Most fitness folk absolutely HATE rest days, because well, fitness is awesome and a daily part of our lives. However, they are most certainly necessary if you want to recover properly and train to your utmost potential. You can still have some fun on your rest day though and be productive. Here are some ideas of what to do when you’re out of the gym:
✓ Stretching, Foam Rolling, and Mobility
Doing some mobility work on your rest day (or just doing it whenever) helps tremendously when it comes to having better and smoother lifts while squatting, benching, or deadlifting. Doing some mobility work on your rest day can really help your performance when you’re actually training.
Stretching is also great at any time of the day other than right before your workout. Studies have shown that stretching before a workout does not increase performance, and can even sap strength and make you weaker. So how should you warm up for working out? By actually warming up with the exercise that you’ll be doing. Makes sense right? By doing this, you’ll prime your CNS (central nervous system) for handling the heavier weights that you’ll be using, and your joints will thank you.
✓ Cardio (Or Let Life Be Your Cardio)
Cardio is completely fine on your rest day, just don’t overdo it. HIIT cardio or simply walking are both great. Personally, one of my favorite exercises for cardio is jumping rope. Another good thing I like to advocate is “letting life be your cardio.” Go mow the lawn, or walk around the grocery store, or even take your dog for a walk or do some work in the yard. Maybe make the decision to walk somewhere instead of driving. All of these activities count as cardio and are much more enjoyable.
✓ Actually Resting (and Having fun)
This one is completely up to you, but some people just like to sit back and maybe watch some TV or a movie. It’s your rest day, so go ahead and rest if you’d like to and if you feel like you need it. Also, a lot of times our schedules during the week are so hectic, your rest day is a perfect opportunity to spend some time with your friends or family. It’s okay to go out and have a few drinks, just don’t overdo it you party animal.
✓ Working on Form & Knowledge
Working on your form on your off day is also a good idea, especially for your main compound lifts. You can do some unweighted squats if you’d like, or lay down on a bench and focus on scapula retraction for the bench press. Another good idea is to video yourself to make sure what you think you’re doing is what you’re actually doing. Just 10 minutes of form work per day can transfer big time to when you actually hit the gym.
You can also use your rest day to improve your knowledge. This could be your knowledge of supplements, so you have a better understanding of what creatine or BCAAs do for you, about dosage, and when to take them. You could use the time to write yourself a new workout plan or discover new exercises that you haven’t tried and want to incorporate into your routine. You can really use the time to learn something new and improve your training as a result.
✓ Do Some Yoga
Yoga is great for mobility, stretching, relaxing your muscles, and just getting calm overall. It’s amazing for active recovery, and you can even go take a class with some friends and enjoy yourself. A lot of yoga places also offer massages, so you can relax your muscles with that too.
✓ Focus On Nutrition
Your rest day is a good time to focus on your nutrition, and make healthy meals for the day or even meal prep for the week ahead. You know what they say, those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Another quick point I want to make here is to actually eat foods that you enjoy, which makes the diet so much easier and sustainable. This will really help you to keep on track. Of course, I don’t mean eating foods high in sugar because they taste nice, but take time to prepare foods your find more enjoyable, as you have time to prepare them properly.
Take Home Message
It may feel like when you’re not going to the gym like you’re being unproductive, but rest days are very important if you are a regular gym goer. There is such thing as overtraining if you don’t give your body some time off to recover. This can lead to injury. Hopefully the points listed above show you that you don’t have to be in the gym to be productive. You can make valuable use of your rest days and use them to benefit, as opposed to hinder, your training.