If you’ve been faithful to your gym routine for any length of time, you know the importance of scheduling rest days into your training week. But just because you’re taking a day off doesn’t grant you a license to become a Barcalounger blob. Sure, it’s important to have at least one full day off from all sorts of activity every week, but on your other day(s) off, consider doing some active rest.
Active rest might sound like an oxymoron, but this protocol is a great way to recover from a hard workout week while avoiding couch-potato status. The idea is to move your body with gentle activity — easy enough so you don’t break a sweat — for 30 to 60 minutes. This kind of activity will help stretch out tight areas, get some blood flowing to ease soreness and shake out the kinks from your joints. Though it won’t burn too many calories, active rest helps flush out toxins and facilitates muscle repair. It also acts as a cross-training technique, which helps reduce the incidence of overuse injuries such as tennis elbow, tendinitis and shinsplints. As a bonus, it can promote the reduction of stress hormone levels in the body, which in turn boosts fat burning and bolsters immune system response.
Active rest can be any activity you can think of, so long as it’s not too strenuous. Here are some great ideas for your active rest days that you can do solo or with friends and family.
There are many kinds of yoga to choose from, but for active rest days, try a restorative or gentle-flow class that focuses on breathing and easy postures to help relax and oxygenate your muscles and reset your mind for the week to come. No classes near you? Google “YouTube Gentle (vinyasa) Yoga” and hundreds of options pop up that you can do in your living room.
This is a great activity for anyone of any fitness level. If you think walking is boring, find a new area to explore nearby — a park, beach or neighborhood — or sign up for a walking tour of your city. If you’re walking indoors, set your treadmill no faster than 3.0 on 0 percent incline and pop in a Scenic Trex DVD to transport you to a beachside jungle, lush rainforest or the California coastline (scenictrex.com).
Hiking is another great way to change things up and enjoy nature while still moving your bod. Unsure where to start? Check out everytrail.com to find a nearby hike, its length and difficulty rating. Then pack a healthy lunch and take the whole family with you.
We’re not talking wakeboarding or kite surfing here — more like easy kayaking, paddleboarding or slow swimming. Remember, this is a recovery day! The water is also a great place to stretch out because your limbs are more buoyant. After you’re done with your active rest activity, spend another five to 10 minutes stretching tight muscles while in the water.
Set aside your inner Armstrong and opt for a leisurely ride around your neighborhood, local park or boardwalk. Alternately, set your stationary bike on a low resistance and pedal to some slow jams. Think sightseeing rather than Spinning. Check out the Spinning play-lists on iTunes (itunes.apple.com) for some music ideas.