One of the most commonly asked questions that we get from clients is...What should I do on my off day [from the gym]?
“Rest days” are extremely important to the recovery and repair process of your body. They allow for muscle to repair and regrow stronger, they help prevent overuse injuries and prevent the negative consequences of over-training. Rest days can also ward off mental burn out.
It is very rare that we recommend that anyone take a total and complete day off [think full on couch potato status]. This is because we actually get many benefits from incorporating what is called an ACTIVE recovery day into your routine. Re-frame your thinking...It’s not an OFF day. It’s a RECOVERY day.
An active recovery day is engaging in a lower than average intensity bout of movement on your rest day from the gym. For general fitness level and goals, a recovery rest day should include activity that is anywhere from 25-50% of the intensity of your normal workout days. Here’s why:
Mentally: Keep the momentum going! Sometimes a complete day OFF from any form of activity can feel like a total binge day where we allow old habits to creep back in. Being deliberate about doing SOMETHING movement wise, regardless of how light it may be can help keep us feeling like we are still moving toward our goals.
Physically: Helps with muscle healing and even lessens soreness! Movement helps drive blood and nutrients into the muscle.
An effective recovery session should leave you feeling fresher and less sore/stiff. Here are great activities that fit the guidelines of an active recovery day:
A Mobility/Movement Routine OR Yoga
One of our personal favorites is an FRC CARs routine. The purpose is to get as many joints as possible moving through their full range of motion. (Find it on our Youtube Channel here) Yoga can be another great recovery activity, however some yoga classes may actually be very intense so be sure to pick the appropriate level class for the intensity level you are looking for. Yin or Restorative yoga can be less intense options with a greater focus on stretching.
Low Intensity Cardio
One of the best active recovery cardio session is a brisk outdoor walk or moderate/low intensity hike. Get your blood flowing and also enjoy to mood enhancing benefits of fresh air, sunlight and being in nature. There doesn't have to be a specific time but this can be more of a “feel good” effort level. It should not be strenuous. Remember the goal is to just get blood flowing.
Enjoy a Fun Hobby
This can be anything that is not too demanding. Swim in the lake, paddleboard in the ocean, light bike ride, roller blade through the park or tennis with a friend are all great options. Sometimes a strict fitness routine can start to feel less fun. Sprinkling this fun recovery days, away from the gym, can help keep you mentally invested in your workouts.
Often times we may need some additional self-care to help with active recovery days. This can come in the form of more targeted ways to increase blood flow and increase circulation to soft tissue around our muscles and joints. Everyone seems to have their own preferred method but we’ve any of the following methods work well: massage, lengthy foam roll session, chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture/cupping, or contrast immersions in hot and cold tubs (or use of steam room/ sauna with cold shower).
Maintaining longevity in the gym and maintaining an active lifestyle throughout your life does not mean running yourself into the ground every workout. Although we are made to be active on all days of the week, the key is to have a good mix of hard, medium, and light recovery days.