How To Rest
Everyone needs a rest day, no matter what your goals are, but I fear many of us don't really know how to rest effectively. For me, the biggest thing I have to keep in mind is that it is a REST day and not an OFF day. Thinking of rest days like “off” days makes me mentally clock out and consider the day a free-for-all.
I saw a great graphic (see below) recently depicting the results of training hard/eating right during the week but taking time “off” on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and understand that this is not the approach to take if you want to see results.
Remember that every single day— whether it’s a rest day or active day, lifting day or cardio day, light day or heavy day— is part of the journey. Every day is part of the effort you’re putting in. Every day counts. So how you handle a rest day is just as important as how you approach a training session. It may seem pretty obvious what to do on a rest day, but here’s my advice on how to rest, just so we’re clear.
Like I said, it’s a REST day, not an OFF day. Rest your muscles. This might mean taking a bath, or it could mean taking a walk. Or it could mean both! The point is that your muscles are doing less on this day than they typically do.
Consciously taking time to foam roll, stretch and even rub your muscles to get the lactic acid moving is a great idea on rest days. If you’re just itching to be in the gym around that atmosphere but know you need to rest, go in for a solid stretching session. Focus on flexibility and mobility rather than strength. This will put you in a great spot for your next session.
3. Eat up.
Rest days tend to go 1 of 2 ways, nutritionally. Either we feel guilty for not working out so we eat very little and stay extra, extra on point, OR we use rest day as an excuse to “treat” ourselves and splurge on brunch and burgers & fries. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.) Even though you’re not training, it’s still important to eat right and eat well! Don’t starve yourself just because you’re not expending as many calories as usual. If you’re effectively working out during the week, you’re more than entitled to a full day’s worth of meals sans exercise on your rest day. On the other hand, don’t overdo it and take backward steps, unless you like slow progress.
Rest days tend to be rather boring for me because I enjoy going to the gym, seeing my friends there, and zoning out to my music for an hour or so is my release. BUT— my favorite thing about rest days is the chance to regroup: mentally, physically and just schedule-wise. I use the “extra” time I have on rest days to take a look at my schedule and re-organize as necessary. I assess my gym sessions and consider switching things up or keeping them the same. I read a book for 30 minutes, write in my journal, or get ahead on things I need to get done during the week. As much as I genuinely enjoy being in the gym, I love a chance to mentally re-gather myself and tie up loose-ends, so take a second to try this on your rest day, too.