There are two types of people in the world: the ones that have a hard time finding the discipline to work out, and the ones that have a hard time finding the discipline to schedule a rest day. The later ones are usually called: workaholics, ambitious, over-achievers, type A personalities. But if they don’t get enough rest they can soon be called: burnt out, over trained, injured. In theory we all know that the real gain comes from enough rest.
If we work out hard, we need to give our muscles and tendons enough time to recover and rebuild. This principle is called super compensation. We destroy our muscles with a hard workout, then we recover and come back stronger. Recovery can happen within various time frames: we recover between intervals, between workouts, between days, weeks and workout cycles. And even though I know the theory of recovery benefits I have a hard time actually getting it. I am usually really disciplined with my workouts, sometimes even twice a day. But I have a hard time scheduling rest days. It feels like a very unproductive thing to do. And yes, I’ve been that burnt out, over trained and injured person before. So here are my top 5 tips on how to proactively and productively getting a full rest day in.
1) Pick the right day for your rest day
Look at your work and life schedule. When are you busy, and when not so much? Most of us will have a lot of free time on the weekends, that we could spend on long bike rides, runs or hikes. It will also be easier to work out these days because you have time. So don’t schedule a restday on the weekend. Are you traveling for the weekend? Your weekly commute forces you to get up at 4am every Monday? Schedule a rest day on those days. They are busy enough. Your favorite workout class is every Wednesday, but your weekly book club is Thursday? Well, you get the idea.
2) Schedule an EASY recovery workout for your rest day
If you have time to spare and want to be proactively doing something for your body, try spending your usual workout time with some easy yoga, stretching or foam rolling. This keeps you busy and makes you feel like you have been productive. This strategy is especially good before a Marathon, where you also have to calm your nerves. But beware: don’t schedule “recovery” runs, swims or bike rides. You might end up working way to hard just because you are not used to going really easy. Same goes for Hot Yoga or Power Yoga.
3) Schedule a massage, hammam or sauna session
All three of them are also great for recovery. They do not feel as proactive as a recovery workout, but you will feel even better afterwards. I promise. And the benefits are actually huge. Getting on of these on a rest day will help to repair your damaged muscles in no time, and also give your mind a quick break.
4) Do the meal prep
Instead of working out for two hours next Monday why not spend the time buying groceries and preparing some healthy food for the week. These two hours in the kitchen you will do your body more good than two hours in the gym.
5) Get some extra sleep
Sleep is an important part of recovery, but usually we do not get enough of it. So why not skip your usual morning session and just sleep a little longer? Or go to bed super early? Schedule it in as extra recovery time and don’t feel bad about it.
6) Clean your house
Yes, we all need time to get our logistics done. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, maw the lawn, shopping for groceries. But even if you have a cleaner and have it covered, this can be a great way to be productive on a rest day. No idea where to start? Try cleaning out your closet first. If you still need some inspiration I recommend Marie Kondo’s book.
7) See family and friends
Don’t forget, we are humans, not machines. We thrive from social interaction. So why not schedule a rest day where you spend time with family and friends? Celebrate a birthday, a wedding, or just a family reunion? Just have a great time and be thankful for the amazing people in your life. This might not seem beneficial for your physical progress, but studies have shown that gratitude will strongly benefit your mental strength.