Arabella loves to train in the gym and practice yoga and meditation. She is passionate about the natural world and will take any opportunity to be outdoors, be it hiking in the Scottish Highlands or conducting scientific research in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. Find out more about Arabella’s experience here.

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