Why Active Rest Is Essential—And How to Get It

You’ll be happy to learn that rest days are an essential part of your fitness journey. That’s right! Get rid of the guilt you have for not hitting the gym seven days a week. But if you think rest days are for laying completely perpendicular on the couch, think again. Taking a recovery day doesn’t always mean doing absolutely nothing. It’s time to start incorporating active rest days into your workout plan!

Why is rest important?

When you don’t give your body time to recover from your workouts, you run the risk of overtraining. Symptoms of overtraining may include extended muscle soreness, a weakened immune system, poor sleep quality, a decrease in performance during workouts, or even worse, injury. Not good!

Incorporating both active and passive rest days will give your body the time it needs to repair itself, recover, and grow. Scheduled rest days also give you permission to take a mental break from your taxing workouts and allow you to reenergize and get pumped for the next training session.

What IS active rest?

Active rest days are meant to be light and easy compared to heart-pumping workouts. They will vary somewhat given your experience level. The active rest day of someone just getting started will look different and actually more intense from someone who crushes their workouts five days week. The goal is to get moving just enough to get your blood pumping and stimulate your body’s recovery process.

Opting for active over passive rest has other benefits, including elevating your mood, increasing energy levels, and helping you stick to your nutritional goals on your active days.

What can I do on active rest days?

Save Netflix binges for another time; you’re fit, active, and full of energy. In other words, keep it moving!

The following ideas will help you take full advantage of your time away from the squat rack:

  • Spend time focusing on dynamic warm-ups, mobility drills, foam rolling, and core strengthening exercises
  • Go for a walk in the park, or by the lake/beach
  • Ask some friends to get active outside of the gym by rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, or bowling
  • Make time to take the dog to the dog park
  • Spend time running around with the kids for quality active time
  • Make a special trip to a trampoline park
  • Play a game of kickball
  • Hit up the local playground
  • Go out dancing for date night or with friends
  • Opt for a lower intensity workout such as swimming, jogging, biking, a bodyweight workout, or hopping on the elliptical
  • Take a restorative yoga class for your muscles and your mind
  • Head to the gym for a light workout where you focus on breathing, form, and being present
  • Schedule a massage for yourself to really help those muscles relax

How long should I “rest”?

Active rest days look different for every gym-goer. For those of you attacking an intense program each day, your active rest day could be light. If you’re new to the #fitfam and your workouts have been light to moderate, you can take a more active approach. Aim for 15 to 60 minutes of activity.

Active rest is essential for everyone!

Choose an activity that keeps you moving, makes you happy, helps you relieve stress, and stops you from counting sets and reps every day. Give yourself permission to step back and enjoy your fitness journey. Your body and mind will thank you!

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