Contents

Don’t change too much.

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While many think they need to tighten their grip on calorie intake come rest day, that’s not really the case. “It’s not necessary to restrict energy intake,” says Stephanie Howe Violett, Ph.D., a running and nutrition coach and the 2014 Western States 100 champion. “That’s when most recovery and adaptation occurs, and proper nutrients are important to facilitate those processes.” Instead, tune into your hunger cues and opt for food quality over quantity.

Space out calories.

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Many people backload during the day, meaning they eat a light breakfast and lunch and then have a big dinner, says Tenforde. But that depletes your energy and makes your body more susceptible to breakdown. A steady supply is best, so if you must go light on your first two meals, balance it with nuts or fruit in between.

Fuel with micros.

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Carbohydrates, protein, fiber—those are the macronutrients you need to fuel a strong recovery. But runners also need micronutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and iron to replenish the body. Eating whole foods—lots of fruits, vegetables, and meat or beans—will help cover your bases. Violett says you should aim for about half of your plate to be full of vegetables, whole grains, and fruit. Then add a serving of high-quality protein and top with fat (better if it’s unsaturated) to make sure you get essential fatty acids that also aid in recovery.

RELATED: Lose the pounds, feel great, and run your fastest with Run to Lose from Runner’s World.

Hydrate.

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Rest days are a great time to prehydrate, as starting a run dehydrated is about as much fun as losing a toenail, says Violett. That doesn’t mean slam a bunch of water at once—just be mindful about your intake (and check your pee color to see if you’re on track).

RELATED: Water Bottles for Runners

Enjoy that beer.

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Violett says it’s NBD to indulge in an IPA, but it doesn’t exactly fuel your recovery. “Alcohol is a poor nutrient value, so it doesn’t do a lot for you,” she explains. Opting for a “recovery” beer after a tough workout? Eat a solid meal first. Going straight for the booze can hurt the body’s ability to restock glycogen stores, and your muscles may not recover as quickly.

Calorie Intake on Rest Days vs Training Days

Do rest days feature in your training routine? When it comes to improving fitness and performance, exercise and calorie intake are a major priority for our clients. Most of us know what we should be doing in the gym and the amount of calories we should be eating on training days, but what about rest days? One of the most common questions we get from clients is:

“Should I eat more on training days vs rest days?”

We understand it makes sense that if you expend less energy in the form of exercise then you would need to take in less energy in the form of food. But that’s not really the case. The notion of balancing “calories in vs calories out” drastically oversimplifies the complexity of human physiology and the metabolic adaptations we can have in response to energy deficits, exercise and different types of food. Not all calories are created equally. So why are rest days so important and should you be eating the same amount of food on rest days as training days?

1. Why Rest Days Are Important

Before we get into how much you should be eating, let’s talk about why rest days are so important in the first place. One of the main reasons rest days are important is because they encourage lean tissue to grow. Contrary to popular belief, muscle isn’t actually built whilst you’re working out. You see, whether you’re doing cardio or weightlifting, physical activity creates a catabolic state in the body as molecules are broken down into smaller units, producing energy in the process. Catabolism provides our bodies with the energy it needs during exercise but it also creates tiny tears in our tissues and muscles. Conversely, when we rest or take part in active recovery, we encourage the body into an anabolic state that promotes protein synthesis and repair.

When we rest, we allow our bodies to use energy to grow new cells and maintain tissue. Increased bone density, muscle growth and therefore strength, are the primary benefits of anabolic reactions that athletes can stand to benefit from during rest. In addition, recovery from central nervous system (CNS) fatigue and the mental intensity of your training can be hugely beneficial to your next workout. So how exactly does this all work? Well the hormone insulin plays a major part in helping our muscles grow. For insulin to do it’s job, you have to make sure you are doing two main things on your rest days. First, you have to make sure that you are actually resting. Obviously light activity is fine, but you definitely shouldn’t be doing any intense workouts on your rest days. The second thing you should be doing is eating.

People think that since they won’t be training and burning as much fuel, they shouldn’t consume the same amount of carbs or calories or else they risk gaining fat. It’s a common belief and sometimes even a recommendation but actually, it’s wrong! Insulin is the most anabolic hormone in the body. It shuts down catabolism and ramps up anabolism. It also activates mTor which triggers muscle growth and increases glucose storage inside the muscles. Muscles being full of glycogen is itself anabolic. As a bonus, a fuller muscle is a stronger muscle.

So how do we get the body to release insulin? We eat! When we eat food, glucose is absorbed from our gut into the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels and prompting the release of insulin. If your goal is maximum muscle growth and strength gains, it’s important to consume plenty of quality carbs and protein during those rest days. If you don’t eat enough on your rest days, you won’t release sufficient insulin for growth and you won’t give your body the nutrition it needs for muscle growth and repair.

2. How Much Should I Eat?

As I mentioned above, rest days allow your body to repair and recover from the previous workout. But they also help prepare your body for the upcoming workout. In order for your body to recover and build muscle, it needs fuel. And it needs a lot of it.

For starters, your body can only synthesize glycogen at 5% an hour, so it takes a good 24 hours to get your muscles ready for your next workout. And that’s just to replace what you lost during your last workout. You need to make sure you are giving your body enough fuel so that you don’t feel exhausted when your next workout day comes.

After all, those muscles you’re building don’t stop eating their own fuel just because you’re resting. In fact, 100 pounds of muscle burns around 500 calories a day. So, if you perpetually skip out on that meal or snack on your rest days, then your lean tissue suffers and you could actually be getting weaker.

At Own Your Eating we like to keep things simple. Of course we analyze each of our client’s weekly activity averages and keep tabs on their overall energy, but we’ve found that the majority of people do best with a consistent amount of fuel throughout the week. Planning for a different set of macros on different days of the week typically adds stress and as we’ve already explained, under-eating on your rest days can actually do more harm than good. If you’re not already eating the same amount of macros on your rest days as your training days then give it a go and see how your body responds!

3. Foods To Eat On Your Rest Days

Now that we know how important it is to eat on our rest days, what exactly should we be eating? Well carbohydrate rich foods fire up insulin and help replace and replenish your glycogen stores. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be filling up on chips and other processed snacks.

Instead, your carbohydrates should come from high quality complex carbohydrates like fruits, beans, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are rich with nutrients and vitamins that your body needs in order to run efficiently. Of course protein is absolutely essential on your rest days as protein provides amino acids that the body needs to repair and build new lean tissue. Lean meats and poultry, wild caught fish and shellfish are a great option for refueling your body. In addition, foods with high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna, are beneficial for soothing a stressed system with their anti-inflammatory properties.

The Training Day vs Resting Day Takeaway

All in all, rest days are extremely important when it comes to building muscle and staying fit. It’s important to remember that eating on rest days is vital as it helps your body recover more efficiently. Maintaining the same balance of macronutrients on training days and rest days has proven to work best for us and our clients.

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8 Ideas for Active Recovery on Your Rest Day

We’re told that our muscles need rest to grow– and for good reason. When we work out intensely, we create tiny tears in the muscles. When we rest and take some down time, our body repairs the tears, allowing our muscles to adapt to the stimulus that caused the tiny tears, making it possible for us to lift heavier weights the next time around. You might be tempted to skip your rest days to work out and push yourself, but taking much-needed time off to let your body rest and regrow properly is important. Skipping rest days could put you at higher risk for injuries, or prevent you from seeing any improvements in your fitness levels.

Most of us tend to spend our rest days passively, sitting around the house. Although passive recovery days spent on the couch watching television are important in their own right, active recovery can improve your health and fitness without sacrificing muscle recovery.

Active recovery can be defined as light physical activity that is less intense than your regular workouts, and can include massage or mobility workouts. It increases circulation of lymph, blood, amino acids, and oxygen throughout your body, allowing it to recover better and faster, without loading or challenging your muscles. Active recovery can also flush the body of the chemical byproducts of working out, such as lactic acid and hydrogen ions, which can damage and fatigue the muscles. Plus, by letting your brain take a break from the usual workouts,
trying out different active recovery exercises can help reduce mental fatigue too.

Here’s a few ways to mix up your workouts while recovering efficiently:

Yoga
Yoga can improve your flexibility, balance, and control, while increasing blood flow to your muscles.

Self-myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release consists of massaging the connective tissues of the body using a foam roller, tennis ball, massage stick, hands, or any other tool. It helps reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness, increase blood flow, and increase flexibility and range of motion.

Hiking
Taking your workout to the great outdoors can brighten your mood, while the uneven terrain can lightly challenge different sets of muscles and improve your glutes, core, and ankle strength.

Cycling
This low-impact exercise can improve circulation to the lower body and improve cardiovascular health without great stress to the joints. Try biking outside, or try a stationary bike indoors and pedal to your favorite music.

Lighter weight-lifting
Avoid exerting yourself by lifting weights at or below 30% of your usual weights, and performing one set less. It’s a great way to correct your lifting form and increase blood flow to the muscles.

Rollerblading
This might be a blast to the past, but rollerblading can work your brain and motor skills, challenge different muscle groups, increase blood flow and circulation, and promote heart health.

Swimming
Working out in the water releases joint tension and pressure while promoting circulation in the muscles, heart, and blood vessels.

Tai chi
Tai chi is based on defensive martial arts movements. Not only does it help improve strength, balance, and control, but its slow, meditative movements can help your mind and body recover from the stress of intense workouts and daily life.

Remember that your active recovery session is supposed to heal your body, not exert it. Don’t overwork yourself, and enjoy!

Active Rest Between Exercises Can Make a BIG Difference

There’s a way to make your workouts more productive without changing the actual exercises, reps, or sets. You will notice an increase in strength and stamina, decrease in joint pain and stiffness, stress relief, and you will feel lighter and younger. To top it off, your workout will not require any extra time. You can receive all these benefits simply through active rest between exercises.

A quick note, I plan on adding a lot more videos in the upcoming months, so you need to get used to my funny facial expressions like above. Unfortunately it’s not possible to control the Youtube thumbnail picture until I become a Youtube “partner”, which may not happen for a while. I have a couple viral video ideas, so we’ll see. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.

What is Active Rest?

Active rest means that during your workout, instead of sitting on a bench to rest, you are doing one of three things: (1) stretching, (2) hydrating, (3) fine tuning form. Active rest is sometimes referred to as active recovery, which is like going for a swim the day after a tough workout. In the context of this article, active rest means you are improving your body and recovering during the workout, not just after.

Active Rest Tip #1: Stretching

This is the main activity I recommend when you are not exercising during a workout. The vast majority of guys have very poor flexibility with tight hamstrings, locked hips, the list goes on. Sure, benching a lot of weight is great, but if you can’t reach down and touch your toes, how will your body respond as you age? The body will become stiffer, tighter, lower back problems start creeping up. It’s definitely not pretty.

Simply by stretching in between your strength training exercises, you can probably squeeze in 10-20 minutes of stretching during your workout. So now you get all the benefits that come along with stretching, but you don’t have to stretch after the workout, which I know for me almost never happens.

A few quick stretching tips:

1) Stretch Targeted Muscles – Try stretching the muscles that you are targeting as you exercise, which will help them recover. If you are doing a set of bench, right after, stretch your chest muscle to help recovery. A stretched muscle can be 10-20% stronger than a tight muscle, and stretching will help decrease soreness the next day.

2) Stretch Tightest Muscles – Most guys have very tight hamstrings and hips. There is some debate as to how much you should stretch, but in my mind, you just can’t stretch your tight muscles enough. Over time, your flexibility will improve dramatically and you will feel younger and more energetic.

3) Relax – As you are stretching, relax and take deep breaths. Your life is busy and hectic enough as it is, so stretching is your time to relax and improve how your body feels. Additionally, this helps your heart rate come down so you can go hard for another set.

Active Rest Tip #2: Hydrating

Most reputable organizations suggest drinking about 1/2 to 1 cup of water per 15-20 minutes of exercise. Of course, this is just a guideline and really depends on how large you are, the intensity of the workout, and how much you water you have lost through perspiration.

Top athletes will weigh themselves before a workout, then after to get a sense of how much water they have to drink to become properly hydrated. The answer is usually A LOT of water.

Ideally you should bring a water bottle with you to the gym. If you aspire to be a muscle head, then you can bring a full gallon jug of water with you to the gym. I personally prefer just walking over to the water fountain, which helps break up the workout a bit.

Active Rest Tip #3: Fine Tuning Form

I’m working on biceps curl form to the right, but generally working on form for a exercises is a good use of your time. Even if you are a seasoned lifter, the chances are likely your form can be improved on most exercises. As you are benching, are you keeping your shoulders back? During squats, are you hinging your hips enough?

Consider watching your exercise form in the mirror to better understand the movement dynamics and feel the muscle working as you are lifting. This heightens your sense of kinesthetic awareness (where your body is in space and time) and of course will help improve muscle recruitment with better form.

Active rest is a simple concept that will help improve your body and optimize your time working out.

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Can I do cardio on rest days?

If you lift weights often and have a goal of building muscle, it may be useful to do cardio on your rest days. Follow our rest day cardio workout for an effective cardio workout that won’t affect your bodybuilding results.

The short and simple answer to this is yes, you can do cardio on rest days. It is a commonly held belief that if you do cardio, you will ‘kill your gains’, meaning you will break down the muscle you have worked so hard to build. However, if you are smart with your training this won’t happen.

If your primary goal is to build a lot of muscle and you don’t mind being bulky, you do not need to do cardio on your rest days. However, if you want to stay as lean as possible, you may well need to incorporate rest day cardio workouts into your weekly routine. If you think you might be at risk of over-training, it is important to take a complete rest day so that your body can recover properly.

Should I do cardio on rest day?

The question of ‘should’ I do cardio on rest days is quite different, and this depends entirely on your goals. If you are a keen bodybuilder or powerlifter, cardio may be a scary concept to you. You don’t want to break down any of your precious muscle and you just want to lift as much as possible. However, if you find you are getting out of breath walking up the stairs, your cardiovascular system could be suffering, and it’s important to stay as healthy as possible, no matter what competition you have coming up.

In this instance, you probably should be doing at least a 30-minute LISS cardio session on your rest days from lifting. You can keep your heart rate fairly low, therefore minimising the amount of muscle you will break down, and it could help you stay healthier.

Rest Day Cardio Workout

Follow this cardio workout to achieve optimum results and to supplement your lifting schedule.

Warm Up

As with all training sessions, it’s important to warm up properly, even if it is only a low intensity workout.

Holding a wall or bar for support, swing your left leg in front and behind you 10 times, then repeat on the right leg.

Next, swing each leg from side to side 10 times. This will help to warm up your hips and groin, areas that can easily get injured if they’re tight.

Next, perform 10 calf raises to warm up your ankles and 10 torso twists to warm up your core. You’re ready to go!

Main Set

On a treadmill, start by walking for 10 minutes at a 1% gradient at 5km/h.

Next, increase the gradient to 5% and increase your walking speed to 6km/h for 10 minutes.

Next, decrease the speed back to 5km/h and increase the gradient to the treadmill’s max, this is usually 15% on a standard treadmill. Walk like this for 5 minutes.

Finally, decrease the gradient back to 1% and increase the speed to 6km/h and walk it off for a final 5 minutes.

You have now completed a good 30-minute cardio session which was low impact and yet would still have worked your cardiovascular system well.

Workout Recovery: How To Make The Most Out Of Your Rest Days

For serious lifters, rest days can be the absolute worst. Rather than enjoying the day off, we spend the free hours in torture, just imagining what we could do if we could get our hands on some weight. When that mindset takes over, rest days go out the window. We’re in the gym hour after hour, day after day in order to feed our inner iron demon.

As epic and alpha as this mindset is, it doesn’t exactly make gains any easier to come by. In fact, going balls-out every single day can be severely detrimental. A lack of proper recovery and conditioning can lead to plateaus. Packing heavy weight on a dysfunctional movement can (and probably will) lead to injury. Your iron addiction can also affect your friends and family: Who wants to spend time with someone who is constantly stressed out about getting back into the gym?

Your iron addiction can also affect your friends and family: Who wants to spend time with someone who constantly stresses out about getting back into the gym?

So what’s a meathead to do when the will to lift is all-consuming? The best medicine I like to prescribe is sessions of what I call “Triple C: Crush Correctives and Conditioning.” Triple C is a method you can implement on your rest days to promote recovery, correct joint imbalances and dysfunction, increase aerobic capacity, and still feel like you’re getting work done. It’s the perfect off-day treat.

Triple C: The Why

As much as it might pain you to hear this, I’m going to tell you anyway: Your body needs more than just heavy weights to build muscle. Your body also needs more than barbells and dumbbells to be healthy and function optimally. Unless you’re taking a day or two off from lifting, your body probably isn’t working as well as it could be.

That’s why the strength and conditioning world places a lot of emphasis on recovery, corrective exercises, and proper conditioning. And that’s why I think you should take the time to work on all three concepts during your off days.

Recovery

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As the saying goes, “It is not how hard you train, but how well you recover.” I agree completely. If you don’t recover well, you won’t experience the strength, power, or endurance adaptations you’re in the gym for. Without adequate recovery, your musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and immune system become compromised, which puts you at a greater risk for injury, illness, weak lifts, and, frankly, a piss-poor attitude. Your body’s hormonal response to the deterioration of these systems is often a state of sympathetic arousal—your “fight or flight” response—which floods your body with high levels of catabolic hormones like cortisol. None of these things are good for growth.

In allowing and promoting recovery, you will experience specific adaptation to imposed demands, which is called the SAID principle. As the body compensates for the stresses of training, it will adapt by growing stronger, gaining power, and increasing its work capacity. Without recovery time, though, your body won’t adapt and you’ll be left smashing your head against the wall in frustration.

That’s why I think it’s hyper important to take a break from lifting at least twice per week. You can still get into the gym—I’ll show you what those off days should look like—but you need to allow your body to recover from the stress of moving heavy weight.

Corrective Exercise

One of the things we’ll be working on during our recovery days is corrective exercise. This is important because most of us start working out, training, or bodybuilding without a thought about our joint dysfunctions or imbalances. We hit the iron hard and heavy, unconscious of how our body’s immobility may negatively affect our lifts and our health. What makes matters worse is what experts like Gray Cook, Brett Jones, and others have made careers out of correcting: performance built on top of dysfunction will inevitably result in injury and plateaus.

Like most concepts concerning training and performance enhancement, corrective exercise often becomes more complicated than it should be. Yes, we need to identify our dysfunctions and address them: If you’ve been doing squats without ever addressing your tight Achilles tendon, tight hips, and locked thoracic spine, you’re probably wondering why your knees hurt so bad and why you can’t get past 225. But, you don’t need to have a degree in biomechanics to perform corrective exercises.

For most people, correcting dysfunction can be done by pre- and post-workout dynamic stretching, light bar work, and foam rolling.

For most people, correcting dysfunction can be done by pre- and post-workout dynamic stretching, light bar work, and foam rolling. For example, instead of starting your squat day with a quad stretch or two, mobilize your hips. Or, if you’re sitting in front of the television or have some extra time to kill, try one of Kelly Starett’s daily mobility workouts.

Your muscles must work in proper synergistic fashion to obtain, maintain, and enhance performance. If you have a hitch (or five) in your giddy-up, there’s no way you’ll be able to do clean movements. Improper movements done over and over with escalating weight only lead to disaster. Corrective exercise can absolutely change the way your body performs and adapts to your workout program.

Conditioning

Along with corrective exercise, we’ll also be working on our conditioning. I know, I know: You’re no conditioning newb. You’ve been doing high-intensity interval training like a champ.

While interval training has a ton of research backing its efficacy, it’s not the best choice for a recovery day because it places such a high demand on the body. Moreover, interval training is actually more effective when the person doing it has already acquired an aerobic conditioning base.

Your ability level in all exercise will increase with improved conditioning.

Instead of hitting HIIT every day, we’ll dedicate a day or two to acquiring and utilizing aerobic conditioning. So, we’ll be spending more time on the treadmill, but the work will be much less intense. The steady-state conditioning protocol will help you build a solid base for conditioning so your body can recover faster and you can focus longer.

Triple C: The What And The How

The way we’re going to work on our conditioning and correctives is by using our off days to perform a circuit. This circuit will be built on one intense, compound movement interspersed with a lower-level corrective.

I have found the best exercises to use for the compound movements are variations of strongman lifts like carries, sled pushes and pulls, battling ropes, etc. These movements require the body to work as a total unit, but do not demand a high eccentric load. This spares your musculoskeletal system while promoting blood flow and nutrient transport.

The best exercises to use for the compound movements are variations of strongman lifts like carries, sled pushes and pulls, battling ropes, etc.

I’ve chosen corrective exercises that should help address a few common movement dysfunctions typically seen in an athletic/active population.

Here’s a basic template:

Choose one compound movement and perform that movement for a set amount of time, like 60-90 seconds. You’ll follow that compound movement with a corrective exercise for a set number of repetitions. You will repeat these two movements for a set duration like 20-30 minutes, or a set number of rounds (3-5).

Don’t smoke yourself out too early by trying to move as quickly as you can. Try to maintain the same pace throughout the workout. The goal for these sessions is to work toward aerobic capacity. Believe me, after 20-30 minutes you are going to feel finished.

Implement these Triple C workouts into your split 1-2 times per week.

Triple C Workouts

Correct Your Core

Without proper core function, all else is compromised because the pelvis becomes misaligned and the spine deviates from neutral. Here are some good ways to make your core more stable.

Correct Your Core 1 1 set, 10 reps (per leg)+ 6 more exercises

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Get Your Glutes

Without the glutes working properly, hip function and stability is all out of whack. When your hips are off-kilter, your body will compensate by moving in whatever pattern is easiest, which is usually incorrect. These incorrect patterns often cause low back pain, a strained hamstring or groin, and less force production to the ground. Here’s how to strengthen those weaknesses.

Glute Bridge

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Save Your Shoulders

Many athletes and active individuals have “long neck syndrome” because the shoulder girdle is depressed and downwardly rotated. This dropped position affects proper movement of the scapula and glenohumeral (shoulder) joint, placing irregular stresses on the shoulder and elbow. This usually causes instability, impingement, rotator cuff weakness or tears, labral issues, and elbow pain. The following is designed to help achieve proper positioning and movement patterns of shoulder girdle and joint.

farmer’s walk

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Should I do Cardio on Rest Days? How to Best Utilize Rest Day

To the most dedicated lifters, rest days can be torture. When you are determined to become the leanest and meanest version of yourself, resting and doing nothing seems like a waste of time… You are itching to squeeze a little bit of cardio on rest days, especially when you want to lose that extra belly fat.

Yet we all know how important rest days are in building muscle. This begs the question, what should you do in your rest day?

Some people claim it is completely fine to do some cardio, as long as your rest days are not nestled in between intense leg-days.

I’ve also heard people say that the best thing to do on your off days is to just rest completely and let your body recover. Or maybe do something to help with recovery such as stretching, foam rolling, or mobility work.

So which one is superior?

The short answer is: it depends. Really, there is no single universal answer to what you should do on rest days. Let me explain why.

Why you are probably better off doing nothing

You have to challenge yourself with your workouts to change yourself. Remember, progression requires more work in the same or less time first and foremost–this translates to higher workout difficulty and intensity. Yet the harder you workout, the more important recovery time is in your quest of building muscle.

Trainees often lift weights 3-4 times a week and do their long cardio on rest days. While this is admirable, there is a high degree of risk involved.

Reason 1: Working out damn near everyday leaves many people in a state of never really feeling rested. Their minds and bodies have a perpetual ache and this limits their effort and motivation.

On the off days, going for a long jog will only slow your recovery. Many joggers have a tightness in their legs that lingers during the week. This will also beat up your joints with the constant pounding of your feet against the ground.

All exercise forces some system to recover. The central nervous system, which acts as the command center that directs muscle throughout your body, can get exhausted from too much exercise. So even if your muscles seem ready to go, other systems may break down if you train too often. Those whom get too little sleep often fail to improve, as their central nervous system operates poorly even if their muscles feel fine. Too much exercise affects you similarly.

Reason 2: Doing cardio on rest days is generally unnecessary to build muscle and/or lose fat.

If your primary goal is to build muscle, then there is no need for doing any cardio on your off days. Similarly, if you want to lose fat but you’re creating your required caloric deficit through diet alone, then again there is no need for doing any cardio on your off days.

In both of these scenarios, the only thing you truly need to do on your rest days is… rest. Cardio isn’t needed at all and you can avoid it completely. That doesn’t mean you MUST avoid it, it just means that these are two common examples of people who CAN avoid it and still reach their goals just fine.

We have said time and time again that you can’t outrun a bad diet. In the same vein, when you have your diet in check, there is no need to do cardio when you are better off resting.

If either of these examples describe you and you have no other reason or preference for doing cardio, then your answer is pretty clear. Don’t do any.

When you should consider cardio on rest days

Reason 1: You are not able to create caloric deficit through diet alone.

Let’s say you’re trying to lose fat and you aren’t able to create your required deficit through diet alone. Meaning, you flat out need to do cardio on your off days in order for that deficit to exist. In this case, a true need for doing cardio has now presented itself. While you can’t outrun a bad diet, getting in a bit of cardio to burn extra calories is certainly one way to create caloric deficit.

Or, maybe you CAN create your deficit through diet alone, but you just don’t want to. You’d prefer to use cardio anyway (in conjunction with your diet) to help create that deficit. For instance, your maintenance calories is 2000 kcal. You want to lose weight at a rate of 1 pound per week, which means your daily calories should be 1500 kcal. While you can achieve this by straight up limiting yourself to eating 1500 kcal, you may also eat 1750 kcal and burn roughly 250 kcal through cardio.

Reason 2: You have other goals in mind (cardiovascular, conditioning), OR you just enjoy doing it

You can also consider cardio on rest days if you have another goal in mind. For instance, you want to improve your cardiovascular health, you feel like you have not had enough activity throughout the day, or you want to maintain or improve conditioning as an athlete. In these cases, doing cardio certainly contributes towards your goal.

Another reason to do cardio on rest days is if you simply enjoy the activity. Pickup sports is certainly a ton of fun, and who cares whether it’s your “rest day” or not? Just go out there and have fun.

Conclusion

  • If you have some legit need that requires cardio OR a personal preference for doing cardio, then some can be done on your off days.
  • If you feel like your day is too sedentary, consider going for a brief walk to fulfill your need for daily activity. If you truly need to jog, keep it easy and for no longer than 20 minutes. Pay attention to your body and avoid overdoing it.
  • If you neither want nor need to do cardio on rest days to achieve your goals, then you can just use those days to rest and recover with no form of training being done.

Does this sound like you?

You work out as hard as you can five or six days a week, making sure to include all the good stuff—intervals, squats, pull ups, push ups, and other good-for-you whole body exercises.

You make sure and walk or bike when you can, and if you don’t live in a city, you make a special effort to walk your dog or go for a stroll in the outdoors at least a couple of times a week.

Basically, you’re pretty active.

But what do you do on your off days?

Why You Shouldn’t Work Out Every Day

As tempting as it may be for those of us who enjoy being active to train every day of the week, it’s extremely important that you take at least one day off of strenuous training each week.

Why?

Because when you’re training hard—making your muscles scream and sweat pour down your forehead—you’re making tiny tears in your muscles. This is a good thing, because once those tears heal, you’ll be stronger and fitter than you were before.

But that’s the key: your muscles need to rest and repair.

Without it, not only are you putting yourself at risk for injury, but you’ll also be less likely to make progress and even start going backwards with your training before too long.

Rest Vs. Active Rest

No, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you should be sitting on the couch eating potato chips all day long. This, as you might imagine, won’t do you much good.

Instead, an active rest day is meant to be a light or easy day where you’re still moving, but not at the intensity level you normally move.

According to theathletesedge.com, active rest:

“Involves performing light exercises (often swimming or cycling) that stimulate the recovery process without imposing undue stress on the injured body part.”

Taking an active rest day will quicken your recovery, making you feel stronger and faster when you’re back in workout-mode—as long as you don’t overdo it.

Plus, it’ll help you feel less sore and stiff after an extra tough workout day.

What Exactly is an Active Rest Day?

There are many ways you can spend your active rest days, but here are a few suggestions:

    • Go for an easy to moderate hike with your friends or family
    • Take an easy bike ride
    • Go for an easy swim
    • Do some light stretching and foam rolling (highly recommended on rest days)
    • Take a walk
    • Play with your dog/kids
    • Do some sort of fun sport or activity (just don’t play too hard or it won’t count)

Surf, paddleboard, boogie board, throw a frisbee — just play.

Basically, get moving—but not too much.

What do you do on your active rest days?

Top 7 Active Recovery Workout Ideas

Does “Active Recovery” seem paradoxical to you?

Recovery traditionally implies taking periods of time off from exercise, while activity is just the opposite. Fitness misinformation has generally promoted the idea that activity and recovery are mutually exclusive.

Fitness adages such as, “muscles grow at rest,” or “everyone should take one or two off days,” each week have promoted the idea that regular abstinence from exercise every week is necessary.

On one hand these sayings have helped many recognize the importance of rest and recovery – concepts that over zealous exercisers take for granted.

Yet who is to say that we shouldn’t exercise every day. Trainees can yield benefits from daily exercise: the secret lies behind choosing the right dose of exercise on your “off days.” For those that have respect for governing the dose of exercise, daily exercise is not only possible but can be beneficial. Here, active recovery comes into the equation.

What IS Active Recovery?

Active recovery could be defined as an easier workout compared to your normal routine. Typically this workout would be done on off day from training. Generally an active recovery workout is less intense and has less volume. For example, a trainee worried about body composition goals could do active recovery by taking a brisk walk on an off day.

When defining active recovery, context comes into play. To a marathon runner, jogging at a slow pace on an off day will likely have little impact on their ability to maintain intense workouts on their scheduled training days; in fact, it ultimately may help his fitness goals.

Yet to an unfit person just starting exercise, anything beyond walking for a couple minutes might be a tough workout. The stress added by doing too much to soon might outpace the body’s ability to adapt to exercise. Thus it is important to consider a persons current fitness level when considering what is appropriate for active recovery.

As a general rule, exercise qualifies as active recovery if you feel better after exercising compared to before you started.

Is Active Recovery Beneficial?

Active recovery, opposed to passive recovery (which means complete rest from exercise), may have several distinct advantages. Some believe that active recovery workouts help prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery.

Some believe active recovery is idealized, and claim that less intense exercise simply does not add to training stress. This camp argues that light workouts do not stimulate an added benefit to recovery; they simply are easy enough that they do not stop the body from recovering as it would.

Regardless of the mechanism many have seen benefits to including active recovery in their fitness plans. For some, the psychological benefits of active recovery are apparent. Anecdotally, many people feel better when they exercise daily. Movement has the capability to elevate mood among other positive attributes.

A huge point to consider is that some people find it easier to adhere to their diets on days they are active.

Lastly, it is important to note that daily movement provides the opportunity to burn a few extra calories, thus potentially aiding in losing fat.

7 Active Recovery Workout Ideas

There are a few forms of active recovery that are highly convenient and match well with most peoples fitness programs.

The following carry a low risk of injury and agree with most trainees:

  1. Self -Myofascial release (SMR) – Foam rolling is one form of SMR: the objective is to use implements such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other specialty items (the stick, theracane) etc. in an effort to “massage your muscles.” Although the exact mechanisms behind SMR are unclear, consistent foam rolling may improve range of motion, and decrease an over active muscles tone. Foam rolling has allowed thousands of athletes to train at high levels and avoid stiffness that comes with heavy training.

    On your off day, try passing over all major muscle groups with a foam roller. Aim for 30 seconds on each large muscle group, avoiding joints and bony areas. Focus a little extra time on problem areas and pin point troublesome areas by using a lacrosse ball. Monitor your pressure; remember, the goal is to feel better after foam rolling.

  2. Walking – a great thing to do for active recovery. Not only can it burn calories, but also being outside can increase your feelings of well-being. The amount of walking you do on off days should be based on your current fitness level, and your training schedule.
  3. Lighter Weight Lifting – Performing an exercise that made you particularly sore, but using a much lighter weight may be restorative. As a guide, use a weight at or below 30 percent of your usual weight, and perform one set shy of failure.
  4. Hiking – like walking, it can burn significant calories. Once again it must be tailored towards your current fitness level. If you feel worse after the hike then when you started it probably has done more harm than good as far as active recovery sake.
  5. Swimming – particularly low stress due to the weightlessness. You can have a great swimming workout engaging the muscular and cardiovascular system without added pressure on your joints. Take into consideration current fitness level.
  6. Yoga – mobility work can be a form of active recovery that can be done every day. Typically each joint in the body is taken through a safe range of motion. Yoga is an example of mobility work that some people use as active recovery. It can be beneficial if you appreciate your current fitness level and learn from a good instructor.
  7. Cycling – like the other forms of aerobic exercise can be a great active recovery workout, as long as you match the intensity to your current fitness levels.

If You Are Doing Some Active Recovery, Be Smart

One of the biggest problems related to active recovery is that people assume that more exercise will allow them to lose more fat. Whether trainees choose to use active recovery workouts or take full days off, understand that as long as you are on a sensible training program, your eating habits will make a much bigger difference in how you look then a couple extra exercise sessions.

Don’t sell yourself short and over train on days that you should be using active recovery/resting, doing so is a quick way to burn out and ultimately lose steam towards your goals.

Let us know how it goes if you try out one or more of these recovery workout ideas!

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What to Do on Rest and Recovery Days

There are as many different types of runners as there are people who run. But one misconception that many runners hold in common is a work ethic that too often precludes rest. Some runners have to be held down in order to get the rest the body requires. Sooner or later that will come by way of injury or overtraining syndrome. For those runners, understanding that rest and recovery does not mean doing nothing, can break through the mile-aholic’s misconceptions and change training habits for the better.

For starters, we need to differentiate between rest and recovery days and light workout days. They are two different things. Rest and recovery days are just that. They are days primarily designed to rest and recover. Healthy runners need rest maybe once per week, or even just once or twice a month. Obviously injuries, illness, aging, staleness, increases in distance or intensity, and overtraining can create demands for more rest.

More: What Is Overtraining?

Although rest is needed, it is still important to remain active on those days. The body, just like the mind, needs stimulation every day. Even after a grueling marathon many people find it’s a good idea to move around, maybe take a walk, as early as the day after to avoid stiffening up. Even people who suffer heart attacks are encouraged to get out of bed and move around as soon as possible. On rest and recovery days it is important to avoid doing the worst thing you can do for your body… nothing.

Examples of rest and recovery activities are walking, static stretch exercises (after a warm up and loosening up period), dynamic stretching, swimming, water running, and riding a bike. Keep in mind that increasing respiration and heart rate to a level just slightly above normal and challenging your range of motion are generally good things to do almost any time. Rest is a variable to apply in response to the feedback your body gives—more, or less, but always some.

Light workout days are days in which you are actually working out. The difference is that your activities are lighter, less demanding and generally performed at a lower level of intensity or the activities are executed at a high level of intensity for a much shorter period of time. Light workout days are just as important as heavy workout days. They allow development to take place without breaking yourself down and acquiring overuse injuries, experiencing training plateaus, and developing a generally stale, flat, bored attitude that can come from doing the same thing day after day.

More: How to Break Through a Training Rut

In short, the light days make the heavy days possible. They should enhance and compliment your more intense workouts. They can and should be equally enjoyable. If your workouts include heavy days and light days in proper sequence, you should not need as many rest and recovery days.

An important guideline for light workout days is variety. Providing a change in the workloads to shock the system is what is important. When changing the emphasis on workouts from heavy to light workout days, there are a number of things that can be accomplished. Some training objectives that are good to consider on light workout days are flexibility, developing range of motion, improving running form, strength training, hill running, and speed interval training.

If you can, schedule the same amount of time to train on light days as heavy days. A good idea is to spend less time on the track on light days and spend the balance of your training time with strength training. Strength training can improve running times right away. Of course there are many other benefits from strength training such as injury prevention, improved bone density, and increased range of motion that research has shown to help people well into their nineties.

“Steve, what am I supposed to do on days when I’m not training?”

It’s a great question and one we receive quite frequently here at Nerd Fitness.

With our coaching clients, not only do we create workout schedules for them, we also help them utilize “off days” with active recovery.

Have your Nerd Fitness Coach create a complete workout routine, including active recovery! Learn more here:

Today, we’ll share with you the exact same lessons (click to jump to that section):

  • Is it good to work out every day? (Why you need rest days)
  • What should I do on gym rest days? (Active Recovery)
  • Rest Day Workout 1: Mobility
  • Rest Day Workout 2: Fun Activities
  • Rest Day Workout 3: Intervals, Sprints, and Walking
  • Rest Day Workout 4: Yoga
  • Rest Day Workout 5: Foam Roller
  • Making the most of your days off (3 Rest Day Best Practices)

Is It Good to Work out Every Day? (Why You Need Rest Days)

We advise our coaching clients to train 3 days per week with full-body strength training routines.

This would include lots of compound movements like squats, push-ups, overhead presses, and deadlifts.

These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, resulting in an efficient, functional, strategy for strength building and weight loss.

Here’s the important science for today’s lesson: your muscles are actually broken down during your workout.

When challenged enough, they tear during the exercise and only start to grow back during the 24-48 hours after training.

That’s why it doesn’t benefit us to train the same muscles every day; we don’t want to destroy them without giving them a chance to grow back stronger.

If you follow our advice and do full-body strength training workouts 2-3 times a week, the question “How many days a week should I rest?” can be answered with “around 4 or 5 days without heavy lifting.”

So, does this give you free rein to binge-watch your favorite show on “days off from the gym?”

While I’m not going to tell you to delete your Netflix account (the horror), I do want to talk about making the most of your time away from the gym.

What Should I Do on Gym Rest Days? (Active Recovery)

The biggest problem most people have with off days is that they become cheat days!

Because they’re not training, they’re not thinking about being fit and it’s much easier to slack off, eat poorly, and lose momentum.

This is bad news bears.

Remember, exercise is only 10-20% of the weight loss equation: how we eat and rest is the other 80-90%!

Personally, I know I am far less likely to eat poorly when I’m doing some active recovery than when I’m not doing anything deliberately.

So plan your off days!

They’re not “off days,” they’re “recovery days,” and they serve a vital role in building an antifragile kickass body capable of fighting crime (or roughhousing with your kids in the backyard).

Whether it’s scheduling one of the Rest Day Workouts below at the same time you normally train every day, or deliberately adding a morning mobility/stretching routine to your day, doing SOMETHING every day is a great way to remind ourselves “I am changing my life and I exercise daily.”

Which leads us to the idea of “active recovery.”

Active recovery is any gentle movement designed to help your muscles heal after training.

It’s a subject we discuss in our guide on DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

When you exercise, you increase blood flow to your muscles. By moving your body, you’re actually speeding up your recovery.

The trick is to be active enough to increase blood flow, but gentle enough that you allow the muscles to heal.

Our Rest Day Workouts below will walk that fine line.

On days when I’m not training, I try to block off a similar amount of time to work on myself in some way to maintain momentum, and I encourage you to do the same if you lose momentum when taking a day off.

It could be flexibility training, mobility training, meal prep, and more. I’ll cover these below! Whatever it is, do SOMETHING every day, even if it’s for just five minutes, to remind yourself that you are making progress towards your new life.

Need help building a weekly workout schedule, including rest days? I have two options for you.

The first is to get your hands dirty and check out our guide “How To Build Your Own Workout Routine.” It’ll walk you through everything you need to design a day-to-day exercise plan.

Alternatively, we can do all of the heavy lifting for you (well, not ALL the heavy lifting) – we’ll create a specific routine so all you have to do is log into your NF Coaching App each morning and do the workout your coach prescribed!

Never wonder what to do next. Learn how our coaching app can tell you exactly what to do every day!

Rest Day Workout 1: Mobility

We’ve all felt that soreness the day after (or two days after) strength training – our muscles have been broken down and are incredibly tight from all of the heavy lifting.

For that reason, one of the best things you can do on an off day is to work on your flexibility and mobility. After all, what good is strength if we can’t move our body properly to utilize it! Dynamic stretching and mobility work helps prepare our body for the rigors of strength training and keeps us injury free!

Regardless of whether or not you have a training day scheduled, start each morning with a mobility warm-up: a series of dynamic movements that gets your body activated and wakes up your muscles, joints, and tendons. If you live in an apartment or are just getting started, feel free to leave out the jumping jacks:

This gives us a chance every morning to check in with our bodies and reminds us mentally “I am leveling up physically, might as well eat right today too.”

Here’s another favorite mobility routine from my friend (and coach) Anthony Mychal. It says it’s a warm-up for tricking, but it’s quite helpful for those of us mere mortals:

If you spend all day at a desk, doing some basic mobility movements throughout the day can keep your hips loose and keep you thinking positively. Here’s an article on how to dominate posture at your desk job.

Rest Day Workout 2: Fun Activities

We are genetically designed to move, not sit on our asses for 60+ hours a week. Not only that, but we are genetically designed to have fun doing so too!

Which means we can spend time on our off days working on our happiness AND staying active at the same time.

This fun activity can mean something different for everybody:

  • Go for a bike ride with your kids
  • Go for a run around your neighborhood
  • Play kickball in a city league (I play on Thursdays!)
  • Play softball
  • Swim
  • Go for a walk with your significant other
  • Go rock climbing
  • Learn martial arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Capoeira or Kung Fu
  • Take a dance class
  • Try Live Action Role-Playing (LARP!)
  • Play on a playground
  • Roll down a hill and run back up it

Check out our guide “40 Fun Exercises! Exercise Without Realizing It” for even more ideas!

I honestly don’t care WHAT you do, as long as it’s something you truly enjoy doing – it should put a smile on your face and gets your heart pumping.

Exercise does not need to be exhausting or miserable. If you haven’t found an activity you enjoy yet, you haven’t tried enough new things.

The point is to get outside, remember it’s a damn good day to be alive, and that we are built to move.

Helping clients discover exercise they love is one of the key components of our Online Coaching Program. Whether it’s learning parkour, hiking in a nearby forest, or heading to the gym to grab a barbell, we help clients discover their passion so working out becomes enjoyable.

Our coaching program makes getting healthy fun. Seriously! Learn how we can help you on your journey.

Rest Day Workout 3: Intervals, Sprints, and Walking

“But Steve, I have this big party coming up and I really am trying to lose as much weight as possible.”

Okay okay, I hear you – if that’s the case, then 90% of the battle is going to be with your diet. You should focus your energy on healthy eating in order to lose weight. But there are SOME things you can do on your off days that can help you burn more calories:

1) Interval Training – In interval training, you’ll be varying your running pace. This means you may switch between jogging and walking, or walking and sprinting (there are few different methods of interval training). This training style can help speed up your metabolism for the hours after you finish.

2) Sprinting – If you like the idea of burning extra calories and building explosive power and speed, check out our article on becoming the Flash. Find a hill, sprint up it, walk down, and repeat the process for 10-20 minutes. No need to overthink it!

3) Long walks – Walking is a low-impact activity that burns extra calories and doesn’t overly tax your body. What a “long walk” will be is different for everybody based on their level of fitness, but walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

If you want to take a more active recovery day, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Destroying ourselves for 6+ days a week can really wear us down, causing long term problems if we’re not careful.

Rest Day Workout 4: Yoga

You might not realize it, but yoga is the perfect complement to strength training:

Strength training makes us stronger, but it can tighten up our muscles and make us sore.

Yoga, on the other hand, lengthens our muscles and tendons, aids in their recovery, and helps our body develop better mobility and flexibility.

It’s the perfect way to create a strong AND mobile body, ready for anything and everything we throw at it.

It’s kind of like turning your body into a swiss-army knife: prepared to be strong, flexible enough to avoid injury, and truly antifragile.

Now, if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, it can certainly be intimidating, especially if you’re a ones-and-zeros programmer wary of the practice’s more spiritual aspects.

That was my concern years ago before I got started with it; I had to muster up 20 seconds of courage to attend my first yoga class, and I’m so glad I did.

Here’s how to get started with Yoga!

  • Nearly any commercial gym you join will have yoga classes.
  • Most yoga studios have classes throughout the day.
  • Follow a plethora of videos online if you want to get started at home.

In fact, here’s a beginner routine you can follow from Nerd Fitness right now:

If you like how we do things around here and that video piqued your interest, consider checking out our full-length course, Nerd Fitness Yoga:

  • 6 full 30-min workout routines you can follow along to:
  • Download or stream the routines anytime, anywhere, on any device.
  • Mini-mobility sessions to help you deal with a sore back, tight shoulders, poor posture, etc.

We’re super proud of Nerd Fitness Yoga, and I’d love for you to check it out! It comes with a 60-day money back guarantee!

Need help with any of the poses? Check out 21 Yoga Poses for Beginners for guidance on all positions.

Rest Day Workout 5: Foam Roller

You’ll often hear using a foam roller as “self-myofascial release.”

You may be asking, “myofawhatnow?”

Don’t stress, because “fascia” is just the connective tissue covering muscle.

Just know that “self-myofascial release” means giving yourself a tissue massage.

The important thing for today’s lesson: a rolling massage has been shown to help alleviate muscle soreness. Which means it’s a perfect inclusion for active recovery.

Here’s some simple rolling exercises you can try today, courtesy of NF Coach Matt:

Yes, that is in fact a T-Rex. Yes, it was 100% Matt’s idea.

If you want even more information, including recommendations on which type of roller to purchase, check out our guide “How to Use a Foam Roller.”

Making the Most of Your Days Off (3 Rest Day Best Practices)

No matter what you end up doing on your rest day, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Rest Day Best Practice #1: Meal Prep

As we know, a healthy body is made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

It’s important to stay diligent with healthy nutrition even on days when you’re not hitting the gym.

One of the best ways to do that is to use one of your non-training days to prepare your meals for the week! NF Coach Staci Ardison does all of her meal prep for the week on Sundays, and looks at it like an activity that is furthering her fitness journey.

Interested?

Staci walks you through everything you need to start cooking for the week in our Guide to Meal Planning and Prep. Plus, here’s my exact recipe for batch cooking chicken:

Rest Day Best Practice #2: Engage Your Brain

I like to use one of my off days to break a mental sweat too!

On Tuesdays, I take fiddle lessons, which is a mental workout so taxing that I can’t wait to get back to deadlifts!

Learn a language, build a table out of wood, or go play chess with a friend.

Anything that forces your mind beyond its comfort zone engages your brain. A great way to spend your time away from the gym.

Rest Day Best Practice #3: Have Fun!

Whether it’s playing a video game, getting caught up on a movie or TV show, or reading a book, it’s important for us to do the nerdy or fun things that make us who we are.

As the Rules of the Rebellion state: fitness can become part of what we do, but not at the expense of who we are!

I’m currently playing through Batman: Arkham Knight, and as I collect the Riddler Trophies, I think to myself: “I am rebuilding muscle like Batman.”

If you live for playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, make room for it on your calendar.

Just like it’s important to schedule health and fitness, it’s important to schedule fun.

This guide has provided you with all the tools you need to begin an active recovery practice and to make the most of your rest days.

If you’re looking to go a bit further, I have three options for you…

1) If you want step-by-step guidance creating a workout schedule, getting stronger, and even eating better, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

Our coaching program changes lives. Learn more here!

2) Good at following instructions and want a blueprint to follow? Check out our self-paced online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy.

The Academy has 20+ workouts for both bodyweight or weight training, a benchmark test to determine your starting workout, HD demonstrations of every movement, boss battles, meal plans, a questing system, and supportive community.

Join the NF Academy! One payment, lifetime access.

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so.

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Get your Nerd Fitness Starter Kit

  • The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
  • Full guide to the most effective diet and why it works.
  • Complete and track your first workout today, no gym required.

Alright, your turn: How do you stay on target even on days when you’re not “training?”

I’d love to hear from you – do you take the day off completely? Do you challenge yourself in a different way? Do you try to do something every day to keep the momentum up, or do you actually take days off?

Leave it in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Another good rest day activity? Take a nap!

Your body does quite a lot of its healing during sleep. Get some proper shut-eye.

Photo sources: sleepyhead, A good Sunday to you, resting cat, Rain doesn’t stop a photographer, soccer player, Run, foam roller, back to vacation,

Active Recovery Workout Ideas

*Here’s a great friend of mine, Andre Crews, crushing some steady state cardio. Look at that smile!

What is Active Recovery?

An active recovery workout is a workout that has a planned reduction in intensity (level of difficulty) and periods of less volume than usual, often between 30 and 50 percent less. The purpose of this workout is to increase blood flow and help to restore proper movement patterns and muscle function (often hindered from muscle soreness, stiffness, etc.) It is important to note that the active recovery training workout should NOT increase a lifter’s fatigue, so the perceived effort and overall demands should be kept low.

Active Recovery vs. Rest Day

The first thing you must learn, which is often difficult for ambitious lifters, is that an active recovery day is not the same as a rest day. An active recovery workout is one that is a planned session with the purpose of movement and recovery, without adding additional fatigue.

A rest day involves no planned workout session, however can include light stretching and/or physical activity in daily life, such as a light walk or time outdoors (with the exception of a tough, strenuous hike, which then may count as an active recovery workout or perhaps even a full-blown workout).

3 Active Recovery Training Workouts

Below are three (3) active recovery training workouts you can do to help increase blood flow, instill range of movement of muscles, tissues, and joints, and set yourself up for a solid week of hard workouts. I find it best to do at least one active recovery workout per week, assuming you train at least 4 days per week. I also recommend that you take at least one rest day per week regardless of fitness level or goal.

Steady State Cardio and Flexibility Session (45-60 minutes)

The goal of this session is to increase blood flow and help restore movement for the week ahead. I recommend you perform a light, cardiovascular exercise where the heart rate can be sustained at between 50 and 70 percent of your resting heart rate max. Note, that the exercise (incline walking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing, etc.) should be one that is low impact and something you do on a regular basis. For example, if you are not a swimmer, yet decide to swim for active recovery purposes, you will actually add high amounts of fatigue to the triceps, back, and legs due to the new stimulus on your body.

Mike’s Muscle + Movement Flow Session (30-40 minutes)

This video (see below) is a great way to incorporate stretching, mobility training, and some functional movement into an active recovery day (or post workout session). This is my rendition of yoga/pilates/stretching, and can be done after workouts or at home, with teammates or by yourself. If you are to do this after a workout session, just go into the movement video workout. If not however, follow the instructions below.

Pro Cheer Workout Recovery: 6 Activities to Do on Active Rest Days

So you already have a solid workout plan for your pro cheer prep. You jog five days a week, lift weights, and do HIIT sessions. But what about your off days? Do you spend them passively or do you engage in some light activity? Today’s blog post is about active recovery — what it means, why it matters, and six ideas to get you started.

What is an ACTIVE RECOVERY DAY?

When we hear of the words “rest day,” we imagine spending the entire day on the couch watching television. A rest day can involve a light exercise — which is why you call it an “active recovery day.” People who want to be really strategic about their fitness will opt for active recovery days especially if their muscles feel sore BUT they’re not in pain.

The benefits of having active recovery days

To be able to recover from your workouts, you don’t have to be completely inactive. One advantage of low impact activities on rest days is that they help your body clear out lactic acid faster (responsible for muscle fatigue and soreness). Another benefit of active rest days is that they give you the opportunity to focus on proper form. Lastly, you won’t have to begin your workout week feeling stiff.

6 active recovery day ideas

1. Self-myofascial release

Use a foam roller to relieve tension around your muscles. Research demonstrates that foal rolling increases your flexibility and range of motion. Athletes themselves use foam rollers as part of maintaining their performance.

2. Go swimming

Swimming in the beach or pool is a low-stress workout because it doesn’t involve any weight. The best part is that you get to enjoy it and still burn calories. Swimming lets your body stretch in ways you don’t get to do on land.

3. Walk around the neighborhood

A 20-minute walk around the neighborhood burns about 97 calories. Swing your arms naturally to maximize your range of motion. If it’s a work day, make an effort to take the stairs or park away from the office building.

4. Stretching

Including stretching exercises into your active recovery day relaxes the muscles and keeps them balanced. True, not many women like stretching because it doesn’t give you the same thrill that a regular workout session will. But keep in mind that stretching exercises help you move better on active days.

Related: 6 Full-Body Stretching Exercises

5. Engage in light resistance training

Yes, you can still lift weights but make sure that they’re 30% lighter. Perform fewer reps. The goal here isn’t to push, but to maintain proper form and technique. At the same time, you get blood flowing to your muscles.

6. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese traditional form of exercise. The movements you perform are slow and meditative. Tai Chi improves your balance and most of all, it helps you recover from a stressful week. Studies show that people who engage in Tai Chi feel less stiffness and pain.

Wrapping Up

Take advantage of your rest days for muscle recovery without being in a vegetative state. But remember to use active rest periods to heal your body and not to strain it. Give one or two of the methods above a try. Stay in motion and reach your pro cheer fitness goals faster!

More posts about pro cheer fitness…

  • Great Benefits to Working out in the Morning
  • 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Fitness Routine
  • How to Create a Pro Cheer Workout Space at Home
  • 10 Tips for a Super Efficient Pro Cheer Prep Workout

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