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How to Make the Most of Your Rest Days

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Every athlete has to rest, but many of us hate rest days. To the toughest athletes, a rest day means a day stuck on the couch, doing nothing but feeling our muscles ache and counting down the hours until we can head back into the gym. Surely there is something we can do to keep ourselves fit instead of wasting a day lounging around.

It turns out that there is. Humans evolved to be constantly moving, as we have more endurance than practically any other mammal on Earth. Even a rest day should see some level of activity, and there are other things you can do to get the most out of any rest day. Here are some of those things.

Rest and Sleep

Why are rest days so important? As Runner's World details, rest days matter because any level of exercise sees some level of muscle damage. When your body repairs the muscle damage, the new muscle becomes stronger. But without a rest day, the muscle damage adds up, your body never gets the chance to repair the muscle and improve its strength, and eventually you will be forced to rest from an injury.

So if you are going to rest, you might as well rest. Athletes these days understand the importance of getting proper sleep, as that is when our body undergoes that period of repair and strengthening.

Sleep for at least 8 hours a day on your rest day. Furthermore, try to sleep more throughout the week to give the body more time to recover. It is far more likely in our modern era that you need more sleep instead of less.

Eat and Drink Well

Rest days indicate taking a break from exercise, just like at home senior care can help seniors in recovery. They do not indicate taking a break from your diet. Getting appropriate quantities of carbohydrates, protein, and fat is just as important on your rest day as your workout day, as you want to load up your body with the nutrients it needs as opposed to eating processed foods.

What are the best workout foods? Rather than listing some complicated guide which requires you to look up every food's nutrition profile on Google, I prefer to follow the rainbow approach as detailed by Food Insight. Eat a wide variety of different colored foods, avoid sugar, and drink plenty of water. These simple steps are more than enough to help most athletes recover.

Do Something You Love

Rest days are just as much about repairing your mind as your muscles. Yes, most of us feel good after a workout thanks to that classic runner's high. But overtraining can lead to mental exhaustion culminating in burnout thanks to an influx of the stress hormone cortisone.

Build up your mental strength by spending your day doing something you enjoy, like writing reviews, though make sure it is something physically active as opposed to binging your favorite Netflix series. Some good activities include walking your dog, going for a swim, or even playing a light sport like softball. By taking a chance to rest yourself, you will be in a better position to endure the grind of exercise.

Stretching and Yoga

Yoga is not just for suburban moms anymore, as athletes like LeBron James have practiced the ancient art for years. Yoga is a great activity for athletes because it helps improve mobility and flexibility while posing little risk of injury. And of course, there are the meditational benefits which come with it as well.

Google around to find a yoga studio near you, and check to see what it is like. Above all else, look for a practical studio which focuses on the health benefits of the art instead of a load of spiritualism. If you cannot find a good studio, practice online by looking up yoga videos or just focus on doing regular stretches. Even during a rest day, you can improve your body's physique and help prevent injury by focusing on flexibility instead of strength or endurance.

Understand Rest vs. Recovery

Not all rest days are created equal. Sometimes, your rest day can be spent playing soccer or swimming as long as you do not overexert yourself. But other times, you have to stay home, rest, and focus on recovering as soon as possible.

If you are a beginner exerciser or have been doing a more intense routine, then you have to rest more. Maybe you can go for a light walk or stretch, but stay at home and take care of the rest of your life outside the gym. If your exercise routine is less intense, then you can consider doing some activities on your rest day.

Either way, the most important thing to understand is that rest is not optional. Do not feel like a quitter for taking the day off. By giving your body the time it needs to recover, you will become stronger in the long run.

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Jun 25, 2019 10:15 PM EDT

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