by Allison Welch January 26, 2023 4 min read

You need to train consistently to reach your health and fitness goals, but did you know you also need to prioritize rest and recovery?

Rest days are an important but often overlooked aspect of regular exercise, and when you optimize the ratio of work to rest, you’ll reach your fitness goals faster, feel great and avoid workout burnout.

Here’s how to incorporate rest days into your training schedule and what to focus on to get the most out of each rest day.

What is a rest day?

A rest day is exactly what it sounds like - a day off from training! While it might sound obvious, it’s important you rest on your rest days. This means doing lighter activities, active recovery and things that relax you.

A rest day will give your body and mind the time it needs to consolidate the hard work you’ve been doing. Muscles recover, adapt and become stronger during your rest, not your workout time, and your nervous system has a chance to recover too.

Including appropriate rest in your training program can also help prevent a workout plateau or the fatigue that comes from overtraining.

What to do on a rest day.

Think of rest days as a way to give back to your body. Use this time to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind in whatever way works best for you.

If you’ve been training super hard or you’re feeling fatigued, a day spent watching Netflix or unwinding with a new book might be exactly what you need.

If you’re feeling energized, you can stay active on your rest days with light cardio for an active recovery workout such as swimming or walking.

Yoga is another great way to incorporate mindfulness and movement while promoting recovery, while some foam rolling may help to reduce any muscle stiffness.

Here are some suggestions from the Sweat Trainers to help you get the most out of your next rest day: Kayla’s rest day advice: “Grab a foam roller and do an active recovery session! This will help to reduce muscle soreness and improve your range of motion.” Chontel’s tip: “Use your rest day to do meal prep for the week ahead to ensure you have healthy food that fills you up.” Kelsey’s recommendation: “Practice meditation or mindfulness, spend time with family and friends or take a walk in nature.”

What to eat on a rest day.

The food you eat can help to speed up muscle recovery as your body adapts to your training load. But should you eat differently on your rest days? What you’re eating shouldn’t change significantly between active days and rest days, and you’ll still want to make sure you’re consuming enough protein to support muscle repair, and including complex carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

Eating mindfully and paying attention to your natural hunger cues can help you give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to support muscle repair. Depending on what your health and fitness goals are, how you’re choosing to fuel your body might change slightly from day to day.

Finally, make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is a great way to replenish lost fluids and ensure you’re not dehydrated for your next Sweat session.

What to eat on a rest day.

The food you eat can help to speed up muscle recovery as your body adapts to your training load. But should you eat differently on your rest days? What you’re eating shouldn’t change significantly between active days and rest days, and you’ll still want to make sure you’re consuming enough protein to support muscle repair, and including complex carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

Eating mindfully and paying attention to your natural hunger cues can help you give your body the energy and nutrients it needs to support muscle repair. Depending on what your health and fitness goals are, how you’re choosing to fuel your body might change slightly from day to day.

Finally, make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is a great way to replenish lost fluids and ensure you’re not dehydrated for your next Sweat session.

Training style and intensity.

Rest days are essential for promoting recovery and long-term wellbeing. How frequently you take a rest day will depend on the amount of stress put on your body in each session.

The body responds to cardiovascular training and strength training differently, so keep this in mind when planning your rest days.

When weight training, it’s ideal to have two days of rest after hitting each muscle group. This means if you train on consecutive days, you should ensure you’re hitting a different area of the body — for example, legs on Monday and upper body on Tuesday.

The number of rest days you need each week will also depend on the intensity (or rate of perceived exertion) of the training session.

If you run or do high-intensity cardio workouts, it’s a good idea to rest or do low-intensity sessions like walking between each workout. You may also need more than one day in between workouts, especially when you’re starting out. As your body adapts to the training, you’ll be able to increase the frequency or intensity of your workouts.

Check in with how you feel.

Ultimately, you should listen to your body. If you feel fatigued, sore, unwell, stressed or your workouts are unusually difficult, it may be a sign that you need rest — whether it’s in your program schedule or not!

Look after your body and mind with regular rest days.

When you challenge your body to learn a new exercise, lift a heavier weight or work out at a higher intensity, it’s during rest that your mind and body adapts and improves. This is ultimately how you progress!

Including rest days as part of your training schedule is essential to giving your body the chance to adapt and grow stronger, which will get you closer to achieving your fitness goals.

Take time to recover, hydrate and eat well and you will feel stronger and more motivated to do your next workout! *As always, consult your primary care physician before adding supplements into your diet.




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