We’re all for staying active, but sometimes you sleep through your 5am alarm and miss that pre-work Pilates class, or want to prioritise brunch with your bestie over boot camp — or there’s no reason at all. As it turns out these aren’t excuses, it’s your body telling you it needs a time-out!
Taking regular breaks between workouts to rest and reset is good for you. Rest days are a critical part of progress, regardless of your fitness level or sport. And skipping them can even lead to overtraining and adrenal fatigue.
Working out creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue and during rest cells (known as fibroblasts) repair it, aiding tissue to heal and grow.
When you exercise, your body also has to break down carbohydrates to fuel your workout. Rest gives your body the chance to replenish these energy stores in preparation for your next workout.
Ever felt so tired or distracted you almost dropped a weight, or couldn’t keep up during a workout class? Feeling rested before you hit the gym is important so that you don’t get injured. When you overexert yourself, you’re also less likely to be focused, or get the most out of your workout.
A performance boost
Foregoing rest may actually stand in the way of progress and your fitness goals. Overtraining can reduce endurance - just ask any elite athlete.
Exercising helps you sleep, but overdoing it, or training at the wrong time of day (we’re looking at you 8pm workouts) can disrupt your sleep pattern. Getting physical increases cortisol and adrenaline — which can be beneficial — but if you continue to exert yourself that burst of energy can have the opposite effect, leading to an overproduction of these hormones, and a poor night’s sleep. Resting, however, can help balance your hormonal state and encourage you to sleep easier.
Rest day workouts to try
Resting doesn’t mean you have to forego all physical activities. Here are some low-key activities to keep your mind and body active — without overdoing it.
If you’re after a rest day workout, a short yoga session is the perfect off-duty activity to keep you moving while allowing your body time to recover. Yoga also naturally promotes calmness as the exercises encourage you to focus on your breathing and be at one with your body.
Head to your local beach or park and stretch out your yoga mat, muscles, and mind simultaneously. Even a quick 10-15 session will help aid muscle recovery.
Light trail hike
Take a short hike or wander through a local national park or walking trail. A picturesque change of scenery could be just what you need to recharge, and being surrounded by nature is also great for raising those serotonin levels. Remember to pack plenty of snacks, water and a solid playlist to keep you motivated.
Is there anything better than diving into the ocean? Put on your favourite Sweat to Swim tank and shorts, take a walk along the coastline, then jump into the ocean. A splash of cold saltwater will energise you in an instant.
Put on your favourite tracks and let loose. Dancing is a great way to move your body while listening to music that naturally uplifts you.
We’re often running at a million miles an hour and we don’t take the time to breathe properly. Consciously tapping into your breath can help improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Find a calm, quiet place to sit. Relax your shoulders and jaw, inhale through your nose slowly, and exhale through your mouth. If you need a guide try this one-minute breathing exercise or look up breathwork classes in your local area. You’ll be amazed how centred you feel in a short amount of time.
Feeling guilty about eyeing off the couch? Don’t. Resting and having some downtime is just as important as a sweat-inducing workout — it’s all about balance. Create a relaxing vibe by lighting a scented candle or some incense and putting on something cosy to set the tone.
How to do a rest day right
Get a solid eight hours of sleep the night before so you wake up well-rested
Expose yourself to morning sun to boost serotonin levels and your general mood
Have a healthy, protein-filled meal to support muscle repair and recovery or add some protein powder to your morning coffee
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your hydration levels high
Create a calm, relaxing Spotify playlist or sign-up to apps like Calm or Insight Timer to set the tone for the day
Prioritising rest days and your well-being is important for so many reasons. Say goodbye to the guilt, be kind to yourself, and lean into the chill factor. Permission to rest — granted!