There’s something addictive about exercise, and when you’re in the swing of things you can feel like you need to be pushing yourself hard every day. When you’re at the gym or training for a number of days in the week, the times that you’re off can have you feeling like a bit of a slacker- however they’re incredibly important! For the best results with exercise, rest days are essential. But what exactly should you be doing when you’re not pumping iron in the gym, playing your sport or running around the track?
Do Some Light Activity
It’s agreed by experts that a day or rest doesn’t mean a day of doing nothing. Some light activity will help to keep your muscles flexible and keep you in a good frame of mind for staying active. Some walking, cycling, swimming or stretching exercises are good examples of things you could do on your rest day. The aim is to stay active without pushing yourself to your limits. The trick is to find things you enjoy, then it won’t even feel like exercise. A day out with the family for example will rack up lots of steps but you won’t feel like you’re working out.
Focus on Mental Recovery Too
As well as giving your body a chance to recover, use your rest day to focus on mental wellbeing too. If you’ve been getting up early to hit the gym, or going straight from work and not getting home late- chances are you’re physically as well as mentally exhausted. While it’s important to do some light activity on rest days, in the evening when it’s time to relax try to make this time just about you. Ask your partner for a massage which will ease your muscles and release endorphins. Skip the quick shower and opt to soak in a hot bath which can lower blood pressure and give you a quiet space to clear your head. Practice meditation, or just do something you enjoy. Put on a series on Netflix or load up Final Fantasy XV, whatever it is that helps you to relax and enjoy yourself. When you focus on mental as well as physical rejuvenation, you get yourself into a good frame of mind and will be ready to hit the gym with force when it’s time to workout again.
If you use your rest day to also have a ‘cheat day’ with your healthy eating then that’s great if it works for you. But don’t use it as an excuse to go right off plan, if you decide on what you will be having in advance then it helps you to stay in control and you can enjoy it guilt free. If you’re having your evening meal as something you really enjoy for example, have a healthy breakfast and lunch to ensure your body is getting everything it needs for the day. A superfood smoothie with added greek yogurt and oats for breakfast, with a protein packed lean meat salad for lunch for example will give your body what it needs to help it to heal from the workouts you’ve been doing. Don’t be tempted to throw all of your healthy eating out of the window.