What Should You Do On Rest Days?

What Should You Do On Rest Days?

How to use your rest days to maximise your results and recovery.

You’ve been grinding at the gym for the past five days and are due a rest. So, you sit back and relax on the couch for the entire day. You’ve worked hard. You deserve it, right? It is important that recovery periods include some rest, but it shouldn’t be a day of inactivity.

As with everything there are differing perspectives, some experts advocate complete rest while others do not. They suggest mild to moderate activity. Still, its important not to eat an entire week’s worth of junk food- that’s where the experts don’t differ- they all recommend eating good quality food and getting enough sleep.

For better results, try active recovery workouts. These are short activities that are different from your normal routine. They are performed at a low or moderate intensity. The approach works because the recovery proceeds quicker during the hours immediately following training as your body works to return to a state of homeostasis. It’s important to remember that poor recovery techniques can destroy your ability to perform at your next training session or race.

Here are some expert opinions on what you should be doing on recovery days:

Tamarr Schroeder, a physiotherapist based in Norwood, Johannesburg, and CrossFit Jozi in Edenvale, says:
“Active recovery is always a great option. Some examples include a light 1-2km row, 1-2km jog or a 30min swim, with some mobilising, stretching and foam rolling. The idea is to ‘rest’, but keep the joints moving. I often tell my patients, especially CrossFit and endurance athletes, that deep tissue sports massage isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity. So spend a rest day keeping worked tissues mobile. This will assist with recovery and help prevent injuries.”

Rob Labuschagne, trainer at The Yard Athletic, and founder of StrongU and
www. foreverathletic.co.za says: 

“Do some foam rolling, a quick mobility circuit and then go for a
3-5km walk. Light movement and fresh air does wonders to your recovery and mental well-being.”

Kent Horner, head coach and founder of www.mytrainingday.com, says: “Sleep is the most important form of recovery. If you can, sleep more on your rest day. You will recover faster and it gives your body the time it needs to repair.”

Sarah Hall, a biokineticist at Wellness in Motion, and a competitive bikini athlete, says: “Accelerate recovery by getting yourself in the pool, or the sauna or steam bath. Attempt an ice bath if you can. In my opinion, through anecdotal evidence with my athletes, and myself rest on your recovery days, but don’t be sedentary. You don’t want your body to stiffen or ‘lock up’, but you do want to allow it to adapt. It’s during this time when your body grows and adapts to training.”

Sean Johnson, a Bowen practitioner based on Fontainebleau, Johannesburg says: 
“In my opinion, while rest from the physical aspects of training is very important, a mental break is vitally important as well. Our bodies
adapt quite well to the physical strain of training, but more often than not we fatigue mentally and emotionally a lot quicker due to the monotony of repetitive training schedules and diets. Even if you choose to have an active rest day, participating in exercise that is different from your normal workout routine will give you the mental break you need, but still keeps you on track with your particular fitness goals.”

Lil Bianchi, strength and conditioning coach, and owner of OTG Athletic says: 
“Focus on using your recovery time to enhance your performance in training by stimulating metabolic recovery pathways without fatiguing your body further. Alternate harder days with easier days in the gym. This ensures you do the work without adding to the cumulative physical stress, while still pumping blood through your tissues to aid muscle recovery. Lighter weights at higher reps that don’t take your breath away often helps to alleviate the soreness from heavy lifting days.”


Original article was written by fitness magazine’s Managing Editor, Pedro Van Gaalen.

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.