If you work out, you’ve probably heard about rest and recovery. Then of course, there’s an active rest day and well, just a rest day. You may be wondering what’s the difference between the two, and how can you use the concept of “rest” to make your workouts more effective.
The major difference between an “active rest day” and a “passive rest day” is the level of activity. Passive rest days are just what they sound like. You might lie around on your couch watching movies, take a nap, or just avoid doing anything strenuous over and above your usual daily activities. An active rest day, or active recovery day, means you engage in exercise, but it’s significantly less intense than your usual workouts. For example, a 2-mile hike vs. your usual 1-hour cross-training session. Or a game of dodgeball with friends vs. your usual 3-mile run.
Make the most of your workouts by making the most of your active rest day! Learn why we need to rest well and how to be active rest day expert!
Discover how to recuperate and use your time between gym sessions to help you reach your fitness goals.
Benefits of Active Rest Days and Recovery
- Prevent injuries. Taking time off reduces the risk of accidents and overuse injuries. You’re giving your body a chance to heal between workouts and replenish its energy. You’re also fighting mental fatigue.
- Reduce muscle soreness. Do your biceps and triceps ache the day after you lift heavy weights? Some studies suggest that active rest can help you build muscles with less discomfort. It may be due to moving around and keeping your blood circulating.
- Make more progress toward your goals. With active rest days, in addition to keeping blood and nutrients circulating, you’re burning calories, so you continue slimming down and toning up. Plus, both passive and active rest days allow your body to repair micro-tears in your muscles that occur while exercising, so you grow stronger.
How to Schedule Active Rest Days
- Follow up tough sessions. Intense workouts will deliver more results if you slow down afterward and changeup your level of activity. Allowing a breather for your muscles, otherwise, those efforts go to waste, and you could actually undermine your fitness.
- Develop a system. Committing to regular active rest days is a sound plan. Maybe you’ll scale back each Tuesday, or you could have floating days that you build into your training schedule. Plan a regular walk with friends on a particular day so you still have a set date/time to look forward to.
- Spot overtraining. If you’re often tired and irritable and you’re experiencing more injuries, it’s probably wise to take some time off by planning a few extra rest days between workouts. Recognize that you might have gotten slower because your body needs a break!
- Listen to your body. How much rest and recovery you need is an individual matter. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after your workouts. Find a balance that allows you to make gains and enjoy yourself.
How to Spend Your Active Rest Days
- Do gentle aerobics. The general rule for an active rest day is to work out at about one half of your usual intensity. Depending on your fitness level, that might mean going for a short run or taking a walk. Biking and swimming are also helpful options.
- Try yoga. Many yoga poses can be restorative. Sign up for a yin yoga class that focuses on static stretching or find an all-levels community class in your neighborhood. Buy a book that will help you create your own routine to do at home or practice along with a video.
- Lift light weights. Lifting heavy weights will build up your muscles as long as you respect your limits. Spend some days lifting half your usual load and concentrate on correcting your form.
- Cross train. Varying your workouts keeps things interesting and helps you to master new skills. When you’re cross training on an active rest day, just be sure to pick an activity that allows you to maintain a moderate pace.
- Have fun. Live it up while you’re recovering. Visit a water park or play hide-and-seek with your kids. Do anything that makes you smile and gets you moving around a little.
Adequate rest and recovery protect you from injuries and help you get the results you want from working out. Don’t view it as a necessary evil! Plan it out and enjoy your downtime, knowing that you’re growing stronger and fitter with each active rest day!
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