Wait, what? She’s not going to tell me how I should bust my ass?
You’ve got it, dude.
I’m currently in pure REST mode. I sprained my ankle last week while training for a 10 mile race (if you want the lame and gory details, they’re on my blog). I don’t typically rest for this many days in a row (going on 7), but I do take 2-3 days in a normal week to rest, recover, and refuel.
But I don’t sit on my ass (like I am now). Sitting on your ass during all your rest days is a great way to hinder your recreational productivity or training regimen.
I’m not saying you should go balls-to-the-wall every day. In fact, please don’t. I don’t want to scrape you off the nasty gym floor.
What I’m saying is that you should be moving on your rest days, but not at the pace you would on a work day And the movement should be something different, and ideally something that supports your regular workout. Mix it up to give your muscles a break. Do something you really enjoy.
Here are a few of my favorite active-rest-day endeavors.
Hiking (or walking). A tromp through the woods with a friend, be it a 2- or 4-legged one, is a great way to relax. Pack a lunch and find a scenic location to enjoy the outdoors while you’re at it. I plan for a 30 minute hike (or walk) on my rest days, and I try to do it somewhere fun and with a friend that normally doesn’t participate in my daily workout regime.
Dancing. You’ve probably gleaned that I like to bust a move with the best (and worst) of them. Dancing can range from ballroom, to tango, to belly, to car-dancing (yes, apparently that’s a thing). Even if you have to have a little liquid courage in you to do it, dancing is a great rest day activity (just don’t drink so much that you fall flat on your face).
Lifting or strength training. Use your rest days to train some of the muscles that support you during your workouts. I run, so I like to train my hip flexors, glutes, calves, and my core. If your regular workout IS lifting, then ignore this suggestion, and think about another one of these activities.
Playing. Whether it’s a game of Twister, a game of 1-on-1 with your 12-year-old, or a game of bags with your neighbors, getting out and playing is great active rest.
Yoga, tai chi, pilates, or meditation. Meditation may not sound very active, but exercise involves your mind. The more you can connect your mind and body, the better off your workouts will be (case in point: spacing off while running can lead to a sprained ankle). Yoga and pilates strengthen the body and mind, while tai chi and meditation focus more on the mind.
Posing. I’m only half serious here. Don’t go around posing like you’re in a figure competition (or do, and send me photos). Instead, pick a strength-building yoga or pilates pose and work to improve your time holding it.
Plank is a great pose, because it strengthens your whole body — especially your core, which you need for every exercise ever. I’m actually doing a plank series challenge while I’m down for the count regarding running. I got the idea from one of my blogger friends. Every day I’m doing a regular, a right side, and a left side plank to see how long I can hold each. I’m shooting for 5 minutes or more for each, so wish me luck (hint: the world record for planking is more than an hour … oy!).
Pick something that looks fun, or challenging, and see if you can hold the pose for a ridiculously long period of time .
Refueling. I’m guessing everybody’s favorite way to recover is refueling. Because we all like to eat …
Pick some complex carbs and proteins (not processed food) to give your body the best chance at recovery. “Complex carbs” and “protein” sound boring and gross when compared to Cheetohs and Oreos, but there are so many great culinary options you can create from whole foods. In fact, just last weekend I had a patty melt pizza on rye crust — made from all whole and clean ingredients.
Every day is a refuel day. Think about what you’re putting in your body and how it will affect your desired outcome. It’s so much more than calories, fat, sugar, etc. Your body needs nutrients to rebuild and recover from your workouts, so focus on whole foods (like fruits, veggies, nuts, meat, eggs, etc.). The truth is, you can’t expect to maintain a healthy exercise regime if you don’t fuel your body properly.
What’s your favorite way to rest and recover?