Rest days are fundamental when it comes to training and fitness, and they really, really shouldn’t be ignored. Too much work can result in over-training and the negative results are monumental in terms of negative results, affecting everything from your exercise to your mood.

Rest days affect everybody differently and different people have different needs when it comes to rest. There's no sure-fire way of maximising your rest and your results, so these guidelines are important.



Do’s

1. Eat right & hydrate

It often goes without saying that eating well and staying hydrated is incredibly important when it comes to any exercise routine. This absolutely does not stop on rest days!

Many people decide that rest days are often more than enough reason to have a cheat day and to eat whatever they have been missing during their intensive exercise, but this can often mean that you aren’t getting the nutrition that is needed to reap the rewards of your hard work. It is essential to get what you are needing as well as anything extra you might decide to treat yourself to. Find the balance!

Hydration is a similar issue. Many of us will be much happier to drop the clean drinking of water or other drinks and get sugary or unhealthy drinks again as a treat, but hydration is always, always a huge factor when it comes to being healthy.

2. Cardio

Man doing cardio training at the gym

If you’re finding yourself at a loss without your routine, you don’t have to avoid the gym completely. Cardio exercises can easily be implemented into your rest days to give you something to do when you’re missing your training, and it doesn’t even have to be at the gym either.

It’s easy to combine something you enjoy with some light exercise to ensure you’re doing the best you possibly can with your body. Going for a leisurely walk or other activities just for fun and giving yourself a little break from your regular routine is a great thing to do.

3. Corrective Exercises

This is one of the harder ways to spend your rest days. Corrective exercises are very difficult to nail the first time, so it’s always best to ask a medical professional to get the most out of the experience.

The general idea is to exercise specific areas of the body where issues are building in order to remain in the best health you can. This can be anything from improving your knees to relieve any damage done accidentally through to things like general wear and tear from repetitive strain injuries. They do require a huge knowledge base to be done correctly though, so think about this one carefully!

If in doubt, you can always just train the abs, as they are extremely resistant and because of their role, they are almost unsusceptible to wear and tear. They can be trained much more frequently than any other muscle group.

4. Relax/Be productive

woman on the sofa with headphones on

Another great use of your rest day is to take some time out for yourself and to do whatever it is that you actually want to do. You don’t always have to be in the gym every day, you can spend some time relaxing, catching up on a show you’ve missed, or spending time with friends and family.

This isn’t necessarily for everyone though! If you have a hard time doing nothing, why not do something different. Be productive, do something you’ve been meaning to do but never have the time, the world is your oyster! Instead of thinking about what to do with your rest days, you can think about what you could be doing with the time.

5. Stretches

The gym can take its toll on everyone from time to time. Depending on your workouts, it is very common to find yourself in a lot of pain due to delayed onset muscle soreness, so there’s another thing you can do to help yourself.

Stretching and other exercises such as yoga and Pilates can be extremely useful for reducing these pains and keeping muscles healthy, as well as improving dexterity and flexibility, and can even be relaxing if you can manage to get in the right frame of mind. Foam rolling is another aspect that we can utilise as a form of self-massage, to help stretch as well as relax muscles and reduce pains or decompress joints and help overall long-term health.

6. Sleep

woman asleep on the sofa

Believe it or not, resting on rest days can actually also be a good idea. Who’d have guessed? So many people are lacking sleep regularly, so maybe we should do something about it.

Sleep can be massively beneficial for the body, both mentally and physically and really shouldn’t be neglected. If you find yourself tired or even just bored, why not take some time out and get those extra hours you’ve been missing? Your body will thank you for it in the end!

Don’ts:

1. HIIT or Strength Training

Chances are if you’re taking a rest day, you’ve been hitting it hard. The point of a rest day is to give your body a break so that it can recover naturally and help itself in the long run.

Doing more exercise is the exact opposite of this. HIIT and strength training is physically draining and often recruit anaerobic movement, simply worsening the situation. Take a day off!

2. Live for the gym

man lifting on dumbbell and on his phone

Getting into a solid routine is a good thing; most of the time. It helps us keep motivated and get the results we really want and helps us keep track of our progress and keep everything in perspective so that we stay in control.

This can change if we aren’t careful though when the exercise becomes too important and the gym becomes a kind of addiction, both physically and mentally. Make sure you keep time for the other side of life and have fun doing whatever else you like doing. Even taking a break to do more research on your exercising or finding new ways to improve your technique is safer than overtraining. The gym will still be there tomorrow, but will your weekend?

3. Overeat

As we mentioned above, overeating can be an absolute nightmare when it comes to rest days. Cheat days can be just a little bit too tempting sometimes, especially when the cravings begin to kick in. We’ve all been there. Cheat days are good for us every now and then and help to remind us that we can still enjoy ourselves, but it's always a good idea to stay healthy where you can.

The hard part, however, can be keeping it in moderation and sticking to the cheat day as just the one day. Sometimes it’s a little too easy for a cheat day to snowball and become a cheat weekend, or even a cheat week, making all the progress that you’ve worked so hard for can be all for nothing. Just think before you eat, that’s all.

4. Get Too Bored!

Man on the sofa channel surfing

Boredom can be an absolute killer. The mind wanders, the stomach rumbles, and the body tires just from doing nothing at all. Like we have discussed earlier, take some time out to do the things you’ve been missing out on!

Try something new, take up a hobby, just don’t sit and think about what you could be doing at the gym or trawling through the cupboards just to fill some time. Stay positive

5. Get too comfortable

Much like the cheat days, the rest days themselves can sometimes get a little too appealing. The time off, the fun things to do, it can get a bit much for some of us.

The most important thing to remember about all of these tips and tricks is to not lose sight of where you’re going, or where you’ve come from. You’re probably making progress, even if just by a little bit at a time, and as soon as you break routine, it's at risk. Keep your positive mindset and reach for your goals, motivation is everything!

Summary

If you think you might need more rest days, then go for it! Here are some symptoms to look out for.

For more information on some of the things we've been talking about, don't forget to check out our guide on what to eat on your rest days either.


man doing lunges

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.