You’ve probably heard that rest is the most important part of a routine, or that muscles grow during sleep. While rest is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, the concept of the rest-day is often misinterpreted. You don’t need to spend two days a week locked in your apartment, glued to the couch, to see results. Performing light activity is a great way to activate your muscles and get your blood flowing. In fact, prevailing studies show that active recovery leads to better muscle growth and faster cell repair than passive recovery does. And personally, I find that performing physical activity every day helps me stay on schedule and make healthier food choices.
So, What is a Rest Day?
Rest days exist to help your central nervous system recover and give your muscle tissue time to repair. Rest is especially important after performing heavy compound movements, like squats or deadlifts. But, let’s not confuse rest with laziness. Light activity on a rest day has been shown to increase blood flow and improve the speed and effectiveness of recovery.
The level of intensity of an active recovery session will vary from person to person and depends on your individual fitness level and training style. For example, if you are a marathon runner, a 3km jog might be a great way to get your blood flowing without causing stress to your system. However, if you’re just getting into working out, a 3km jog could be pretty taxing, and you may be better off going for a brisk walk on an off-day, instead.
Here is a list of things that I like to do to stay active on off-days:
You’ve probably seen people around the gym using foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or other trendy items to self-massage their muscles. Like deep-tissue salon therapy, it can be quite painful in the moment, especially if you’re dealing with a serious case of DOMS. In spite of the pain, foam rolling is used by athletes of all levels to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion. I like to spend about 30 seconds on each muscle group, and leave extra time for areas that are particularly sore. You can start by broadly targeting larger areas, with a softer foam roller, and gradually move onto more specific muscle, with a denser tool. If you’re a real masochist, try using a golf ball on the sole of your foot or a lacrosse ball on your glutes.
Go for a Walk
This is an easy one, and it can be done by people of all fitness levels. Walking at a healthy pace is a great way to get your blood flowing and metabolism operating at top-speed. The simple act of getting outside can be a great way to clear your head and relieve stress. If you want to step it up a notch, and you’re lucky enough to live in an area that supports it, then go for a hike. There’s nothing quite like fresh, outdoor air.
Yoga has become very popular over the last few years, and it’s starting to make its way into the weightlifting community. Doing yoga regularly can improve your mobility, range of motion, and mind-muscle connection. Not only is this great for recovery, but it can also help prevent injuries and improve performance in the gym. But, make sure you do your research before you run off and sign up for a class. There are a number of different types of yoga, with varying levels of intensity. Choose something that supports your training schedule and fitness level. Don’t do an ab-blasting Bikram session right before leg day, because you’ll need that core strength.
The benefits of swimming are very well known, and for good reason. The buoyancy that you experience in the water is great for taking pressure off your joints. Again, make sure you consider the intensity of your swim. Treading water for a few minutes could be enough to activate your muscles. If there’s a hot tub nearby, you should hop in and go for a soak there, too. Heat therapy has been shown to benefit muscle recovery.
Whichever method you choose, remember that these activities are designed to help your body repair itself. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly. If your legs are very sore, a hike could be just what you need to shake off those DOMS, but if you feel worse afterwards, then it probably wasn't a good decision.
Obviously, we recommend taking Suppy whey protein to supplement your recovery. It is a complete source of protein, with all of the essential amino acids to support muscle growth and cell repair. Shake up a scoop on your next off-day.