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The 11 Do’s and Don’ts for Rest Days

Avatar for Joshua Pearson - EQF Level 5: 'Fitness & Weight Loss', 'Sports & Exercise Nutrition'

By Joshua Pearson - EQF Level 5: 'Fitness & Weight Loss', 'Sports & Exercise Nutrition'

on rest days what should i do

Rest days are fundamental when it comes to training and fitness, and they 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.

  • Eat right & hydrate
  • Corrective Exercises
  • Relax/Be Productive
  • HIIT or strength training
  • Live for the gym
  • Get too bored
  • Get too comfortable

1. Eat right & hydrate

It often goes without saying that eating well and staying hydrated are 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.

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 for, 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.

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 recruits 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 when the exercise becomes too important and the gym becomes a kind of physical and mental addiction. 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?

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. As 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, and the fun things to do 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!

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.

on rest days what should i do

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.

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10 Signs You Really Should Take a Rest Day

By Jenny McCoy, C.P.T.

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As someone who loves working out for both the physical and mental health benefits, I often struggle to pencil in rest days. Exercise makes me feel great , so why would I purposefully not work out? Turns out, many others feel the same way, especially amid the chaos that is our new pandemic world .

“A lot of people are turning to fitness as their sort of escape from reality right now,” Kellen Scantlebury , D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Fit Club NY , tells SELF. With so much in life feeling chaotic and overwhelming these days, exercise can be a needed distraction, a grounding stress-reliever, a controllable piece of reality—and sometimes, all of the above.

But when it comes to working out, more definitely doesn’t equal better . It may seem counterintuitive, but exercising a ton without taking rest days can actually do your body—and your mind—more harm than good. Not taking a rest day when you need it, especially if you are overtraining , can increase your risk of overuse injury, decrease your performance, crush your motivation, and suck the joy out of an activity you once loved, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

In short, rest days are incredibly important. And you should build them into your exercise routine no matter what your fitness goals are, certified exercise physiologist DeAnne Davis Brooks , Ed.D, associate professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and USATF Level 1-track coach, tells SELF.

Rest days aren’t “extra,” she explains. “You don’t only rest when you’re injured; you don’t only rest when you’re tired.” Instead, rest should be a nonnegotiable part of your routine—especially if you want to keep working out for the long haul.

Here’s everything you need to know about rest days—what they should entail, how to tell you need one, and how to determine whether you’re ready to start sweating again.

What exactly is a rest day?

A rest day is simply a day off from your normal exercise routine. These can be planned or unplanned.

When planning rest days, there’s no set rule for how often you should take them—the answer really depends on your current fitness level, goals, training plan, and biological factors. In general, however, more recovery time is necessary after higher-intensity activities, says Brooks. A HIIT fanatic, for instance, will probably need to take rest days more often than someone who walks for exercise. ACE offers the rest-day guideline of at least one rest day every 7 to 10 days of exercise, but since it’s so individualized, it’s really important to listen to your body and your brain.

Also important: While a rest day is a pause from your normal routine, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do anything active during it. A rest day could involve just sitting on the couch and chilling, or it could include active recovery activities , like stretching, foam rolling, yoga, walking, or easy biking. Gently moving around can help facilitate blood flow and thus boost your body’s natural post-workout healing process, Shelby Baez , Ph.D., ATC, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at Michigan State University, tells SELF. She also recommends practicing mindfulness meditation for mental recovery.

Remember that your rest day is your rest day. So as long as you’re allowing your body and mind a break from your usual strenuous exercise routine, you can define it however you want.

How can you tell you need to take a rest day?

Even if you schedule out your rest days, life sometimes gets in the way. Maybe you ended up working out through your scheduled rest day, or maybe you did take one, but end up feeling a little not-so-right during your workout a few days later. That’s why getting in tune with your physical and mental well-being is super important in helping you decide when it’s time to skip a workout. Here, experts share 10 telltale physical and mental signs that you should probably pause your workouts and just chill for a change.

It’s normal to sometimes feel sore after a workout , especially if said workout was particularly intense or included movements your body isn’t used to. The soreness that comes after an unusually tough or new workout is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS typically peaks about 48 hours after your workout, though it can persist longer, explains Brooks. If your soreness continues for more than a week, however, or if you experience significant soreness, but can’t ID any changes to your workout routine that might have caused it—then it’s worth asking yourself if you need more rest, says Brooks.

Also, if at any point your soreness is a 7 out of 10 or higher on a 1–10 scale, you should definitely take the day off—or at least rest the body part(s) that is aching, advises Scantlebury. For example, if your arms are totally smoked, but you’re itching to do something and your legs feel fine, you could try a lower-body workout. But you may also just want to take the day off entirely—and that’s totally okay too.

You may think working out just challenges your body, but it also taxes your brain. Exercise demands focus, discipline, and mental fortitude, which is why your brain, just like your body, needs time to recover afterward. So if your mind is begging for a break, you should probably listen.

“I think one of the clearest signs [you need a rest day] is when you really don’t want to [exercise],” Angie Fifer, Ph.D., certified mental performance consultant with the Association for Applied Sports Psychology, and owner of Breakthrough Performance Consulting in Pittsburgh, tells SELF. This aversion she’s describing is more than an ugh-this-workout-might-be-tough mentality, she explains. Instead, it’s severe to the degree that “you’re really having to push and shove yourself” to work out. If this level of mental roadblock occurs multiple days in a row, please take some R&R, she says.

Also, if you’re typically someone who gets excited to break a sweat and you find that drive has evaporated, that’s probably another indicator you’ve gone overboard and would benefit from some time off, Cristina Domínguez , Psy.D., New York–based psychologist who counsels clients on sports performance, tells SELF. A mini reprieve may be just what you need to reignite your spark.

Some days, a workout just doesn’t appeal, even if you know it’ll make you feel better. But more often than not, once you start moving your body, your mindset will shift and you’ll be able to mentally embrace the workout, says Fifer.  That’s not always the case, though, and if you make it through the warm-up and find you’re still not connecting to the workout, you should probably just call it quits, says Fifer.  The same rule applies physically: If you feel soreness or pain even after you’ve warmed up your muscles, you should scale it back, says Baez. Reminder: There’s nothing to gain from pushing through a workout feeling crappy, and a lot to risk—including injury and burnout.

If you experience muscle cramps while doing relatively gentle activities (say, your calf seizes as you walk up the stairs), or if you wake up at night with a howl-inducing charley horse, that may be a sign that your body is excessively fatigued, explains Scantlebury. Dehydration or muscle overuse can cause that muscle cramping, says the Mayo Clinic —two potential side effects of intense exercising. So if random muscle cramps are ambushing your workout, do your body a solid and take a day (or more) off for recovery.

It should go without saying that if you’re ill or injured, you absolutely need to rest (and of course seek medical care, if needed). This is especially important if you have COVID-19 (even if you’re asymptomatic or feel like you’re recovering) or have been in close, prolonged contact with anyone who has it and could have caught it yourself. Why? The novel coronavirus can trigger a huge inflammatory response in your body, and exercising when you have it can make it worse, as SELF reported. Plus, continuing to exercise with COVID-19—even if you don’t have symptoms—can worsen inflammation of the heart wall, a condition known as myocarditis. In turn, myocarditis can potentially lead to permanent scarring on your heart, which can trigger arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). Here’s how to know when it’s safe to get back to exercise after having COVID-19 .

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You should also back off from exercising if any part of your workout causes significant pain, says Scantlebury. Say, for example, you feel a sharp stabbing sensation in your knee during a round of squats, or your lower back complains as you perform push-ups. Don’t forge ahead through this discomfort; instead, call it quits, and if appropriate, consult a fitness or medical professional before you get back out there.

We all have days where we just feel “off,” whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. If that malaise permeates your workout—maybe you feel like you’re dragging yourself on a run, or you’re unable to focus during virtual yoga, or you just don’t have the emotional capacity to complete your usual weight lifting routine—that’s probably a sign you need to rest, says Baez.

Before you even start a workout, it can help to take a minute to check in with yourself, she adds. Ask: How am I feeling today? What is my body telling me? Use those answers to determine what is really best for you. “When your body tells you it needs to rest, it's probably time to rest,” says Baez.

Say your usual running pace is 10 minutes per mile, but today, you’re struggling to manage a 12-minute pace. Or maybe you typically blow through a set of 10 burpees with ease, but all of a sudden, you can barely manage five. Any notable drop in your baseline set of skills is a sign that your body probably needs to chill.

“The best comparison is yourself,” says Baez. Also, if you can’t maintain proper form while completing a move or skill, then you should either decrease the intensity, or stop altogether, adds Brooks. Continuing to forge ahead with poor form will only increase your risk of injury.

If you feel compelled to exercise—and become angry or anxious if you can’t—you may be dealing with compulsive exercise, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Other signs and symptoms include continuing to exercise despite injury or other health conditions that make it difficult, exercising that interferes with other important activities, hiding your exercise from others, or using exercise as a way to try to negate calories you eat. If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, or are concerned about your relationship with exercise, seeking out a qualified mental health professional (many of whom are available for virtual sessions now) can be an important step.

But even if your commitment to fitness doesn’t go as far, a strict workout routine could be causing you to neglect other important areas of your life—like spending quality (safely distanced) time with friends and family, says Fifer. If that’s you, consider taking a day off (or two) as a way to reintroduce balance into your life. Reminder: Fitness is an important component of overall health—but definitely not the only component.

Your resting heart rate (RHR) should be pretty stable, though it may decrease as a result of regular aerobic training, says Brooks. An increased RHR, on the other hand, may be a sign your body is stressed (which can happen for a variety of reasons, including too much exercise). So if you track your RHR on your smart watch (or other device) and notice that it’s 5+ bpm higher than usual over the course of a week, that may be a sign you’re not getting enough rest between workouts. In that case, take it easy until your RHR drops back to normal, advises Brooks. (And if it doesn’t drop with rest, or you suspect excessive exercise was not causing your elevated RHR, definitely check in with your doctor.)

Extreme thirst, dark-colored pee, and low blood pressure are all signs of dehydration , says Brooks. If you’re dehydrated, definitely don’t start or continue a workout since sweating will only worsen the issue, and could potentially lead to more serious complications in severe cases, like kidney failure and even hypovolemic shock, according to the Mayo Clinic . Instead, call it a day and resume your exercise routine when—and only when—you’ve had a chance to get your fluid levels back to normal levels.

How to know when you’re ready to work out again

Sometimes, all you need is just one rest day. Other times, you may need a couple days off—or more. So how can you determine how much rest is enough? The answer is simple: Listen to your body and your brain. Once you feel like you’ve gotten back to your baseline level of “normal”—that means any severe soreness, pain, or injury has dissipated; you’re feeling hydrated and healthy; and you actually want to work out again—by all means, go for it, says Brooks.

As you resume your typical fitness habits, just remember that rest days should be an integral part of your routine, not a once-in-a-while occurrence. “Rest is undervalued,” says Brooks. “We really need to get the word out that it is an important and useful and helpful component to training.”

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on rest days what should i do

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

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Active Recovery Workouts: What to Do on Your Rest Day

A man doing active recovery stretches outside

Workout recovery is important for getting the most out of your fitness programming and an essential component of a personal training education. I spend a decent amount of time talking with my clients about proper recovery techniques to avoid burnout and injury due to over-training.

At the same time, my clients are eager to learn what they can do on their off-days to supplement the hard work that they're putting in at the gym. They want to know: What should I do on my off-days? How much activity is too much? Should I do something active on all of my off-days?

If you've ever had some of these questions yourself, active recovery might be the solution that you've been looking for.

This article will help you, a personal trainer or fitness enthusiast, understand more about what active recovery is, the science behind it, how to incorporate it into your routine, and some example between-session active recovery workouts that you can try.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Active Recovery
  • Workout Examples
  • Three Ways to Approach Active Recovery
  • Active Recovery Schedule
  • Methods of Recovery
  • The Goal of Recovery

What is active recovery?

We all know how our bodies feel the day after a challenging workout. It’s common for exercisers to experience one or more of the following after a tough workout session: delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), muscle damage (small microscopic tears that can occur when a muscle is stressed beyond what it’s used to), inflammation, and a feeling of physical fatigue (Dupuy et al. 2018).

When you’re super sore after a workout, it might be tempting to lay down and binge-watch your favorite show to avoid any unnecessary muscle contractions. However, research suggests that doing absolutely nothing might not be the best recovery technique.

Active recovery workout examples

30-minute cardio-based active recovery workout:

You can merely perform this workout by walking out in nature or using a piece of cardio equipment like a bike, rowing machine, elliptical, or even swimming. Five minutes : Warm-up, start slow, and find your pace.

Twenty minutes : Maintain a steady pace that gets your heart rate up but still allows you to hold an ongoing conversation. If you start to lose your breath, slow down slightly.

5 minutes : Cool-down, slow down your pace gradually until it’s time to stop.

Active recovery workout with resistance bands

Because most of the population spends extended time in the seated position, I like to recommend active recovery programs that stretch overactive muscle groups and activate underactive muscle groups. Here’s a simple workout that you can try:

Foam roll : Calves, hip flexors, and pecs.

active-recovery-foam-rolling

Slowly roll over the entire area until you find the tender spot. On a pain scale of 1-10, this tender spot should be at around a 7- painful but tolerable.

foam-roll-shoulders-pecs

Hold still on this spot for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. If you feel a heartbeat or numbness or tingling, reposition the foam roller until the sensation disappears.

hip-flexor-active-recovery

Stretch : Calves, hip flexors, and pecs.

shoulder-stretch-active-recovery

Ease into each stretch position until you feel a comfortable stretch. This shouldn’t be painful. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

kneeling-psoas-stretch

Circuit : Banded bridge, lateral band walk, external rotation, reverse fly.

Perform 12-15 reps of each exercise in a row for 1-3 sets, depending on how much time you have. Perform each exercise at a 4-2-1 tempo (see pictures for description).

Banded bridge :

Place the band just above the knees. Lay down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat, your arms extended at your side and your palms up. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your toes pointed straight ahead and your heels about 6" from your rear end.

Keep your feet flat and press through your heels as you squeeze the glutes to raise your hips off the mat. Keep your knees in line with your hips (don't let the band pull your knees in!) and squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the bridge. Your knees, hips, and shoulders should be in a straight line at the top of your bridge. Hold at the top for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position (in about 4 seconds). When your glutes touch the mat, go right back up into the bridge.

floor-bridge

Lateral band walk:

Place the mini-band just above your knees (or lower for more of a challenge) and stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your toes pointed straight ahead. Keep your knees bent so that you're in an athletic stance (almost a squat) as you sidestep in one direction with slow and controlled steps.

Keep your core tight so that your upper body does not sway and pick up your feet as you step (no dragging feet!). The goal is to keep your feet at least hip-width apart the entire time to maintain resistance in the band. Take 10-15 steps one way, then 10-15 steps back the other direction.

lateral-band-walk

External rotation:

Anchor a resistance band to a pole, banister, or in a door (if you have the attachment). Stand tall and tuck your shoulder blades into your back pocket. Pin the elbow of your working arm to your side (it helps to place a small, rolled-up towel underneath your elbow) and pull the band out to your side without flexing your wrist.

Hold that position for 2 seconds, and then slowly return to the start position (taking about 4 seconds to do so). You should feel this in the back of the shoulder. If you feel it in the front of the shoulder, check your alignment and maybe try moving closer to the anchor and try again.

external-rotation

Reverse fly:

Hold the band in front of you with your hands shoulder-width apart. The band will stretch as you open your arms out to a "T" position. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and keep your shoulders down. Hold the “T” position for 2 seconds while you squeeze your upper-back muscles and then slowly return to the starting position (taking about 4 seconds to do so). You can finish the workout by repeating the static stretches you did at the beginning if you'd like!

kneeling-scapular-retraction

Three Ways to Approach Active recovery:

1.Between exercise sets. Example: Cycling at a low intensity between lifting sets or a light jog between a set of sprints.

2. Immediately following a tough exercise session (aka the cool-down).

3. Between exercise days. Example: Performing light cardio or doing a low-intensity movement session like yoga.

Between exercise sets:

Not only does active recovery help you achieve physiological homeostasis, but research also suggests that active recovery is superior to passive recovery when it comes to how well you can perform during your workout. The High Altitude Exercise Physiology Program research team from Western State Colorado University conducted a study comparing active recovery and passive recovery when it comes to performance during an exercise session.

The research team discovered that when compared with passive recovery, active recovery has been shown to increase the length of time the athlete could perform without reporting fatigue and help athletes sustain power output (St. Pierre et al., 2018).

We’ve all seen people at the gym sitting on the bench surfing social media between sets of bench presses. Still, this research indicates that it might be more beneficial to find a low-intensity activity like walking a lap around the gym or cycling on a stationary bike between sets to get ready to hit it hard on your next set.

The Cool-Down:

Studies recommend spending about 6-10 minutes after your workout session performing some active recovery for best results (Ortiz et al. 2018). Light cardio exercise, like walking on a treadmill or cycling at a low intensity, can help you get your heart rate down to recover from your workout.

In addition to active recovery, foam rolling is also a great post-workout recovery technique that can reduce DOMS onset (Ozsu, et al., 2018).  

Between exercise days:

Typical active recovery activities include walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, yoga, or active stretching (Ortiz et al. 2018). The key is to find an activity that’s low-intensity and keeps your heart rate at 30-60% of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t track your heart rate or don’t know what your maximum is, you can use the talk-test.

If you can hold a steady conversation while doing the activity, it's probably the right intensity to be considered active recovery. I don't recommend trying the talk-test while swimming. There's not necessarily a recommended length of time for these active recovery sessions, so it might be best to follow general exercise guidelines, which recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.

One side note about using jogging as an active recovery technique: If you're a very well-conditioned, competitive runner, then a jog might be active recovery because, for you, a jog is low-intensity and feels relatively easy.

For those who consider running to be an actual workout *raises hand*, a jog might be too intense to be active recovery and might over-tax the system in the long run. Can you keep a steady flow of conversation while jogging? If not, it would be wise to find another activity for active recovery.

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Active recovery schedule

Now that we understand what active recovery is and how it works, we can get to the fun part: application! When deciding what to do between-sessions, you'll want to consider your current training program's intensity level. My favorite way to tackle this is by looking at your training schedule over a week.

Consider how many days a week, you're lifting weights and the strength sessions' length and intensity.

The goal is to balance out your week with a healthy mix of medium to high-intensity training with some low-intensity training for recovery. Rhea et al. (2003) recommends spacing out strength training days with 1-2 rest days in-between. Here are a few examples of what your training schedule might look like:

Strength training two days/week:

Strength training three days/week:, strength training four days/week:.

Your first thought might be, “where are the off-days?”. When done right, active recovery should feel like an off-day compared with your regular training.

When you see active recovery on the schedule, it doesn't mean that you have to do a structured workout. The key is to do some easy movement to keep your blood flowing.

Choosing the right active recovery method

When deciding what to do for active recovery, we have to remember that the goal is to help our bodies get back to homeostasis. This means that the energy systems that fuel our movement will have returned to normal once we reach homeostasis. Think of your energy systems as a bank account. We all want to see a surplus of funds when we look at our bank account, and we’d like to see this physically as well! Who doesn’t like to have energy and excellent performance during workouts?

Each type of physical activity has some cost associated with it. When we do an intense workout, we make a large withdrawal from that energy bank account and have less to spend afterward. If you make too many consecutive withdrawals from your energy bank, you'll start to get charged overdraft fees in the form of overtraining symptoms (i.e., interrupted sleep, elevated resting heart rate, overuse injuries,  and diminishing performance during workouts. 

On an off-day, our goal is to add funds back into our energy bank account to make more withdrawals in the future. Adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and time are all necessary ways to replenish those funds. Without those three components, your energy and performance will undoubtedly suffer.

Fortunately, active recovery can also help you get back in the black when applied correctly. One question to ask yourself when selecting your activity on a busy recovery day is, "after completing this workout, will I feel invigorated or exhausted?". If your answer hedges on tired, worn-out, or exhausted, it's too intense to be doing on an off-day and would be considered a withdrawal to your energy system bank.

How to Choose the Right Recovery Activity

-Choose an activity that you enjoy. Yoga, swimming, cycling, walking, and stretching are all low-intensity activities, but you can think outside the box and make it fun! Check out these beginner stretches for some ideas!

-Monitor your performance to make sure you’re not hitting it too hard on active recovery days. How do you feel when you get back to the gym? Do you feel rested and refreshed or not? Adjust accordingly.

-Consider including foam rolling or getting a massage as part of your recovery routine.

The Goal of Active Recovery

The goal of any recovery technique is to help the body return to homeostasis. Simply stated: after you’ve fully recovered from exercise, you should feel refreshed, no longer sore, and physically ready for the next workout.

Active recovery seeks to accomplish this goal using low-intensity (30-60% maximum heart rate) movement to increase blood flow to simultaneously bring oxygen-rich blood to tissues and remove the cellular waste produced during exercise (Corder et al., 2000; Monedero and Donne 2000).

Think of active recovery as a way to promote delivering nutrients to your muscles so that they can recover and heal at a faster rate than if you were sitting on the couch.

References:

Corder, K. P., Potteiger, J. A., Nau, K. L., Figoni, S. E., & Hershberger, S. L. (2000). Effects of active and passive recovery conditions on blood lactate, rating of perceived exertion, and performance during resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 14(2), 151-156.

Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L., & Dugue, B. (2018). An evidence-based approach for choosing post-exercise recovery techniques to reduce markers of muscle damage, soreness, fatigue, and inflammation: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Frontiers in Physiology, 9(403). DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00403.

Monedero, J., & Donne, B. (2000). Effect of recovery interventions on lactate removal and subsequent performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(08), 593-597. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2000-8488 .

Ortiz, R.O.J., Sinclair Elder, A.J., Elder, C.L., Dawes, J.J. (2018). A systematic review on the effectiveness of active recovery interventions on athletic performance of professional-, collegiate-, and competitive-level adult athletes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 00(00), 1-13. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002589.

Ozsu, I., Gurol, B., & Kurt, C. (2018). Comparison of the effect of passive and active recovery, and self-myofascial release exercises on lactate removal and total quality of recovery. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 6(9a), 33-42. https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v6i9a.3511 .

Rhea, M.R., Alvar, B.A., Burkett, L.N., & Ball S.D. (2003). A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(3):456-464.

St. Pierre, I. A., Buchanan, C. A., & Dalleck, L. C. (March 2018). Active vs. passive recovery and exercise performance: Which strategy is best? ACE Certified, pp 1-4.

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Strength training principles: how to educate new clients effectively, kinsey mahaffey.

Kinsey Mahaffey, MPH, is a Houston-based fitness educator, personal trainer and health coach who developed her commitment to lifelong fitness while playing Division I volleyball. She’s passionate about helping others cultivate a healthy lifestyle and enjoys educating other fitness professionals who share this vision. She’s a Master Instructor and Master Trainer for NASM. You can follow her on LinkedIn here .

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Why You Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise

Jonathan Valdez, RDN, CDCES, CPT is a New York City-based telehealth registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications expert.

on rest days what should i do

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When to Take a Rest Day

  • Signs You Need More Rest
  • Next in Workout Recovery Guide What Happens When You Don’t Eat After Working Out? 

Most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance . But many still feel guilty when they take a day off. One way to help relieve this guilt is to understand the many benefits that a rest day has to offer.

For instance, rest is physically necessary for the muscles to repair, rebuild, and strengthen. For recreational athletes, building in rest days and engaging in active recovery can help maintain a better balance between home, work, and fitness goals. The optimal rest time is between 48-72 hours for the muscles that were worked.

Benefits of a Rest Day

Rest days are critical for athletes at all levels. Getting adequate rest has both physiological and psychological benefits.

Promotes Muscle Recovery

Exercise depletes the body's energy stores, or muscle glycogen . It also causes muscle tissue to break down. Giving adequate muscle recovery time allows the body to "fix" both of these issues, replenishing energy stores and repairing damaged tissues. Beyond treating initial tightness and improving circulation with therapeutic remedies like heated blankets , proper rest is the most important component.

If you don't allow sufficient time off to replenish your glycogen stores and give your muscles time to recover from damage, performance will be compromised. Further disregard of replenishment can lead to sustained muscle soreness  and pain.

Helps Overcome Adaptation

The principle of adaptation states that when we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient. It’s just like learning any new skill. At first, it’s difficult, but over time it becomes second nature. Once you adapt to a given stress, you require additional stress to continue to make progress.

But there are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and suffers injury. Doing too much work too quickly will result in injury or muscle damage. Doing too little too slowly will not result in any improvement. This is why personal trainers set up specific programs that increase time and intensity at a planned rate and allow rest days.

Prevents Overtraining

Too little rest and too few recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome . This condition is thought to affect roughly 60% of elite athletes and 30% of non-elite endurance athletes. And once you have it, it can be difficult to recover.

The consequences of overtraining are many. Research has found that it can increase your body fat , raise your risk of dehydration, lower your libido, and worsen your mood.

Promotes Relaxation

Taking a rest day also gives your mind and body a break, and it keeps your schedule from becoming too crowded. Use your free day to spend more time with family and friends. Even if you live in your Alo leggings , take your normal exercise time slot and do a hobby instead.

Creating a healthy life is all about balance. It involves finding a way to split your time between home, work, and your fitness routine. Taking a rest day allows you to tend to these other areas while giving your body the time it needs to fully recover from your exercise sessions.

What Is Short-Term Recovery?

Short-term recovery occurs in the hours immediately after intense exercise. It might include doing low-intensity exercise during the cool-down phase of your workout, which is linked to performance benefits. It may also involve consuming the right foods and drinks in a post-exercise meal , replenishing your glycogen or muscle stores and fluids while optimizing protein synthesis. Use muscle recovery tools like a foot massager—one of the best gifts for walkers —to relieve pain at the onset.

What to Do on a Rest Day

There are two types of recovery you can do on a rest day: passive recovery and active recovery. Passive recovery involves taking the day entirely off from exercise. Active recovery is when you engage in a low-intensity exercise, placing minimal stress on the body, if any.

During active recovery , the body works to repair soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Active recovery improves blood circulation that helps with the removal of waste products from muscle breakdown that build up as a result of exercise. Then fresh blood can come in to bring nutrients that help repair and rebuild the muscles. Examples of active recovery exercises include walking, stretching , and yoga .

Sleep is also important. Make sure to get plenty of rest, especially if you are training hard. Even one or two nights of poor sleep can decrease performance for long bouts of exercises, but not peak performance. However, consistent, inadequate sleep can result in hormone level changes, particularly those related to stress, stress hormones, muscle recovery, muscle building, and worst of all performance.

Research indicates that sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is important for tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis.

The number of rest days you need will vary based on the type and intensity of your exercise. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests that, in general, you should schedule a rest day every seven to 10 days if you engage in high-intensity physical activity.

Some workout schedules incorporate rest days more often, such as twice a week. One of these days may be used as a passive recovery day, giving you the day off from exercise completely. The other could focus on active recovery, or doing a light-intensity exercise.

If you follow a seasonal training program, it may include recovery days and even recovery weeks. This is called periodization and requires that you change training programs throughout the year, adding cross-training , modifying workout types, and changing exercise intensity, time, and distance.

Signs You Need a Rest Day

Regardless of your exercise schedule, it's important to listen to your body. It will tell you if it needs a rest day, even if it's a day where you are supposed to be working out instead.

One study surveyed 605 competitive athletes to ask about signs they needed a rest day. The most commonly reported signs of overtraining included general feelings of fatigue, an unexplained decrease in performance (generally lasting between one week and one month), and musculoskeletal aches and pains.

If you feel agitated, moody, have a hard time sleeping, lose your appetite, or feel depressed or stressed, this may also be a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard, according to ACE. High levels of stress at work or home is another reason to take a day off and give your entire body a chance to relax and recover.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should i eat on a rest day.

A rest day menu that supports recovery from high-intensity exercise includes both protein (to help the muscles repair and grow) and carbohydrates (to restore the used glycogen). Working with a dietitian can help you determine how much you need of each.

If I'm alternating strength and cardio, how often should I take a rest day?

If both the strength training and cardio are high-intensity, aim for at least one rest day every seven to 10 days. Listen to your body. If it needs more rest days than that, schedule them in.

Monteiro ER, Vingren JL, Corrêa Neto VG, Neves EB, Steele J, Novaes JS. Effects of different between test rest intervals in reproducibility of the 10-repetition maximum load test: A pilot study with recreationally resistance trained men .  Int J Exerc Sci . 2019;12(4):932-940.

McCall P. 8 reasons to take a rest day . American Council on Exercise.

Bob Murray, Christine Rosenbloom, Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes ,  Nutrition Reviews , Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2018, Pages 243–259,doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuy001

McCall P. How to select the right rest intervals and post-training recovery for your clients . American Council on Exercise.

Cardoos N. Overtraining syndrome . Curr Sports Med Reports . 2015;14(3):157-8. doi:10.1249/JSR.0000000000000145

Grandou C, Wallace L, Coutts A, Bell L, Impellizzeri F. Symptoms of overtraining in resistance exercise: international cross-sectional survey . Int J Sports Physiol Perform . 2019;16(1):80-9. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2019-0825

Cadegiani F, Kater C. Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: results of the EROS study (EROS-PROFILE) . J Sports Sci . 2018;16:1902-10. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1424498

Ross J. Passive vs. active recovery: Which is more effective? . American Council on Exercise.

Beck KL, Thomson JS, Swift RJ, von Hurst PR. Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery .  Open Access J Sports Med . 2015;6:259-267. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S33605

Dáttilo M, Antunes HKM, Galbes NMN, et al. Effects of sleep deprivation on acute skeletal muscle recovery after exercise .  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise . 2020;52(2):507-514. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000002137

Kim TW, Jeong JH, Hong SC. The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism .  Int J Endocrinol . 2015;2015:591729. doi:10.1155/2015/591729

Robinson J. Overtraining: 9 signs of overtraining to look out for . American Council on Exercise.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.

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Serious Question—Do You Have to Take a Rest Day?

on rest days what should i do

Briana Bain, DPT, PT, is a physical therapist based in Virginia Beach. She works as a Physical Therapist at Adler Therapy Group and a BodyPump Instructor at OneLife Fitness

on rest days what should i do

Whether your workouts involve weight training, Soul Cycling, or training for a marathon, you have probably been introduced to the concept of a rest day. After all, just like working or studying seven days a week can overload your mental health, overworking your body can have the same exhausting effect on your physical health. Giving your body a much-needed recovery day to rest and regenerate is crucial to your workout regime, explains Jillian Michaels , health and fitness expert and creator of The Fitness App .

What Is a Rest Day?

“A rest day is quite literally a day of physical rest where you don’t train in order to let your body heal from previous workouts,” she says. “If you think of exercise as the architect, then think of recovery as the builder.”

However, while the term might imply taking a day hiatus from fitness, it isn’t necessarily an excuse to plop down on the couch and watch reality television during your usually scheduled workout. 

Here is everything you need to know before giving your body a break. 

The Benefits of Taking Rest Days

There are both physical and mental benefits to taking a rest day, according to Michaels. 

  • Rest days can help your body recover from micro injuries: Micro injuries are subtle traumas to your muscles, bones, tendons or ligaments that can occur as a result of physical stress of your training regimen, Michaels explains. “Rest days allow your body to recover from them.”
  • They can also help prevent major injuries : Michaels adds that a rest day can also prevent a micro injury from becoming something significant. “For example, if you train hard and apply repetitive force to the bone tiny cracks can happen—which is a good thing, because this is how the bone remodels itself,” she says. “But, if you don’t allow these tiny cracks to heal and you train again too hard too soon, you can get a stress fracture.”
  • They give your body time for regeneration: Rest days also give the body the time it needs to adapt to the stress put upon it from exercise and regenerate, “enabling a stronger better conditioned body,” Michaels points out. “This applies to bone density, muscle maintenance, cardiovascular conditioning, etc.”
  • They can help prevent burnout: Rest days offer mental health benefits as well. “I personally feel that rest days help keep us from burnout,” Michaels reveals. “Often if we go too hard with fitness it can burn us out—not just physically but emotionally. Engaging in a regimen with no rest can feel too strict over time and cause us to become more lax as the months pass.” Think of a rest day as a way to find balance, which “is important not just for the physical benefits, but for the longevity of your health and fitness regimen.”

How Many Rest Days Should You Take Per Week?

Leigh F. Hanke, MD, MS , Yale Medicine physiatrist explains that the need for a proper “rest day” depends on what you are resting from—the intensity level, frequency, and type of activity. However, anyone who is actively engaging in moderate to intense exercise should be taking at least one per week. 

For example if you are running, which is considered a high impact activity, taking a rest day is crucial. However, if your daily workout consists of a 20-30 minute pilates class or another low impact minimal aerobic activity, you can forgo taking a day off. 

Michaels reveals that she takes two days of rest per week. “One is absolutely essential,” she asserts. “[For me], three is the max.”

If you're having a hard time convincing yourself to take a rest day and are craving movement, consider working out an area of the body that you didn't work the previous day or two. For example, you could work your lower body on Monday and Tuesday, then just your upper body on Wednesday.

What to Do on Rest Days

Again, how you take a rest day is dependent on your exercise regimen. Michaels notes that there is a difference between “active recovery days” and “rest days.” 

“A rest day is a day of no physical fitness at all. An active recovery day is a day of very light activity to help boost circulation, which accelerates healing,” she explains. 

While both are good, one day of pure rest is simply essential. “So for example, I would recommend 4 days of working out followed by either two active recovery days and one day of pure reset OR one active recovery day two days of pure rest.”

Dr. Hanke uses the example of someone who is weight training. “Instead of training your upper body you could go for a light jog or cycle,” she says. Or you could use your rest day to allow for recovery of the specific muscles you are targeting. This is why some trainers will alternate workout days around specific areas, such as the upper body one day and lower the next. 

“Conversely you can take a rest day from high impact aerobics like running and use the day to cross train with cycling or weight training. Or use the rest day to truly rest and relax with no workout which can help both physically and mentally recover.”

The Takeaway

If your workouts are tough enough to leave your breathless, sore, or sweaty, you should be giving your body the much-needed break it needs in order to regenerate. As Michaels and Dr. Hanke explained, there are a variety of ways you can incorporate a rest day into your workout schedule, mostly dependent on the type of your daily workouts. If you have any questions on the best way to take a rest day, don’t hesitate to reach out to your instructor, trainer, or MD.

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How to Decide What to Do on Your Workout Rest Day

Portrait confident Latina woman relaxing on living room sofa

Ah, rest days. Those glorious days where you can kick back and relax after all your hard workouts. And make no mistake, they're just as important as the days you're logging a solid sweat session, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

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They give your body and mind time to recover and allow your muscles to repair and refuel. But what's the right way to handle a rest day? Should you take the day completely off or still make time to get active? And what's the best thing to eat on your days off? Consider this your A-to-Z guide to the proper way to take a load off.

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‌ Read more ‌: 10 Types of Low-Impact Exercise That Keep You Injury-Free

Should You Exercise on Rest Day?

While you definitely shouldn't be scheduling any sort of strenuous workout for your days off, rest days can involve different things for different people. There are two types of recovery: passive and active.

  • On passive recovery days, absolutely no exercise happens.
  • On active recovery days, you may lean into some light movement, like a yoga class, laps in a pool or a walk around the block.

There's a place and time for both, and which variation you choose largely depends on what your body is telling you, says Alexis Dreiss, founding coach at Rowgatta in New York City. Are you feeling completely wiped out from your workout the day before? Take the day off. Does your body want to be moving? Get going!

If you choose a more active approach, be gentle, says Alex Silver-Fagan, Nike master trainer and founding trainer at MIRROR . "The intensity and the amount at which you move should be taken down a notch on a rest day," she says. "You can definitely add in some restorative yoga or stretching , but keep in mind the intensity at which you trained previously. You want to do something that is restorative."

When Silver-Fagan says restorative, she means gentle movement that helps to get the blood flowing, which can bring oxygen to the parts of your body that need it most, alleviate tightness and lessen lactic-acid build-up in the muscles.

And of course, how long these recovery sessions last is completely up to you and your personal comfort levels. While a 60-minute yoga class may feel good to you, some individuals may need less movement. According to an August 2019 review published in the ‌ Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research ‌ , even six to 10 minutes minutes of active recovery showed promising effects on performance.

‌ Read more: ‌ What Type of Recovery Workout Is Best for You?

What About Those Normal, Everyday Tasks?

You've likely heard the classic daily movement recommendation time and time again: 10,000 steps a day . For some, 10,000 steps may feel like a large effort. For others, it's status quo.

On rest days, listen to your body and do what feels right for you, says Silver-Fagan. "An object in motion stays in motion," she says. "You should continue to move, if you feel comfortable with it."

As for other typical around-the-house to-do list items — like gardening or housework — feel free to move about as usual on a rest day, says Dreiss. "Doing work around the home and being mildly active on a rest day is completely fine, but don't push yourself if you are physically exhausted." If at any point you feel like you're pushing yourself too much, take a load off. "Be mindful, and listen." After all, doing chores around the house and running errands can also be mentally exhausting.

What Should You Eat on Rest Day?

On average, most people need about 2,000 calories per day, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the amount that nutrition facts labels typically use as the basis for their percentage of daily nutritional values. Of course, this amount varies from person to person, based on factors including amount of physical activity, sex and age.

During a rest day, though, you'll likely won't burn as many calories as on a day where you do an intense workout. But regardless of whether you're moving or not, your body needs calories from carbohydrates, fat and protein, says registered dietitian nutritionist Stephanie McKercher . "You might notice that you feel less hungry on a rest day, but it's still important to re-energize with breakfast, lunch and dinner daily." Plus, eating regular meals keeps your metabolism humming along and doesn't slow down if you have a rest day, especially if you already consistently exercise.

While some may choose to cut back on their overall intake on rest days under the assumption that they aren't burning as many calories, that's not necessarily a winning strategy, says registered dietitian Susan Bowerman. "If you cut back (and especially if you cut back too much) you might impair your performance at your next workout," she says. "Your diet should stay more or less the same on rest days."

There is one exception, Bowerman says. "If you consistently take in a post-workout recovery meal or snack , that's something you can certainly skip on your rest day."

If you do choose to snack throughout your day off, reframe the way you think about your bites, says McKercher. "The nutritional makeup will be just a little bit different. Instead of providing mostly simple carbs and electrolytes , everyday snacks should ideally include a balance of nutrients from carbohydrates, fats and protein," she says.

Regardless of activity levels, make sure your diet includes fruits or vegetables, whole grains, functional fats and plant-based sources of protein to maximize your nutritional intake, says McKercher.

‌ Read more: ‌ How to Eat Healthy on Exercise Rest Days

  • American Council on Exercise: "8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day"
  • Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "A Systematic Review on the Effectiveness of Active Recovery Interventions on Athletic Performance of Professional-, Collegiate-, and Competitive-Level Adult Athletes"
  • Food and Drug Administration: "How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label"

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

Guess what? You don't have to spend your rest days on the couch thinking about the gym! Here's how to use your off days to promote recovery, conditioning, and correct movement patterns.

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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?

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

on rest days what should i do

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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.

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

Glute Bridge

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.

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

Farmer's Walk

About the Author

Ben creicos.

Ben Creicos is a health-and-fitness writer who is passionate about helping everyone discover the body's limitless potential.

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What To Do On Rest Days: 5 Best Ways To Stimulate Active Recovery

Nderitu Munuhe

Staying in shape can be pretty exhausting. Everything it entails, ranging from the workout sessions to the dietary restrictions, is very demanding. This makes rest days particularly important in your fitness regimen.

Rest days are fundamental for your body’s overall recovery . During this period, your body repairs any worn-out muscles for optimal performance in the subsequent sessions. So what does an active rest day entail, and how is it different from a passive rest day? Here’s everything you need to know about active recovery.

What Is Active Recovery

Simply put, active recovery is when you engage in movements of lower intensity compared to your regular workouts. These movements range from a leisurely jog or a walk, yoga, or even some light stretches. Active recovery exercises should not exceed 60-70% of your maximum effort ( 3 ).

So what does 60-70% of your maximum effort mean? For instance, if you’re actively recovering from marathon training, walk a few gentle miles. So no, it isn’t bad if you’re on your rest days working out. Doing that only helps you recover.

What To Do On Rest Days: Benefits Of Rest Days

So what can you do to recover during your rest days actively? And how do the activities affect your performance? Well, some of the benefits of rest days include:

rest days

Rest Days Reduce Your Risk Of Injury

Safety is crucial in any exercise to avoid injury, and taking sufficient rest intervals facilitates this. See, when you overwork yourself, chances are high that you’ll make a mistake that can be fatal. For instance, you could fall out of form, take a wrong step or drop a weight, all of which can lead to injury.

Your muscles are also exposed to repetitive strain and stress whenever you overtrain. This ultimately increases your risk of getting overused injuries. Eventually, you’ll be forced to take more rest days than you had planned for.

Read More: How To Recover From Overtraining And Why Skipping Rest Days Isn’t The Answer

Rest Days Gives Your Body Time For Recovery

Rest days are supposed to be lying on your couch, resting, right? While this is technically true, it’s not always entirely accurate. It’s during your rest days that your body starts experiencing the beneficial effects of exercise. Here’s how that happens.

It’s not uncommon for microscopic tears to be formed in your muscle tissues during workouts . However, when you’re resting, cells known as fibroblasts repair these tears ( 1 ). This ultimately aids your muscular tissues to heal and grow into larger and stronger muscles.

Additionally, there’s the issue of glycogen use during exercise. Whenever you’re working out, your body uses up glycogen to fuel itself. Rest days will allow your body to replenish the used-up energy reserves before your next workout session.

Rest Days Protects You From Muscular Fatigue

The best way to tackle exercise-induced fatigue is through resting. We’ve already established that working out eventually depletes your muscle’s glycogen levels. If these stores are not replenished, you’ll start experiencing muscle soreness and fatigue.

It’s also important to note that glycogen is essential for normal muscular functioning, whether you’re exercising or not. Resting, therefore also prevents general fatigue by filling up your glycogen stores.

rest days

Rest Days Will Improve Your Overall Performance

Going about your regular routine can be difficult if you’re not getting enough rest after exercising . It’ll even be harder for you to challenge yourself in your subsequent workout sessions. For instance, you may be less motivated to run the extra mile if you’ve been exercising all week without resting.

Putting effort into your workout sessions is not and should never be similar to overtraining. Overtraining will decrease your overall performance. This can create a domino where your endurance and agility are reduced, and you start getting slower reaction times.

Resting, on the other hand, will have the opposite effect on your performance . Specifically, it will increase your energy, thus preventing fatigue, preparing your body for better subsequent workout sessions.

Rest Days Can Improve Your Sleep Patterns

The importance of sleep in your overall well-being cannot be overstated. That being said, regular exercise can positively affect your sleep. However, rest days can be just as important for your sleep.

See, physical activity triggers the release of energy-boosting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol ( 2 ). While this is a good thing when produced moderately and intermittently, overproduction of these hormones can be counterproductive. Working out every day leads to their overproduction.

When the energy-boosting hormones are oversupplied, it becomes difficult to get quality sleep ( 2 ). And when you’re sleep-deprived, your bodily fatigue will only get worse.

Reasons why BetterMe is a safe bet: a wide range of calorie-blasting workouts, finger-licking recipes, 24/7 support, challenges that’ll keep you on your best game, and that just scratches the surface! Start using our app and watch the magic happen.

rest days

Activities That Warrant Rest Days

So when should you have rest days ? Sure, taking breaks is vital in any workout. However, are there specific activities that warrant the need for having rest days? Let’s find out.

Rest Days And Cardio

Ideally, rest days are not a requirement for light cardio. Light cardio includes activities like slow dancing or just leisurely walking around. There’s no problem if you perform these activities daily unless there are express instructions from your doctor.

However, moderate and intense cardio requires rest days. Three to five days should be just fine for moderate aerobic activities. On the other hand, it is recommended that you take more frequent rest days for intense cardio. You can actively recover from cardio by performing light exercises like gentle stretches.

Rest Days And Bodybuilding

What about bodybuilding? Does it warrant rest days ? And if so, when bodybuilding what to do on rest days will give you the maximum benefit of the process. Also known as weight training, bodybuilding uniquely incorporates rest days. During these periods, you rotate between the muscles that are being worked.

This means that after working a particular muscle group, you let them rest for a day or two. This break interval gives them time to heal and repair themselves. On the other days, work on different muscle groups. Always ensure that you’re working on opposing muscles for balance and stability.

You’re probably wondering now what to do on rest days bodybuilding. One of the best approaches is assigning a day to a specific muscle group. For instance, if your leg day is on Monday, make Tuesday your chest day, and so on.

Rest Days And Weight Loss

Trying to lose weight does not mean you shouldn’t have rest days. Rest days rebuild your muscles resulting in more calorie burn when you’re sedentary. Why? Because muscles use up more energy than fats. Also, when you’re refreshed and well-rested, chances are you’ll stick to your regular workout routine.

Read More: Active Stretching Exercises: What Are They And How Can They Benefit You?

What To Do On Rest Days?

Do you ever wonder what to do on your rest days to get their maximum benefits? Here are some of the dos  that will help you have a productive and active rest day.

Stay Hydrated And Eat Right

Your body needs to be properly hydrated and supplied with the correct nutrients through any workout routines. You should continue doing this even during your rest days. Several people think that rest days are similar to cheat days. As a result, they end up eating anything which could ultimately negate any positive effects of rest days.

It’s crucial that you supply your body with the nutrients it needs during rest periods. After you’ve done this, you can start thinking of finding something extra to treat yourself with. The trick is in finding the right balance.

This principle also applies to hydration. While it may look exciting to drop the clean drinking water for sugary drinks, ultimately, it will be counterproductive. Hydration is vital to being healthy; that doesn’t change when you’re on your rest days.

Do Some Stretches

Working out can be very exhausting and demanding. Depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, it’s common to find yourself in some kind of pain. This could be due to any number of reasons, from muscle soreness to muscle tears.

Stretching and exercises like pilates and yoga can help you alleviate these pains while keeping your muscles healthy. Additionally, it can also improve your muscular flexibility and agility while helping you relax. Foam rolling can also be used as a form of self-massage that helps you relax your muscles and reduce pains.

Get Some Quality Sleep

This is probably the most obvious activity to do on your rest day. Nothing says resting better than sleep, right? Its importance, however, should be emphasised, and that’s why we’re talking about it.

Most of your muscle’s healing, repair, and growth happens when you’re sleeping. It not only has physical benefits, but it can also help you improve your mental health. So if you find yourself tired or bored, lie down and get the extra hours you’ve been missing. Your body will ultimately thank you for them!

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Do Some Corrective Exercises

Corrective exercises are one of the harder ways of spending your rest days. This is majorly because they are difficult to pull off the first time. That being said, you should talk to a medical professional for the best and safest experience.

Ideally, you’re supposed to exercise specific areas in your body where issues are building up. This ensures your muscles remain in mint condition while repairing any damages. Corrective exercises involve a variety of exercises. They could range from exercises that improve your knees to relieve pain or exercises that generally relieve strain injuries.

Simply put, corrective exercises require a broad knowledge base to be done properly. If you’re trying to make corrective exercises part of your rest day workouts, you have to be certain. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, try training your abs. They are extremely resistant to wear and tear due to their role and can be trained more frequently.

Try Some Light Cardio

Sometimes you can’t help but think about what workout to do on rest days. When you find yourself in this situation, missing your regular routines, light cardio can be of great help. And the bonus is that you don’t have to be at the gym to get some cardio reps.

Leisurely walking through parks or jogging are some activities you could try. It’ll put less strain on your muscles while giving you a different exercise that’ll keep you busy.

BetterMe app will provide you with a host of fat-frying fitness routines that’ll scare the extra pounds away and turn your body into a masterpiece! Get your life moving in the right direction with BetterMe!

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What To Avoid On Rest Days?

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. Here are some of the things that you should not do on your rest days.

HIIT Or Strength Training

It follows that if you have to take a rest day, then you’ve been pushing yourself. The whole point of having rest days is giving your body a chance to recover naturally. This will ultimately help it in the long run.

If you’re ever wondering what to do on rest days from lifting, the answer should never be lifting more weights. Instead, try lighter activities like static and dynamic stretching. That’s how you get the most out of rest days when you’ve been doing lots of strength training.

HIIT and Strength training are great workout ideas for your overall fitness goals. However, they are exercises that you should stay away from during your rest days. They are physically draining and will only worsen the situation.

rest days

Overeating can be a real problem during rest days. The temptations and cravings for sugary snacks are things that we all have to endure during cheat and rest days. It is, however, important to stick to healthy foods where you can.

See, the problem with cheat days is that it’s like a pandora’s box. You open it, and a cheat day becomes a cheat weekend, then a cheat week. This could ruin the progress that you worked so hard to achieve. Take that into consideration before you dig into that parfait.

Getting Too Comfortable

Rest days can sometimes become a little too exciting. All that time off, the fun activities, the food, it can get overwhelming. That’s why you should not lose sight of your fitness goals and the progress you’ve made.

Giving in to the delights of rest periods can put you at risk of losing everything you’ve worked so hard for. The point is, don’t break your routine. Keep a positive mindset and reach for your fitness goals.

Working out is not always roses and cherry. It is never that easy. Instead, it is demanding and takes a huge toll on your body. Continuously powering through exercise will only lead to muscle injury, which ultimately beats the whole point of working out.

Rest days will help your body recover from all the strain and stress of exercise. Relying on active recovery during this period will facilitate better and efficient muscle repair and growth. Time to give it a shot, don’t you think?

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

  • Fibroblasts take the center stage in human skeletal muscle regeneration (2017, nih.gov)
  • Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence (2006, nih.gov)
  • The Effect of Active Recovery on Power Performance During the Bench Press Exercise (2014, nih.gov)

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man stretching on active rest day

Yes, You Definitely Need an Active Rest Day—Here’s Why

Here’s the best way to hit that recovery sweet spot while both moving your body and taking it easy.

By Catherine Hopkinson • Updated May 2, 2023

What Is An Active Rest Day? Arrow

How and When to Schedule Active Rest Days Arrow

Benefits of Active Rest Days Arrow

Active vs. Passive Recovery Arrow

What to Do on Active Rest Days Arrow

The Best Active Rest Day Workouts Arrow

For the best results in your fitness endeavors—whether you’re an indoor cycling champ, a regular runner, or a strength training savant—you may think the only way to get better, faster, and stronger is to train as hard as possible, all the time. But instead of a “ride, ride, repeat” strategy, you’ll need to incorporate strategic active rest days.

In case you’re not familiar, an active rest day means taking a break from your daily training and focusing on rest, recovery, and gentle movement. Sounds relaxing, but keep in mind that active rest days aren’t the same thing as indulging your inner couch potato. Here’s what to know about active rest days, how often to incorporate them into your routine for the most benefits, and how active recovery differs from passive recovery. Plus, we’ll share ideas for what to do on active rest days.

What Is An Active Rest Day?

An active rest day is a break from your usual training, and it often involves focusing on different types of movement, low-impact training, or other forms of recovery. If you’re a heavy lifter, your active rest day may include a low-intensity walk to stretch your legs. Riders and runners, meanwhile, might practice yoga to loosen tight muscles (such as the hip flexors ) that are usually affected by cardio. Think of an active rest day as a form of cross-training, but less intense. 

“It’s very important to recover after each and every workout, regardless of how strenuous it was,” says Mila Lazar , a Peloton cycling instructor and former dancer. “Recovery helps to give the body back what it needs. Once you are physically and mentally rested, you are able to give your best in each and every workout. Without recovery, your body is still depleted—you didn’t recover, which means you won’t give your best, and your overall fitness level stays the same or regresses.”

Now, you might be thinking active rest days are a great excuse to Netflix and chill. We hate to break it to you, but that’s not often the case. “I like to practice active recovery on my days off,” says Peloton Tread instructor Jon Hosking . “So I'll still make sure I'm mobile, and I get my steps in, but it won't look anything like the intensity of a training day.”

Engaging in an active rest day can help your body feel good while it recovers (and here’s exactly what happens to your body on a recovery day ). That can be a tricky balance to maintain, but don’t worry—we’ll share instructor-approved rest day activities shortly.

How and When to Schedule Active Rest Days

Your active rest day needs will vary depending on your training goals, intensity, and more. In general, however, you can aim for one to three active rest days per week, swapping them in for a training day or a full rest day as needed. Mila, for example, takes at least two recovery days per week. 

As far as scheduling active rest days, aim for one at least every three to five days. Remember, during tough workouts, your muscle fibers contract and stretch repeatedly, which causes micro tears in your muscle tissue. Your recovery and active rest give your muscles a chance to repair those tears, which is where you get muscular and cardiovascular gains. With that in mind, consider scheduling your rest days after intense workouts (think: heavy lifts or long runs during marathon training). 

Benefits of Active Rest Days

Beyond giving your muscles a chance to repair, there are tons of benefits of active rest days to look forward to. 

Improve Performance

Mila has had periods in her life where she didn’t recover properly, and things were different: “I had years of not recovering sufficiently,” she shares. “I was tired, sluggish, and I had to build up a lot of willpower in me to get through a workout. Once I started to incorporate recovery time, I noticed how much more energy I had, how hard I was able to push myself without force, how much better my body felt. Best part: I’ve felt stronger, and my performance increased immensely.”

Jon has a similar story: “I had long periods where I trained every day or tried double sessions through the first four days of the week, and I get much more sustainable results when I have a routine that incorporates recovery days,” he says, adding, “I've also found that my posture improves and I sleep better.” 

Recover Mentally

Another benefit of recovery? You’ll be more excited to work out again once you’ve rested. “Recovery is both mental and physical,” says Jon. “Recovering well and being really mindful of my rest makes me more motivated to then train; it makes me more powerful, and I notice progress more when I've given my body time to replenish and repair.” 

At the end of a recovery day, Mila adds, “I feel ready to rock, I’m pumped — excited to give my best again and see if I can push myself a bit more.”

Prevent Injury

Taking active recovery days is a major key to avoiding injuries that will keep you out of the gym. Many athletes can experience overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints, if they don’t take regular days off. 

Similarly, the more you push yourself, the more fatigue you’ll build up—and if you’re tired, your form is likely to suffer, which can lead to injury. For example, if you’ve been pushing yourself on your deadlift every workout, your muscles are probably exhausted by the end of the week. You might be unable to maintain the straight back and lifted chest that are necessary to protect your low back from injury. The result? You’ll be forced to take rest days while you recover from the injury, and you’ll likely feel totally frustrated.

Try New Activities

An active rest day is the perfect chance to switch up your training and try something new. Yoga, Pilates , walking, or swimming may not be part of your daily routine. However, they’re great options for active recoveries, and you might feel refreshed by the different training (and find a new favorite workout!).

Reduce Soreness

Science lesson: When you move, your blood circulates through your muscles much more easily. Your blood contains tons of nutrients and oxygen, which help fuel your muscles so they can bounce back from post-workout soreness. So, active rest days are crucial for maintaining a healthy blood flow and ensuring your muscles get the supplies they need to recover. In that sense, an active rest day can actually help you recover faster than taking a full day to lounge on the couch.

Active vs. Passive Recovery

While active recovery includes some of the gentle activities mentioned above, passive recovery is more of a traditional rest day. Translation: You have full permission to do absolutely nothing and give your body a full break. Passive recovery should be deployed after major exertion (such as a race or competition), and it’s also necessary when recovering from injury. Listen to your body to determine whether you need active vs. passive recovery. Most of the time, a light dose of active recovery will help you feel your best.

What to Do on Active Rest Days

Need some ideas for how to spend your active rest days? We’ve got you covered. 

Mila starts with some sun salutations and goes into a stretching routine, then rolls out tight areas—like the hip flexors, glutes, and lower back—with a foam roller . “A yoga class is something I opt for if I have extra time, and I meditate to calm down completely,” she notes.

If you feel like you need to move your body, go for a walk (check out Peloton outdoor workouts !). Take a yoga class, a low-impact or recovery ride, a stretching class, or just stretch out on your own if you know what your body needs.

Sleep 

Mila tries to sleep for eight hours, and Jon’s goal is eight and a half. But if Mila doesn’t hit that magic number, she has tweaks. “Sadly, I don’t get eight hours all the time. What if I can’t get eight hours of sleep? I squeeze in a 20-minute nap in the late afternoon or a quick meditation—that helps me a lot on days where I only had a six-hour night!” (Psst… here’s how yoga can become your best sleep aid .)

Take a Hot Bath

This is Mila’s go-to: “A hot bath is what I need on a recovery day—if not, a very hot shower. Afterward, I use a magnesium lotion with lavender that helps my muscles to recover.” 

Wear Regular Clothes

Some of us live in our workout gear all day, just in case we can squeeze in a strength session between meetings. On your off day, you can remove the temptation to push yourself by getting properly dressed. “I won't wear activewear, and I'll try and spend as little time on my phone as possible,” says Jon—clearly an evolved human. 

Hydrate and Fuel Up

You don’t want to wake up sluggish and bloated because you spent the day on the couch eating chips. Fuel your body properly, and you’ll be ready for that first post-recovery workout. Try these tips for smart hydration and nutrition .

For those who are reluctant to take recovery days, Mila recommends trying it for a week or two. “People will notice how hyped up they are on a recovery day and how much more they can push in the actual workout if they take at least two days off,” she explains. “Plus, they give themselves time to do other workouts like a yoga class and feel the benefits from it. I always say one word: balance. Everybody needs balance in their lives.”

The Best Active Rest Day Workouts

Stretching for Active Rest

Don’t worry, we’re using the word “workouts” lightly here. But you do have to hit that sweet spot between moving your body and taking it easy. We asked Peloton Members to share their favorite active rest day workouts.

The results of a very unscientific poll are in, and the best active rest day workout is definitely yoga, Members share. Whether it’s on the Peloton App or in their local studio, Members love a good stretch session. Brady McCray likes heated power yoga: “It works out all the soreness and provides a good stretch and a little upper-body workout,” she says. And for Michelle Leilani, there’s an added benefit: “It helps me to unwind after a stressful day at work.”

Walking 

A classic low-impact workout, walking is a go-to rest-day activity for a whole lot of Members. Some couple it with another activity, like Stacey Kobeszko: “I’ll do an outdoor lunchtime walk and some stretching/foam rolling.” Mimi Deck Rutledge advises, “Take an hour power walk with someone you love or need to catch up with!” (Psst: Peloton Tread 's walking classes are another great option!)

Joyful Movement

Kimberly Emery makes recovery a family affair: “I jump with my kids on our backyard trampoline. My kiddos love it when I join them, and it’s a good workout for me!” Heather Carter-Castleberry gets even more creative: “I do pole fitness at a local gym. The bodyweight resistance is perfect, and it’s fun to watch the 20-somethings’ jaws hit the floor when they realize someone their mom’s age is hanging upside down from a pole.”

Nature Appreciation

Margery Miller Shanoff loves to garden on her days off. “It’s a lot of core, arm, and hamstring work,” she says, “and it gets me outside.” A lot of Members love to hike, but Alexis Robin takes it to another level and goes “forest bathing.” She extols the mental benefits of the practice, saying “When I’m recovering from a few days of intense Peloton workouts, I love to get outside with a walk or meditation in the forest. It’s the perfect balance to the high-intensity indoor screen-based activity.”

Cold Recovery 

It may be counterintuitive, but some Members swear by cold plunges and cold therapy for muscle recovery. “Swim!” says Julie Kaplan. “It’s even better in a cold pool because it has an anti-inflammatory effect. I focus on upper body, still engage the core, and can adjust cardio to suit how I feel.” Jessica Lynn Smith incorporates cryotherapy into her routine — she says hopping into an icy chamber is “great for sore muscles” and adds it to hiking and yoga as part of her recovery program.

You “never” have time to foam roll or stretch during the days you work out (wink, wink), but active recovery days are made for releasing your muscle tension. Stop, drop, and roll while you try a guided foam rolling class, or work your joints through controlled articular rotations while doing a mobility class on the Peloton App. Even a classic stretching class will loosen your muscles and prepare you for your next workout. 

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6 Things Athletes Should Do on Rest Day

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Athletes may have a love-hate relationship with rest day, but it’s important for your body’s recovery. Everyone from college athletes to marathon runners should build rest days into their training schedule. Overtraining can lead to exhaustion, sore muscles, and moodiness , which may also make athletes more susceptible to illness or injury. Although it may seem counterintuitive, rest days can actually improve athletic performance. Here are 6 things that athletes should be doing to make the most of their rest days.

Listen to Your Body

First things first, no one knows your body as well as you do. When rest day comes around, take some time in the morning to assess how you feel. What is your body telling you that you need to recover? It could be more sleep, light exercise, certain foods or a combination of all of these.

Get Adequate Sleep

Mental and physical rest is equally important when letting your body recover. The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but athletes in training may need more. Sleep has been proven to increase mental sharpness, speed and reaction time in athletes. Plan ahead to get those Zzzs!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Athletes know how important it is to hydrate during and after a workout, but that mentality should carry over into off days as well. Water acts as a lubricant for muscles and joints, helping athletes to avoid muscle cramps and soreness. Water is not the only answer; you can also incorporate sports drinks and hydrate through foods such as watermelon, strawberries and cantaloupe .

Carbs provide energy for when you’re hitting the gym, but on rest days it can be smart to limit them. Instead focus on lean protein, (which helps muscles recover), fresh fruits and veggies. Think of your plate as a rainbow, including as many colors as possible. The vitamins and minerals in these foods play an important role in recovery. For example, red or orange fruits and vegetables provide beta carotene and other antioxidants to reduce inflammation .

Stay Active

Rest day is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of low impact workouts such as yoga or Pilates . Or simply take a walk. The idea is to take a break from those hardcore gym workouts, yet keep your body moving. Aim for 30-45 minutes of light recovery exercise on rest day.

Stretch or Foam Roll

Taking a few minutes to stretch daily can greatly improve flexibility and may help alleviate tight muscles. However, these moves are especially important on rest days because they can help speed recovery. Using a foam roller provides a self-myofascial massage, shown to reduce muscle soreness and improve range of motion when done after a workout.

Consistently training to be in peak performance requires a lot of hard work and sweat. Make sure you schedule time to reward yourself with mental and physical rest. Rest days allow athletes to recharge, which can improve future performance.

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on rest days what should i do

What to Do on Rest and Recovery Days

  • By Dale Guilford Updated On October 22, 2017
  • Running & FitNews ? American Running Association

on rest days what should i do

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.

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How Many Rest Days You Really Need A Week, According To Trainers

Consider this your official permission to recover.

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A quick refresher: A rest day is a day when you take a break from your typical exercise programming to allow time for your body to recover, says Natalya Vasquez, CPT, a certified personal trainer, health coach, and founder of Bridal Bootcamp San Diego. “Rest days can also be taken for mental health when you need a break from the daily grind,” she explains. “They’re intended to reset your body and mind and allow you time to recuperate.”

Meet the expert: Natalya Vasquez , CPT, is a certified personal trainer, health coach, and founder of Bridal Bootcamp San Diego .

That said, rest days are not one-size-fits-all, says Vasquez. “Your unique circumstances, including your body and abilities, time constraints, lifestyle, goals, and natural gravitation to exercise will dictate how many days you exercise versus how many days you take off,” she explains. “Be open to a less rigid model of days on and off because there will be some weeks where you may be hesitant to take off even one day to rest, and others where you’ll either feel burnt out, sick, or have life circumstances that prevent you from sticking to your plan,” she adds. Flexibility and consistency are a more effective combo than a rigid schedule.

Read on for everything you need to know about optimizing rest days to help you achieve your workout goals and recover well, according to trainers.

Should you take a rest day?

Simply put, yes. Whether you’re new to exercise or a pro athlete, rest days are vital for physical and mental health, says Vasquez. “If you’re doing intense exercise on a regular basis, you want to allow time for your body to recover," she says. " Exercising seven days per week with moderate to heavy intensity may be counterproductive to your goals and can even lead to injury. Your body needs a break.” Not to mention, if your muscles don’t have enough time to repair between workouts, you may not see the muscle growth or performance goals you’re working so hard to obtain, she adds.

When it comes to mental health, rest days can force you to resist the “no days off” mindset, which can cause overexertion and burnout, says Vasquez. Think about it: Have you ever taken a break from exercise (whether intentional or not) and after a couple days off you’re pumped to jump back into your routine, and you feel stronger than ever? “Taking rest days will keep the excitement alive and ensure that you’re not overdoing it,” explains Vasquez. “When it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better, and your body and mind need time to recover and reset.”

So how do you know if you need a rest day? If your body is always sore or you dread exercising, that’s your sign to take a day off, says Vasquez. “If there is pain in your body that doesn’t go away after a couple of days, you probably need at least one rest day, or if you dread going to the gym after four consecutive days of exercising, you also need a rest day,” she explains.

How many rest days do I need each week?

If you’re exercising with moderate- to high-intensity every time you workout, you should take at least one rest day a week to allow your muscles time to properly recover, says Vasquez. However, depending on your level of activity and the intensity of your workouts, you may need more. “Individuals doing high-intensity workouts for at least an hour at a time may benefit from multiple rest days per week, whereas people working out with moderate intensity for 30 minutes per day may only need one,” she explains.

The following cheat-sheet will give you an idea of how many rest days you need a week, depending on your goals:

How Many Rest Days A Week To Build Muscle

If your goal is gaining muscle , the number of rest days depends on your exercise programming. “If you’re lifting weights five days per week at moderate- to high-intensity for an hour at a time, you may want to take one to two rest days,” says Vasquez. “If you’re exercising for 30 minutes a day, then one day a week may be enough of a rest day for you because your muscles may be less fatigued,” she adds.

Plus, your rest days should be strategic, allowing each muscle group to have an adequate break, says Vasquez. For example, you wouldn't want to work your shoulders and biceps multiple days in a row without recovery in between. But the recovery for upper body could include a lower body workout , since there is no overlap in muscle groups worked, she explains.

How Many Rest Days A Week To Lose Weight

At its core, weight loss is based on a total calorie deficit , or calories in from food and drink, compared to calories out from your bodies’ basic functions like breathing and blood circulation (your basal metabolic rate ) and additional activities like working out, says Vasquez.

Weight lost is not about the total number of days you exercise or take off, she explains. “ Weight loss can be achieved with zero rest days or six, but all the other variables like exercise intensity and what you’re eating, matter more,” she adds. If you’re on a weight loss journey or concerned about your weight, it’s helpful to talk with a doctor or certified personal trainer for guidance and to create the best game plan for you.

How Many Rest Days A Week If You’re New To Fitness

If you’re new to working out, you may want to start with more rest days as your body adapts to new movements and added resistance, says Vasquez. “As your body and skills progress, you’ll be able to add additional exercise days without overexerting your body and injuring yourself,” she explains. As a benchmark, the US Department of Health recommends 75 to 300 minutes of exercise per week and at least three days of resistance training.

Benefits Of Rest Days

  • Boost muscle recovery. Your muscles need time to repair, recover, and grow new tissue after a tough workout, says Vasquez. In fact, when you exercise, it depletes the body’s energy stores and causes muscle tissue to break down, research shows. But when your body has time to rest, it gives your muscles the opportunity to repair and replenish energy stores, ultimately boosting recovery and keeping you healthy.
  • Promote muscle growth. Exercise creates tiny microscopic tears in the muscle tissue, but a rest day allows the tissue to heal and grow, resulting in increased muscle mass , research found. When your muscles don’t have enough time to repair between workouts, it can be counterproductive and you may not see the muscle gains you're working toward, adds Vasquez.
  • Reduce the risk of injury. If your muscles are overtired or overworked, it increases your risk of injury, says Vasquez. For one, a rest day keeps your muscles in tiptop shape so you’re able to maintain proper form in your workout, especially if you’re lifting weights. Second, rest days prevent overtraining which can lead to overuse injuries and fatigue, she adds.
  • Support mental health. Your body often signals that you need a rest day before your ego concedes, but it’s just as important to reset and recover your mind, says Vasquez. “Taking rest days will keep the excitement alive and ensure that you’re not overdoing it,” she explains. Working out requires serious focus and mental fortitude, so give your mind a break . It’ll keep you motivated in the long run.

What To Do On Rest Days

Now that you know at least one rest day is a must, it's natural to wonder what the best activities are to fill it. If you exercise at moderate- to high-intensity on a regular basis, then low- to moderate-intensity activities like walking , restorative yoga , stretching , or light cycling are considered rest-day activities, says Vasquez. “I don’t advocate for lying on the couch all day on rest days, but sometimes your body and mind may need it,” she explains. “I generally recommend breaking up a rest day with different activities that you find relaxing and pleasurable.”

But at what point does a rest day activity become exercise? It’s pretty individualized depending on your ability, fitness level, and current workout routine. If you’re moving your body at a much lower intensity than you usually do while exercising, it’s considered a rest day activity, says Vasquez. “ What may be considered exercise for a beginner, like walking for thirty minutes, may be an active rest day activity for an avid exerciser ,” she explains. Listen to your body and remember that more isn’t always better.

When it comes to actually taking a rest day, the timing usually depends on what kind of exercise you’re doing, the intensity, and your schedule, says Vasquez. “Your rest days should be planned around your training programming or the muscle groups worked and also your schedule and lifestyle,” she explains. If you prefer to have designated rest days each week, go for it. If your schedule requires flexibility, that’s okay too! Find what works for you and honor your mind and body when it needs time off.

Lastly, remember that rest days should focus on whatever brings you joy, whether it’s cooking , taking a warm bath, reading a book, lounging by the pool, lightly stretching, or getting a massage, says Vasquez. “There is no one set activity that will constitute a rest day because your exercise plan, goals, lifestyle, and individual preferences will dictate how you prefer to relax.”

Bottom line: Rest days are a crucial part of your fitness journey and overall well-being. Listen to your body and take time off according to your fitness goals.

Headshot of Andi Breitowich

Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.  

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What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

Sports & activity.

Experts say active recovery may be even more effective at rebooting muscles than not engaging in any movement at all.

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

There are days where you just need to take a complete break from exercise. But, another equally effective recovery approach actually involves movement.

Doing a rest day workout may help ease soreness , enabling your muscles to bounce back faster and increasing motivation. Read on to learn more about what all a rest day workout entails and get tips for trying it yourself.

What Is a Rest Day Workout?

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

A rest day workout is also known as active recovery because it involves performing low-intensity exercise the day after a high-intensity workout. The goal is to increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and to keep them warm. Both of these factors are key for bringing more nutrients to the areas in need of healing, said Alexander Rothstein , C.S.C.S., program coordinator for the exercise science program at the New York Institute of Technology.

Great options for a rest day workout include:

  • Low-intensity swimming
  • Aqua jogging
  • Low-intensity cycling
  • Light resistance training

Rest day workouts are different from passive recovery. During passive recovery, the body stays at rest (Think: lounging on the couch reading a book or watching TV).

Passive recovery is nice if you’re feeling mentally and/or physically burnt out. Engaging in exercises that fall under that active recovery umbrella may not only expedite overall recovery, but can help your muscles be prepared for the next workout.

The Benefits of Rest Day Workouts

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

Many good things can happen when you target specific muscles with low-intensity movement.

First and foremost, gentle movement can boost circulation, helping remove waste and redistribute blood and nutrients to the muscles you taxed during your workout.

In one study, which was published in a 2016 issue of PLoS One , athletes saw a significant decrease in muscle fatigue following a 20-minute active recovery session that targeted the same muscles used in their workout — compared with athletes who didn’t target the same muscles. The researchers suggested that light activity helped clear lactate (a byproduct of the energy created for exercise) from the muscles and refill the blood with oxygen.

“The end goal is for the circulation to go where you want the healing or recovery to occur,” Rothstein said.

Moving blood and nutrients to target muscles also helps reduce the swelling and tenderness that occurs after an intense workout. This can prevent or ease muscle stiffness and soreness, Rothstein said.

Together, these effects can ultimately speed up your recovery , which may help you feel refreshed and ready to take on your next workout.

For example, a study published in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that triathletes performed better after a swim recovery session than after a passive recovery day. The researchers believe that water helps lower inflammation by exerting pressure (known as hydrostatic pressure) on the body.

And, according to a 2019 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , this pressure pushes more blood to major organs like the heart, brain, and lungs, where it can collect more inflammation-lowering oxygen and nutrients.

Aside from muscle tissue, joints also benefit from active recovery workouts. “Movement releases more synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints,” Rothstein said. The result: less stiffness.

Plus, your rest day workouts can help you meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.

What Should a Rest Day Workout Look Like?

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

When considering what to do for your rest day workout, look to movements that promote recovery.

If you’re a runner, diving into a gentle swimming or cycling session can give your muscles and joints a much-needed break while still challenging your cardiovascular system, Rothstein explained.

“And, again, increase circulation, which is the major focus for an active recovery day,” he said.

On the other hand, if you’re recovering from a brutal leg day at the gym, you can repeat some of the same movements from your workout to prevent muscle tightness.

“You might do some bodyweight squats to lubricate those joints and warm up those muscles,” Rothstein said. Focus on slow, controlled reps using full range of motion.

Regardless of your chosen activity, keeping an eye on your intensity level is essential to avoid adding stress that would further delay recovery.

There are a few ways you can gauge intensity:

  • Rate your exertion: An easy approach is to use the rating of perceived exertion, or RPE, scale , which measures how hard you feel like your body is working. The RPE scale runs from zero to 10, where zero is how you feel when sitting in a chair and 10 is how you feel when you’re giving your maximum effort. “I would suggest something along a four or five in terms of intensity,” Rothstein said.
  • Try talking: The “talk test” is another simple way to determine exercise intensity. You should be able to talk comfortably during an active recovery workout, Rothstein said.
  • Monitor your heart rate: Use your smartwatch or a heart rate monitor to ensure that your heart rate stays within 30 to 60 percent of its maximum . You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 . Then, multiply that number by 0.3 and 0.6 to find your heart rate range for rest day workouts. For example, if you’re 50 years old, your estimated maximum heart rate is 170 beats per minute and your target heart rate range is 51 to 102 bpm.

A quick rest day workout is more beneficial than doing nothing at all. If 20 minutes is all you can do, then so be it. But, aim for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

“Twenty minutes might be a little short to get your blood pumping,” said Cara Carmichael, NASM C.P.T. If you can go longer, you may see more circulation-boosting benefits.

How Often Should You Include a Rest Day Workout?

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

Any day you don’t have a regular workout planned is a great opportunity for a rest day workout, but it’s also imperative that you listen to your body. If you need a complete rest day, take it.

“I don’t personally prescribe strict rest days for people,” Rothstein said. Swapping an off day with a rest day workout helps you squeeze in more movement overall. Plus, rest day workouts may keep your momentum going, which can help you stay more consistent with exercise.

In fact, a small-scale study, found in a 2019 issue of the journal Obesity , revealed that people who work out at a consistent time every day exercise more often — and for longer periods of time — than those who don’t. If you typically get your sweat session done in the morning, getting in a rest day workout around that time on your off day may help you stick to this daily ritual.

Words by Lauren Bedosky

What’s a Rest Day Workout — And Should You Try It?

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Originally published: February 22, 2023

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Can You Do Cardio On Rest Days? [Pros Vs. Cons]

You will get the most benefit from doing cardio on your rest days, instead of the same day as weight training. However, cardio on rest days is best for weightlifters who are looking to lose fat, boost cardiovascular health, and decrease post-workout soreness. If you’re looking to grow muscle mass as your main priority, you may not want to do much cardio. A cardiovascular workout on your rest day can result in excessive fatigue, trigger loss of muscle mass, and even decrease your metabolic rate.

Can you do cardio on rest days?

Table of Contents

What are the Pros of Doing Cardio on Rest Days?

Doing cardio on days off from weight training may be appealing to you. After all, you may enjoy using physical activity as a form of active recovery. Here are the benefits you’ll get if you do cardio on rest days:

Better Performance

This scientific study found that you get the best results from separating strength training activities from cardio workouts by at least 6 hours. However, there is even more benefit from allowing 24 hours between weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise. So, you’ll get more benefit from doing weight training and cardio on different days. This makes rest days perfect for cardio.

  • You will perform better at both weightlifting and cardio if you separate the two types of exercise by at least 6 hours.
  • It’s better to do cardio on your rest days than on days where you lift weights.

Doing both weight training and aerobic exercise on the same day results in fewer improvements in strength and aerobic performance. Although it’s perfectly fine to warm up and cool down with light cardio on the same day you lift weights, you won’t get a big benefit from lifting and doing cardio as part of the same workout.

Improved Fat-Burning

Cardiovascular exercise is the most efficient calorie-burning workout. So, doing cardio on your days off from lifting will help you burn more fat. This leads to increased muscle tone and definition. So, if your goal is to lose weight and show off the muscles you’re building, it’s worth adding cardio to your routine on your days off from lifting.

  • You will burn more calories (and lose more weight) if you perform cardio on your rest days.
  • Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories per minute than weight training.
  • Combine your exercise program with a healthy diet to hit weight loss goals safely.

It doesn’t take intense cardio to burn calories and lose weight. 30 minutes of cardio on your rest day can burn extra calories and help you hit weight loss goals. Make sure to consult a doctor, nutritionist, or certified trainer to help create a diet plan to safely reach your goals.

Enhanced Health and Performance

Not only can cardio improve your overall health, but it can also function as cross-training that improves your performance in the weight room. Cardiovascular exercise increases the amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. You can use this increased endurance to improve your performance during weight training.

  • Doing cardio on rest days boosts your endurance, which leads to better workout performance while weightlifting.
  • Cardio has several benefits for heart health, including lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels.

Cardio also reduces your blood pressure, lowers bad cholesterol, and boosts good cholesterol levels. So, it’s worth taking the time to add cardio to your workout plan in most cases.

Decreased Soreness

Performing cardiovascular exercise while you are sore from weightlifting can temporarily relieve DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The exercise will act as an analgesic, relieving your pain while you’re working out and for a few hours afterward. If you’re battling sore muscles, consider hopping on the stationary bike or elliptical for 20–30 minutes.

  • Light cardio exercise on rest days can alleviate muscle soreness.
  • Relieving muscle soreness doesn’t mean the cardio is helping your muscles recover faster, but it will get rid of nagging feelings of tightness.

While doing cardio on rest days won’t speed up muscle recovery, it will temporarily relieve that intense soreness you’re feeling. Reducing soreness can make it easier to jump into foam rolling, which is one of the best ways to eliminate soreness, according to scientific studies .

What are the Negatives of Doing Cardio on Rest Days?

Although cardio and weight training can benefit each other, doing cardio on your rest days isn’t all positives. Here are the downsides of doing a cardio workout on your days off from the gym:

Fatigue and Overtraining

A cardiovascular workout on your rest day can prevent you from getting the recovery time you need to perform in the gym. The nonstop stress of weightlifting, followed by cardio exercise the next day, can result in extreme feelings of tiredness.

  • Cardiovascular exercise on rest days can result in feelings of fatigue, since your body does not get a true recovery period.
  • Too much cardio on rest days may even result in overtraining, which can slow down your muscle development.

Doing cardio on your rest days can even result in overtraining, which occurs when your muscles are not given a chance to recover between workouts. This leads to increased injury risk and slower muscle development. If you’re not lifting at your best when you do cardio on rest days, make sure to add some purely restful rest days to your workout schedule.

Decreased Muscle Mass

You may be asking, “how can cardio function as crosstraining for weightlifting AND reduce my muscle mass?” The answer is complex. This meta-analysis of scientific studies showed that performing certain cardiovascular exercises (especially running) concurrently with weight training can reduce strength and muscle size gains.

  • Strenuous cardio on rest days can cause your body to lose muscle mass, instead of just fat.
  • High-intensity cardiovascular exercise—such as running—is more likely to interfere with weight training than light cardio.

In summary, too much cardio on your rest days will actually decrease the amount of muscle you gain while lifting, or may even burn off some of that hard-earned muscle. So, if you’re going to do cardio on rest days, keep it light and choose a low-intensity exercise, such as cycling.

Decreased Metabolism

Although cardio burns fat when you follow a proper diet and training regimen, too much cardiovascular training without enough calories and rest can actually trigger fat gain. This is because your body can respond to the stress of cardio exercise by slowing down your metabolism. This occurs most frequently when you combine cardio with a low-calorie diet and another intense exercise, such as weightlifting.

  • The increased stress of a low-calorie diet, weight training, and intense cardio can cause your metabolism to slow down.
  • A slower metabolism due to too much exercise without enough calories can actually make it harder for you to lose weight.

If you are on a strict low-calorie diet, go to the gym at least 3 times per week, and perform cardio on your rest days, you may trigger your body’s stress response. This can result in your body slowing your metabolism to conserve energy. So, too much cardio on your rest days can actually work against your weight loss goals.

What is the Best Cardio Workout for Rest Days?

The negatives of doing cardio on rest days all come from pushing yourself too hard. For the optimal rest day workout, perform 30 minutes of light-to-moderate cardiovascular exercise. You will know you are exercising at the right intensity for a rest day if you can still hold a conversation during your cardio workout. If you’re gasping for breath, you’re working too hard for a rest day.

  • Perform a 30-minute cardio workout on rest days.
  • The workout should be moderate intensity—if you’re so out of breath that you can’t hold a conversation, it’s too hard for rest day cardio.
  • Running is associated with more of the drawbacks of cardio than other exercises.
  • Cycling is one of the best choices for rest day cardio, according to most studies .

A grueling cardio workout will cause you to lose muscle mass and fatigue yourself. In scientific studies, running has the most negative impacts on weight training goals, so try a different cardio exercise instead. Cycling, swimming, jumping rope, or hiking are great choices. They will provide the positives of rest day cardio without the drawbacks.

Can You Do Cardio One Day and Weights the Next?

If you’re considering doing cardio on your rest days from the gym, consider these pros and cons:

  • You’ll get the most benefit from cardio and weight training if you do them on separate days, not on the same day.
  • Cardio can help burn more calories so you lose fat.
  • Using your rest days to perform cardio workouts will boost endurance and can increase performance while weightlifting.
  • Cardio exercise helps to alleviate post-workout soreness.
  • A tough cardio workout on your rest day can leave you fatigued, interrupt recovery, and result in overtraining.
  • Cardiovascular exercise can result in decreased strength and muscle size increases.
  • Combining weight training, cardio, and a low-calorie diet can slow your metabolism and make weight loss harder.

Although there are drawbacks to doing cardio on your rest days, most of these negative effects occur when you do too much work on your rest days. You’ll get the most benefit by doing a light cardio workout on your days off from the gym. This will help burn fat without pushing you into fatigue and overtraining.

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on rest days what should i do

CrossFit Rest Days: When (and how) to take them

CrossFit Rest Days

The rigors of Crossfit demand that you take a rest day so your body can recover and build muscle.

One recommendation is to work out for three days and then rest the following day. That rest can consist of active recovery, which encourages light exercise, such as walking or yoga, just to keep the body moving .

Unfortunately, this schedule ignores your individual needs.

A wiser approach is to listen to your body when it tells you to rest and then develop a schedule from that.

My body as well as my life responsibilities told me to do CrossFit three days a week, and on my off days, do active recovery by walking about four miles a day.

If you’re looking to incorporate CrossFit rest days into your weekly routine, this article is for you.

Like any high-intensity exercise, Crossfit damages muscle fibers . If you continue to work out, you continue the damage. The body can eventually repair and replace this damage to increase muscle growth.

However, this does not happen while you continue to exercise. Instead, you need to rest for your body to recover and rebuild.

Starting with CrossFit Rest Days

When you start CrossFit, you have to undergo a ramp-up program where coaches teach you how to perform the movements correctly, from pull-ups and box jumps to kettlebell swings and Olympic lifting.

This period of instruction varies by gym or box, but typically happens three times a week, such as on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Your body has time to get used to the new stresses and recover from it during the rest days of Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend.

Beginners who want to exercise more after the ramp-up can then progress to working out for two days, such as on Mondays and Tuesdays, and taking one day off, such as on Wednesdays, before continuing on to Thursdays and Fridays, and then taking the weekends off.

Early Recommendations

It’s common for new Crossfitters, particularly the beginners, to want to do Crossfit as often as they can. They see positive results from their Workouts of the Day (WODs) and assume that working out more produces more results. Such a regimen does not give the body time to recover and grow.

During the early days of Crossfit , athletes relied on a simple three days on for working out and one day off for resting. This schedule proved easy to implement and is still used by money.

Another recommendation was a three-day-on, one-day-off, two-day on plan. Athletes worked out from Monday to Wednesday, took an active recovery or rest day on Thursday, continued with workouts on Friday and Saturday, and took Sunday off.

This schedule optimizes both the number of workouts you could do and the intensity.

Both these plans delivered five to six workouts a week.

However, they did not address the needs and variations of individual trainees .

Every person responds to the WODs differently. And over time, that person’s response can change because of aging, stress, illness, or other factors.

When to Take a Rest Day for Crossfit

It’s easy to base your rest days on your feelings. The only problem is feelings are not often a reliable indicator of what’s going on with your body.

A more useful approach is to objectively measure the results that you’re experiencing, including personal records, weight, and body measurements .

A smart watch or tracker can prove helpful in this case. It can tell you if your resting heart rate is getting better or worse or if you’re the recommended 8 hours of restful sleep each night.

If these objective measurements show improvements, you have minimal injuries, and your health increases, your current workout-to-rest ratio is most likely correct.

However, if your performance is getting worse, you feel tired all the time, and you constantly experience pain that does not go away, you need more rest days.

What Is a Rest Day?

There are two types of rest days:

  • You’re most likely familiar with passive recovery , which avoids any kind of exercise or strenuous physical activity. Maybe you get up a little later, lounge around the house, or take in a movie or TV show. This allows your body to recover fully.
  • The second type is known as active recovery . Studies have revealed that compared to passive recovery, the a ctive version increases the time that athletes perform without experiencing fatigue and while sustaining power .

Active recovery includes light exercises, such as walking, active stretching, yoga, swimming, or cycling.

That tracker comes in handy here because you want your heart rate to stay at 30 to 60 percent of your maximum.

If you don’t have a tracker, try the talk test (except during swimming). You should be able to hold a conversation during the recovery activity.

Some recommend that in a week, you should have one passive recovery day and one active recovery day. Others say that you should only have active recovery days to keep your body moving.

Sample Crossfit Week with Rest Days

You don’t have any control over what the coaches at your box program for the WOD from day to day. But most are savvy enough to stress different parts of the body on consecutive days. The parts that you’re not working on that day then have a chance to recover.

Below is a sample week based that uses a three-days-on, one-day-off, two-days-on, and one-day-off approach.

With this schedule, the days you work out and rest remain constant every week. This example incorporates rest days and is based on WODs at the official Crossfit site.

Do each of the following at 50-40-30-20-10 reps for time. To scale, reduce the number of reps.

  • Single-leg squat

5 rounds for time of

  • 60 double-unders (scale to 120 single-unders)
  • 15 chest-to-bar pullups (scale to regular pullups, kipping pullups, or jumping pullups)

Do each of the following at 10-8-6-4-2 reps with as heavy a weight as possible. You can also start light and build up to a heavier weight.

  • Shoulder press

Do any of the previously mentioned active recovery activities.

In 20 minutes, do the following AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)

  • 30-second handstand hold (scale to a plank)
  • 30-second squat hold
  • 30-second L-sit hold (scale to a hollow-body hold)
  • 30-second chin-over-bar hold (scale to a dead-hang hold)

Do a hang squat snatch with 7 sets of 3 reps each. You can scale this with a PVC pipe but also add a front squat with the pipe.

Rest with passive recovery. You can also turn this into an active recovery day as previously mentioned.

Related Posts:

  • TRX vs CrossFit: Which is Right for You?
  • CrossFit vs Insanity: Which is Best for You?
  • CrossFit vs Calisthenics: What's Best for You?
  • What is the Baseline WOD in CrossFit?
  • CrossFit vs Boxing: Which is better for you?

on rest days what should i do

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Men's Health

How Many Rest Days Do I Need to Take Between Workouts?

THE IDEA THAT you need a “no days off” mentality to accomplish your fitness goals is an antiquated concept of old-school gym culture as useful these days as a rusty barbell. You can try to use it, but you'll probably wind up getting hurt after too many reps.

Rest days are not for the weak . But how many rest days do you really need to optimize your recovery ? What if you’re training for a race or pushing for a PR? Taking time off when you have a goal staring back at you can be difficult—so how long should you break before you get back into your workout plan? How many rest days are needed in a week of training?

Here, Kurt Ellis, C.S.C.S. , owner and coach at Beyond Numbers Performance , shares how to maximize your rest days so you can plan a balanced routine and come back from your days off feeling stronger.

Should You Take a Rest Day?

“The ideal answer is yes,” says Ellis. While it’s possible to train every day—“as long as you’re managing intensity and the impact that each workout has on your joints, nervous system, etc,” he adds—there’s a difference between can and should .

There might be weeks when you feel energized by and enthused about your training plan. You're supposed to rest, but you don't want to take a break. That might make actually following this guidance an obstacle. Still, you should remember: Rest days are a must.

When you're faced with these types of situations, remember that a "rest day" doesn't mean that you're laying around on your couch, totally sedentary. You're just not pushing yourself to the extent that you would during your typical training program. “Rest days are not dedicated to strenuous exercise [or] training,” he says. “It’s a day [or days] that focuses on decompressing from stressors and ‘filling your cup’ in different facets—physically, mentally, socially.” In other words, you don't have to stay supine for the whole day—just take your foot off the gas a bit.

How Many Rest Days Do You Need?

Generally speaking, everyone should take at least one rest day a week, says Ellis. But, as with anything in fitness, it depends on your individual training program.

The key is to vary your “intensity throughout the week in a way that allows for adequate recovery—i.e. a high-intensity [day], low-intensity [day], high-intensity [day], low-intensity [day], moderate-intensity [day], high-intensity [day], and rest [day],” he says.

For some people, a rest day might fall at the end of a string of consecutive training days. But your own practice might look different. “If I’m someone who likes to keep my foot on the gas throughout the week, then I would think about resting every other day in order to keep myself fresh, and also to make sure that I’m allowing my body to adapt to my workouts,” says Ellis. So, keeping your goals and exercise mentality in mind will help you determine when to slot rest days into your weekly workout routine.

The Benefits of Taking a Rest Day

Here are some of the biggest reasons not to skip your rest days.

Avoid Overtraining

You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise, says Ellis. Without necessary rest days, the benefits of exercise— improved mood, sharper memory , and increased energy just to name a few—risk being overshadowed by fatigue, reduced reaction time, and other hallmarks of overtraining .

Reduce Injury Risk

Speaking of overtraining, “incorporating rest days can help to mitigate injuries,” says Ellis. “The accumulation of stress, and/or overuse can lead to injury. Being strategic about rest days can help to reduce the amount of strain you accumulate, while allowing you to recover from the strain.”

Improve Gains and Overall Performance

During exercise, the exertion you put on your body causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers. Giving those fibers time to repair is “key to making gains,” says Ellis. “For those who have aesthetic goals, allowing muscle groups to repair and rebuild after intense workouts is key for growth .”

What’s more, resting actually improves your overall performance, since regular rest days gives your body adequate time to recover from training more broadly. “So, whether you’re training for a marathon or for the upcoming football season, including rest days will be key to recovery, which is key for creating adaptations,” says Ellis. Translation: You cannot make gains and get better without rest.

Allow for Mental Recharging

Rest days prevent burnout. Whether you’ve been running the same route over and over while clocking training miles, or you feel uninspired at the gym, taking a rest day is just as much about your mental game as your physical goals.

“As much as rest is encouraged because of the toll it takes on the body, the same can be said for the mind,” says Ellis. Use rest days as a way to recharge and refocus your training to come back mentally ready, he adds.

How to Recover On Your Rest Day

You know that you need to take rest days, but what are you supposed to do to maximize your recovery? The key is understanding what a rest day is, but also what it isn’t. Rest days are not the same as active recovery days , says Ellis. Activity is at a minimum on rest days, whereas active recovery could include lower intensity, non-strenuous movement.

Ellis says that rest days will be largely spent without dedicated activity, but adds that it’s great if you can still try to get a minimum of 4,000 steps in on these days. “Going for a walk can be a great way to promote blood flow, and delivery of nutrients for recovery,” he says. You may also opt for focused recovery like meditation, breathwork, getting a massage, or light stretching during your rest days.

What you shouldn’t be doing during your rest days? Things that don’t seem like exercise but are still super active, says Ellis. Basically, you don’t want to mow the lawn, play pickleball, and run around with the kids all day. These might be fun, but you'll still accumulate too much stress on your body for it to be considered true rest. Take it easy, and the gains will come.

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Rest days are important in any workout plan to give yourself a break to recover to get stronger. Here's what you need to know for best results.

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The Morning

How to rest.

It’s a long weekend. How will you balance the urge to accomplish with the urge to go climb back into bed?

on rest days what should i do

By Melissa Kirsch

Saturday morning of a long weekend and there is, for the moment, enough time. You play that trick: If Monday is a holiday, then today is really Friday, and if today is Friday, then the weekend hasn’t even begun yet! Three full days, an almost embarrassing bounty. The unrun errands will be vanquished. You’ll spend time with your family and your friends, take on an ambitious cooking project, finally address that creaky cabinet door. See a movie in the actual theater? Read a whole book from start to finish? Yes and yes! Right now, it’s all possible.

Of course, it’s early still. You might, for the moment, stay here, under the covers, and ponder. When faced with the boundless possibility of a long weekend, there is nothing so perversely tempting as staying in or returning to bed. All this time to gloriously and productively fill; why not waste a little? It’s not really “wasting,” is it? It’s self-care, it’s seizing agency, as a sleep psychologist told The Times . If this time is really and truly yours, then it’s yours to spend or squander as you choose.

Last year, a regrettably named trend belched up from the dark cauldron of TikTok: bed rotting. To “rot” is to spend the day under the covers, scrolling one’s phone, napping, bingeing a show, staring at the ceiling. Some doctors praised the practice as a necessary form of rest; others warned it could signal depression. Recently, the more Seussian-sounding notion of the “ hurkle-durkle, ” a 19th-century Scottish term for lingering in bed when one should be up and about, has risen in popularity.

Both practices are concerned with defiance of worldly cares, with the tension between being a responsible member of society and snuggling beneath layers of blankets. This is a grim continuum on which to exist, skating between the poles of high-achieving hustler and dissolute layabout. Even as successive generations take to social media to grapple with this tension in real time, even as a pandemic-intensified thoughtfulness regarding burnout and work-life balance suggest that a holistic embrace of deep relaxation without guilt might be possible, our bias for getting things done over getting cozy persists. We love checking things off lists, we disdain any behavior with a whiff of laziness.

Still, I think it’s worthwhile to destigmatize deliberate inactivity. My friend Cusi introduced me to the “lie-down,” a mode of relaxation that, at least in terms of branding, comes off as a bit more respectable. A favorite practice of her British mother, the lie-down is just what it sounds like: a short stint off one’s feet. It’s a form of rest that manages to borrow the restorative benefits of the nap, and of bed-rotting, without the suggestion of sloth. Cusi’s mom endorsed a lie-down whenever one had been on their feet too long, or the world had become too much.

One does not change out of one’s street clothes for a lie-down. This is not a full-on, take-to-the-bed retreat, but a deliberate if lavish recharge before one rises, refreshed, to resume living. A lie-down could involve reading or snoozing or just contemplating the world outside the window. The only important thing is that one is not standing or sitting. Perhaps because the term is so plainly descriptive, I’ve always seen a lie-down as something necessary and sensible, rather than indulgent or lazy.

So: This weekend. How will you spend it? I hope you’ll find some soothing balance between getting things done and getting nothing done at all. Perhaps you’ll check everything off your list or perhaps you’ll leave it all unchecked. If things become too much, a lie-down is available to you. So is hurkle-durkling, and so is that timeless standby, the long winter’s nap — no judgment here. It’s still likely Saturday morning of a long weekend as you’re reading this (or Saturday afternoon! I said no judgment!). There is still plenty of time.

Sleep experts offer napping tips .

“For many Americans, work has become an obsession, and long hours and endless striving something to aspire to.” From 2019, “ Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life .”

Just how bad is smashing the snooze button ?

If you’re up for a cooking project this weekend, try these recipes .

What is Presidents’ Day ?

THE WEEK IN CULTURE

Film and TV

Jon Stewart returned as host of “The Daily Show.” His performance was so sharp and familiar, the Times critic James Poniewozik wrote , “you’d think he’d been away for a long weekend instead of more than two presidential terms.”

Marvel announced that Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Joseph Quinn will play the lead roles in a “Fantastic Four” reboot , The Hollywood Reporter reports.

“Madame Web,” the latest movie set in the world of Spider-Man, was released. Read Manohla Dargis’ review .

Usher married his longtime partner in Las Vegas on Sunday, hours after performing at the Super Bowl.

A country music station in Oklahoma reversed its decision not to play Beyoncé’s new country-themed song after receiving emails pointing to the exclusion of Black musicians from the genre .

Apple Music briefly removed Kanye West’s new album from the platform without explanation. The release has been dogged with accusations of unauthorized samples.

​The Pace Gallery will show ​ the final portraits made by Chuck Close , who was accused of sexual harassment in 2017 and largely sidelined by the art world before his death in 2021.

At a retrospective of seven decades of Yoko Ono’s work at London’s Tate Modern, visitors are invited to draw their own shadows and imagine paintings in their heads.

Second City, the Chicago-based improv theater group that incubated stars like Tina Fey and Steve Carrell, has opened an outpost in New York .

Shakespeare in the Park will tour other New York City parks while its home, Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, is under renovation.

Other Big Stories

“I was never bored at a Bouley restaurant”: Times critic Peter Wells remembers David Bouley, a pioneering chef who died on Monday at 70 .

Muscle tees and boss-lady coats: At New York Fashion Week, after seasons in thrall to femininity, women’s power was a major them e.

THE LATEST NEWS

Navalny’s Death

Aleksei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Vladimir Putin in Russia, died in prison at 47 . His death was confirmed by his political allies .

Officials said Navalny had fallen ill while on a walk , but offered few details. President Biden said Putin was likely responsible.

Navalny was being held in a prison near the Arctic Circle, where he was subjected to harsh punishment . He had recently been sentenced to 19 years, on charges of “extremism” that his supporters said were fabricated.

Navalny began his career as an anticorruption blogger and rose to prominence leading protests against the Kremlin. See a timeline of his life .

Israel-Hamas War

Gaza officials said five patients died because of power outages during an Israeli raid of a hospital . Israeli officials said the raid led to the arrests of 20 militants who participated in the Oct. 7 attacks.

Israel’s defense minister said that Israel wouldn’t try to force Palestinian civilians from southern Gaza into Egypt.

Israel covertly attacked two Iranian gas pipelines this week, an escalation of the two countries’ shadow war.

A New York judge found Donald Trump liable for fraud and ordered him to pay a $355 million penalty . With interest, the cost will be around $450 million — potentially wiping out his entire stockpile of cash.

Trump privately supports a national abortion ban after 16 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. He has avoided taking a public position.

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, won’t run for president this year as a third-party candidate, saying he didn’t want to be “a deal breaker or a spoiler.”

At a hearing over the relationship between the prosecutors handling Georgia’s Trump case, a potential star witness offered no new details , frustrating Trump’s lawyers.

CULTURE CALENDAR

Desiree Ibekwe

By Desiree Ibekwe

📚 “Splinters” (Tuesday) : This memoir by the writer Leslie Jamison explores her divorce and single motherhood. In it, she interrogates the contradictions of identity and desire. “Part of me yearned for my daughter,” she writes . “But another part of me wanted only to be a woman on an open highway — with her feet on the dashboard and a man’s hand on her thigh.”

🎥 “Drive-Away Dolls” (Friday): This queer comedy follows two friends who set off on a road trip in a rented car, but are pursued by criminals who left something in the trunk. It is Ethan Coen’s first film since the end of his creative partnership with his brother, Joel, and was first conceived by Coen and his wife, Tricia Cooke, almost 20 years ago, as the first of three “ queer B movies .” (They’ve said the second is already written.)

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

By Melissa Clark

Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew

One of the easiest and most fragrant ways to warm up an icy February weekend is with a simmering pot of garlicky beans. Colu Henry’s roasted tomato and white bean stew is just the thing. In this 30-minute recipe, she calls for fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, which she roasts until they condense and caramelize. These are added to the pot along with canned white beans, garlic, onion, red-pepper flakes and olive oil, and then everything is briefly stewed to let the flavors deepen. A final topping of chopped parsley and lemon zest adds brightness and color. Serve this with toasted crusty bread for a satisfying, cheery meal.

REAL ESTATE

The hunt: Two childhood friends reconnected and married, 49 years after they had met. Now they’re looking to make a fresh start in Brooklyn. Which home did they choose? Play our game .

What you get for $820,000: A recently renovated 1910 cottage in St. George, Utah; a 2019 three-bedroom townhouse in Asheville, N.C.; or an 1820s farmhouse in Lakeville, Conn.

Greenwich Village: The New School’s presidential residence is now on the market. Take a look inside .

Surreal and silly: Penelope Gazin built a fan base by straddling the line between pranks and product merchandising .

Weighing in: The 75 Hard program, which calls for indoor and outdoor workouts, a gallon of water daily and no “cheat meals,” has a cultlike following. But is it worth the effort ?

Love and furniture: Meet couples who spent Valentine’s Day at Ikea . On purpose.

Scam or not? : Is there anything I can do to reverse dark eye circles ?

ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER

A travel pillow so ridiculous it works.

Peaceful sleep on a plane can be elusive. There are countless gadgets which promise to help, yet most will do no such thing. Ahead of Wirecutter’s Sleep Week , though, I tested one such product that pleasantly surprised me: a strange-looking “pod,” which is an all-in-one neck pillow, eye mask and hoodie. It certainly made me look dorky. But on a recent flight from Los Angeles to London, it also allowed me six blissful hours of sleep. My colleague, another frequent flier, feels similarly about a different goofy-looking travel pillow , which she says is the “only way she can sleep on flights.” Our findings? If you are a poor plane sleeper, it’s fine to look ridiculous — as long as you get some shut-eye. — Dorie Chevlen

GAME OF THE WEEK

N.B.A. All-Star Saturday: Grab some snacks and enjoy the most fun all-star event in professional sports. The night begins with a team skills competition featuring Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-4 rookie phenomenon. In addition to the usual 3-point shooting competition, there will be a special shoot-off between Stephen Curry and the W.N.B.A. all-star Sabrina Ionescu. The evening concludes with the dunk competition, a reliably entertaining combination of athleticism and creative gimmickry. 8 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

More on sports

Caitlin Clark, who broke the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball scoring record this week, can make shots from anywhere. These charts prove it .

M.L.B. players reporting to spring training have said this season’s jerseys — designed by Nike, manufactured by Fanatics — are not up to big league standards .

The 2024 NASCAR season kicks off this weekend with the Daytona 500. Here’s a season preview from The Athletic’s experts .

NOW TIME TO PLAY

Here is today’s Spelling Bee . Yesterday’s pangram was excavated .

Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.

And here are today’s Mini Crossword , Wordle , Sudoku and Connections .

Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox . Reach our team at [email protected] .

Melissa Kirsch is the deputy editor of Culture and Lifestyle at The Times and writes The Morning newsletter on Saturdays. More about Melissa Kirsch

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Have COVID-19? Here’s How Long You Need to Isolate

Staying away from others isn’t the only thing you need to do if you test positive.

Rachel Nania,

You just tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?

It’s been more than four years since the coronavirus started circulating in the U.S., and in that time, the official guidance on what you should do to avoid catching and spreading it has changed. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s confusion on how long you need to stay home and away from others if you test positive for COVID-19.  

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Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that if you have COVID, you should isolate from others for at least five days from the start of symptoms or a positive test. And if you need to go out in public during that time or interact with people, you should wear a mask .

Five days is not an arbitrary number, says William Schaffner, M.D., professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. It’s the window when you are most contagious, he explains, and the whole point of isolating is “so that we don’t become spreaders of the virus to other people.”

When the five days are up, the advice on what to do next depends on any symptoms you had and whether they’re improving.

  • No symptoms or improving symptoms. People who tested positive for COVID-19 but didn’t have any symptoms can end isolation after day five. The same goes if you had symptoms but are feeling better and have been fever-free for at least 24 hours, without relying on any medicines to bring your fever down.
  • Persisting symptoms. If your infection brought on symptoms that are still lingering after day five, continue to isolate until your symptoms start improving and you are fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours.
  • Severe symptoms. People who had a more severe case of COVID — who experienced shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or were hospitalized — should isolate for at least 10 days.

Regardless of when you end isolation, the CDC says that people who had COVID should wear a mask though day 10 from when your symptoms first started in order to avoid spreading the illness to others. Want to take your mask off early? Grab a few COVID tests . “With two sequential negative tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask sooner than day 10,” the CDC says.

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Don’t ignore treatment

Keeping the virus away from others is not the only thing to think about if you test positive for COVID-19. Treatment should also be top of mind, health experts say.

The virus is still sending more than 20,000 people in the U.S. to the hospital each week, according to federal data, and “at least half of the hospitalizations and deaths in people who are at high risk are in people who never [got treated],” says Paul Offit, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of the book Tell Me When It’s Over: An Insider’s Guide to Deciphering COVID Myths and Navigating our Post-Pandemic World.

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A recent study published in January found that only 12.2 percent of 309,755 patients eligible for Paxlovid received a prescription. Another study, yet to be peer reviewed, found that only 9.7 percent of more than 1 million high-risk patients received the treatment.

Paxlovid and other antiviral medications, like Lagevrio and Veklury, are recommended for older adults — who make up the majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths — and people with underlying health conditions, like heart disease or lung disease. These medications “work extremely well at mitigating symptoms and shortening the amount of time that people are sick, and how sick they feel while they have it,” says Jodie Guest, a professor and senior vice chair in the department of epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

The key is starting these antiviral medications right away, Schaffner says — within the first five days of symptom onset. “We tend to say ‘Oh, I’ll see if it gets better tomorrow. I don’t want to bother the doctor with this,’” he says. “Do this as quickly as possible, because if you have either flu or COVID, instituting the treatments early gives you the best benefit. The longer you wait, the less effective the treatments are.”

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COVID remains a ‘significant burden’

It’s possible that the current guidelines could once again change as our approach to the coronavirus continues to evolve.

At this point, the majority of people in the population have built up some sort of immunity to COVID-19 , either through vaccination, infection or both, health experts say. If you come face-to-face with the virus again “your immune response should help protect you from severe illness and hospitalization,” according to the CDC.

Another factor that could influence a shift in guidelines is the idea that a shorter isolation period could encourage more people to test themselves and comply with recommendations.

“A lot of people are using [current] guidelines as a reason to not test,” says Guest, who notes that many people can’t take several days of unpaid sick leave or keep kids home from school for a week. “And so if people are not testing and they don’t know they have COVID-19, then they’re out and about and circulating in the community at a time when they’re infectious.”

However, if guidelines do ease in the future, Guest says it’s important to not dismiss the virus and to remember that “COVID is still a very significant burden of long-term illness and death.”

Another important point, Offit says, is to remember that it’s not just COVID-19 that can cause people to get seriously ill. Flu and RSV send hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital each year, too. The bottom line, he says, is to stay home if you’re sick. “Or if you can’t stay home because your work doesn’t allow you to stay home, then wear a mask.”

Rachel Nania is an award-winning health editor and writer at AARP.org, who covers a range of topics including diseases and treatments. 

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The 3 Stages of Weight Loss, According to Dietitians

Here's what to expect if you're embarking on a weight loss journey.

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“Embarking on a weight loss journey is akin to a marathon , not a sprint,” says Dalia Beydoun, R.D . “Each person’s weight loss journey is unique , with its own timeline, hurdles, and milestones. But for the majority of people, safe and sustainable weight loss takes time ."

In general, though, weight loss can be delineated into three stages: rapid weight loss, gradual weight loss, and maintenance. The length of each stage depends on the individual, Michelle Routhenstein, R.D. , preventive cardiology dietitian says. Being able to identify these stages may be a key sign of healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Ahead, dietitians spell out what you should know about the difference stages of weight loss, how much weight you can lose safely, and more.

What are the stages of weight loss?

There are a few.

Stage 1: Rapid Weight Loss

It's not uncommon to see substantial drops in weight right at the beginning of a weight loss journey, as the body adapts to new habits, expands Tiffany Ma, R.D.N .

“[This] ‘rapid weight loss’ stage is the initial, and typically, the shortest stage. This is the time when diet modifications have just begun and there is a significant drop in body weight within a short period,” says Beydoun. During this stage, individuals usually experience a pronounced decrease in water weight, likely due to a reduction in glycogen stores which are used up for energy when the body is in a calorie deficit.

“This stage can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on factors such as starting weight, dietary changes, and physical activity levels," she says. "While rapid weight loss can be motivating, much of the initial drop on the scale can be attributed to fluid loss rather than fat loss."

People often incorporate drastic calorie restriction or extreme exercise regimens to hit this rapid weight loss stage quickly, says Routhenstein—as you might see wrestlers do right before a weigh-in, or when someone needs to lose a few pounds to fit into a suit for an occasion. “This approach can lead to muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, and potential health risks such as gout attacks and liver issues."

Stage 2: Gradual Weight Loss

Gradual, or slow weight loss, is the next stage of losing weight. “As the body adapts to the changes introduced during the rapid weight loss phase, progress may slow down during the second stage,” says Ma. “This phase involves a more gradual and sustainable rate of weight loss, typically ranging from 0.5 to two pounds per week.”

During this stage, individuals may focus on incorporating healthier eating habits, regular physical activity, and behavior modifications to support long-term weight management. It can last for several months or years, depending on the individual.

“The pace of weight loss slows down compared to the initial rapid phase, but it is often more indicative of true fat loss rather than water weight," says Beydoun. You may be losing weight less quickly, but this stage of weight loss is what creates your success for the long haul. It allows for better preservation of muscle mass, reduces the risk of negative health consequences, and promotes long-term weight maintenance.

Stage 3: Weight Maintenance

Once you’ve reached your goal weight range, your attention shifts to sticking at that weight for the months and years to come. This stage may come unintentionally—what was once your calorie deficit becomes your maintenance calories as you lose weight.

“Weight maintenance refers to the phase following successful weight loss where individuals actively work to sustain their achieved weight through continued adherence to healthy habits and lifestyle changes,” says Beydoun. “This phase is key for preventing the regaining of weight by anchoring those long term habits. It involves finding a sustainable balance between calorie intake and expenditure without excessive restriction, maintaining regular physical activity, and monitoring progress."

Weight loss isn't always linear.

If you’re noticing that you don’t go directly from rapid weight loss to gradual weight loss, you’re not alone.

“Between the rapid and gradual weight loss stages, it’s common to experience intermediate phases of weight fluctuations and plateaus. While weight fluctuations are normal, plateaus may often require adjustments to dietary and exercise strategies,” says Beydoun. These stages might make your weight loss journey more challenging, but they do show the value of long term lifestyle changes as opposed to rash, short term extreme diets.

Fluctuation between stages happen when individuals encounter obstacles like plateaus, cravings, and social pressures, Routhenstein says. "Successfully navigating this stage involves adapting strategies, building resilience, and seeking support to overcome setbacks and continue progressing towards long-term weight loss goals."

man standing on weight scale, low section

How fast can I safely lose weight?

As we touched on above, to ensure sustainable, healthy weight loss, most people don’t want to lose more than two pounds a week.

“Rapid weight loss is not recommended, as losing more than two pounds in a week can cause muscle loss and increase the risk of gout attacks and liver scarring,” says Routhenstein.

Is there a difference between fat loss and weight loss?

Not all weight loss is fat loss .

Fat loss refers to a decrease in body fat mass specifically, while weight loss encompasses any reduction in overall body weight, including water weight and muscle mass, says Routhenstein. “Prioritizing fat loss through healthy lifestyle changes is preferred over simple weight loss for improved body composition and overall health."

The key concept here is zooming in on long-term fat loss over weight loss . It's essential to focus on sustainable fat loss rather than simply chasing a lower number on the scale since preserving lean muscle mass will promote overall health, says Ma. To avoid losing muscle mass while losing weight, prioritize strength training and keep up your protein intake.

How do I maintain my weight loss?

Maintenance requires ongoing adherence to the healthy eating habits you participated in while you were losing weight and participating in regular physical activity, and whatever other lifestyle modifications you utilized—like limiting alcohol and avoiding cigarettes and other drugs, Ma says. “It's a lifelong commitment to health and well-being and is often considered the hardest part about one’s weight loss journey, emphasizing sustainable habits rather than short-term fixes.”

Headshot of Perri O. Blumberg

Perri is a New York City-born and -based writer; she holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Columbia University and is also a culinary school graduate of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She's probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she'll never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com .

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Do I have to stay home if I have COVID in 2024? The rules might surprise you.

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Amidst reports this week that federal officials are considering changing COVID-19 isolation guidelines, experts offered reminders that the coronavirus remains dangerous, killing more than 1,000 people a week nationwide and more than 2,000 a week as of last month.

But the approach to prevention has shifted now that most Americans have been infected and vaccinated at least once.

There are also treatments available for the most vulnerable, though they are dangerously underused and most of the people who end up hospitalized are among the vulnerable groups who missed the opportunity to get an updated vaccine or a timely treatment, experts say.

"We're not going to prevent COVID anymore ‒ people are going to get COVID," said Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical adviser for the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank.

But what's important is preventing hospitalizations, severe illness and deaths in the face of a virus that "is much more transmissible than the flu or than a regular rhinovirus that gives you the common cold," he said.

So how hard should you be trying to avoid COVID-19 and what should you do if you get it?

That depends on your level of risk and risk tolerance, experts say.

"The science hasn't changed, but the public's perception (has) and the willingness of the public to inconvenience themselves has definitely dropped since the early days of the pandemic," said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease specialist with Optum and a co-host of the podcast "This Week in Virology."

Even early in the pandemic when 2,000 people were dying daily in New York, the vast majority of Americans decided that isolating themselves when they fell ill was inconvenient, he said.

About 75% of people typically hide their illnesses when they are sick even though they know it might be harmful to others, because they don't want to miss out, especially on social activities, according to a recent study.

"People are already going to the office, they're going to school, they're taking their antihistamine, so no one notices," he said.

Most people have been quick to forget the lessons learned during four years of the pandemic, Griffin said. "For the elderly, for the immunocompromised, we're turning back to our previous rugged individual approach to public health."

What should you do if you get sick?

Anyone who has a respiratory illness ‒ a cough, stuffy nose, often a fever ‒ should assume they have either COVID-19, the flu, or RSV, each of which kills tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans a year, said Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"We've added COVID-19 to the pantheon of winter respiratory viruses," he said.

Offit recommends that people at risk for severe disease from COVID-19, including those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, or over 65, get tested quickly if they develop these symptoms so they can benefit from the very effective available treatments : Paxlovid and the antiviral Molnupiravir.

People who are not at high risk should assume they have one of these highly contagious infections and wear a mask to protect the vulnerable, he said.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said he's one of the few people in his Nashville, Tennessee, region still masking in public. He and his wife are caring for a family member undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and he doesn't want to bring anything home.

Schaffner said the government should offer more attention and support for treating high-risk people who catch COVID-19. Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe Paxlovid even to extremely vulnerable patients because they don't understand the medication, Schaffner said. He said he wished there was a "911 equivalent" that doctors could call for advice.

Parekh, speaking on Day 9 of his own mild COVID-19 infection, said the current system assumes people at high risk will be willing and able to go through "nine hoops to get Paxlovid."

When is it OK to return to work?

Still testing positive but with a faint red line, Parekh, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he'd stayed home for the first three days and then benefitted from a weekend before coming to work wearing an N95 mask to conform to CDC guidelines.

"I've been asking myself, just in terms of the convenience, how other people could do this," said Parekh, acknowledging that not everyone can work from home or time their infection for a weekend.

He's worried that much of the public is now a few years away from their last vaccination and people are not staying home if they're sick, so it's likely that "a lot more people potentially could be walking around with COVID-19 and be infectious."

Still, many people don't have the luxury of taking a day off work.

On a recent trip, Offit saw ‒ and heard ‒ an airport cleaner sniffling, sneezing and coughing. He watched people's faces change as they saw the man and they quickly moved away.

"If we value human life," he said, "we should make it easier for people" who are sick to take a day off. It would also save businesses money in the long run if one sick worker didn't get all their co-workers sick, he said.

"But at the very least, he should have worn a mask," Offit said of the airport worker.

What about testing?

Dr. Michael Mina has been a fan of rapid testing since the earliest days of the pandemic and says they can still play a vital role in fighting COVID-19.

Mina, an epidemiologist and immunologist, said he thinks people should test themselves if they think they might have COVID-19 and stay at home if at all possible, if they test positive, particularly if the line is strongly red.

"If it's positive, especially if it's dark, you know you're infectious," said Mina, also chief science officer at eMed, a home testing company.

Typically, he said, people are most contagious in the first few days of an illness.

Mina's upset with new state regulations in California and Oregon – which may become a federal model. These rules say people should isolate only if they have a fever and other symptoms are mild or improving .

Fever is a terrible metric for deciding whether someone is contagious with COVID-19, Mina said. Many people are contagious without ever having symptoms or have symptoms other than fever.

Other people may feel quite sick with COVID-19, but the virus is contained in their gastrointestinal system, rather than shedding from their respiratory tract, so they wouldn't be contagious, he said. A test from a person in this scenario would show up negative.

"Symptoms alone have always been a poor indicator ‒ both positive symptoms and the absence of symptoms," Mina said.

Do people with COVID-19 need to isolate themselves?

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still calls for people to isolate themselves for five days if they test positive and then wear a mask in public for five more days.

There were reports this week that the guidance was about to change, but CDC officials said they're not ready to make a change yet.

Several experts said it makes sense to change the rules because few people are following the current guidelines.

Any change needs to be supported by lots of public communication Offit said.

"The CDC should be out in front of the media every other day and explain what's going on," he said. If they want to change a recommendation, they should be explaining the science behind that change and "keep pounding it out there."

The goal of any policy change should be to get people to isolate for the first two to three days of illness when people are the most contagious, said Griffin, an infectious disease specialist.

"If you can actually come up with guidance that more people will follow, you can effectively reduce the amount of people out there who are highly transmissible," he said.

Is it still worthwhile to get vaccinated?

Yes, all the experts say vaccination is still worth the effort and sore arm, particularly for people in high-risk groups or for anyone who doesn't want to miss an important life event, like a wedding or a trip.

Most Americans got their last shot more than a year ago, which means that when they catch COVID-19, the immunity they got from it will have faded. They won't get as sick as a person who'd never been vaccinated or exposed to the virus at all, but they will get sicker than if they'd had a recent shot, experts say.

That's just how the immune system works.

Immune protection typically fades over time, which is why people can catch a cold year after year. Plus most viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, mutate over time, so the body isn't prepared for precisely the one that arrives the year after an infection or shot.

A vaccine, like an infection or probably even an exposure that's not enough to cause illness, Mina said, gives the body a reminder, a memory "boost" that helps it fight off illness.

The current COVID-19 vaccine doesn't prevent all infections. But a vaccine almost certainly reduces the severity of illness, experts say, along with the risk for long COVID , in which symptoms linger for months or years after the initial infection is gone.

In terms of side effects, most people will still get a sore arm. Some might feel lousy for a day or two. People who had a severe reaction to an earlier dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should talk to their doctors before getting another one.

For everyone else, the vaccines available in the United States and worldwide have been shown to be remarkably safe overall.

Anything given to tens of millions of healthy people will have negative consequences for some.

Teenage boys and young men have a higher risk for myocarditis and pericarditis , a swelling of the heart muscle and area around the heart. But Mina noted that the risk for these is higher during a COVID-19 infection than following a vaccination.

Vaccination during pregnancy has also been shown to be safe and to protect the newborn .

The bottom line, Offit said: if you're sick and can't stay home, wear a mask.

"The goal is to keep people out of the hospital, out of the ICU and out of the morgue," he said.

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  10. Take a Rest Day: Why You Need Active Recovery

    Promotes Muscle Recovery Exercise depletes the body's energy stores, or muscle glycogen. It also causes muscle tissue to break down. Giving adequate muscle recovery time allows the body to "fix" both of these issues, replenishing energy stores and repairing damaged tissues.

  11. 14 Rest Day Workout Ideas: How To Have An Active Rest Day

    Hiking. Water Aerobics. Gentle Swimming. Core Exercises. Dancing. Easy Cycling. Low-Intensity Elliptical Machine. Breathwork. Typically, when you are doing an active rest day workout, you want to keep your heart rate at or below 60% of your maximum heart rate, aiming to be closer to 50%.

  12. Rest Days 101: When and How to Take Rest Days

    Wellness Fitness Serious Question—Do You Have to Take a Rest Day? By Leah Groth Updated on 10/12/21 04:32PM Reviewed by Briana Bain Physical Therapist Fact checked by Michelle Regalado Stocksy Whether your workouts involve weight training, Soul Cycling, or training for a marathon, you have probably been introduced to the concept of a rest day.

  13. How to Decide What to Do on Your Workout Rest Day

    On active recovery days, you may lean into some light movement, like a yoga class, laps in a pool or a walk around the block. There's a place and time for both, and which variation you choose largely depends on what your body is telling you, says Alexis Dreiss, founding coach at Rowgatta in New York City.

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

    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

  15. What To Do On Rest Days: 5 Best Ways To Stimulate Active Recovery

    April 4, 2022 Staying in shape can be pretty exhausting. Everything it entails, ranging from the workout sessions to the dietary restrictions, is very demanding. This makes rest days particularly important in your fitness regimen. Rest days are fundamental for your body's overall recovery.

  16. How to Add Active Rest Days to Your Workout Schedule

    Your active rest day needs will vary depending on your training goals, intensity, and more. In general, however, you can aim for one to three active rest days per week, swapping them in for a training day or a full rest day as needed. Mila, for example, takes at least two recovery days per week. As far as scheduling active rest days, aim for ...

  17. 6 Things Athletes Should Do on Rest Day

    Rest day is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of low impact workouts such as yoga or Pilates. Or simply take a walk. The idea is to take a break from those hardcore gym workouts, yet keep your body moving. Aim for 30-45 minutes of light recovery exercise on rest day. Stretch or Foam Roll

  18. 9 Things for Athletes to Do on a Rest Day

    Elevate. 5 of 10. Elevating your legs helps with blood circulation and the release of lactic acid. Grab a few pillows and place them under your knees while you read or watch television. For even better results, lie against a wall and elevate your legs at a 90-degree angle for 3 to 5 minutes.

  19. What to Do on Rest and Recovery Days

    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 ...

  20. How Many Rest Days You Should Take A Week For Results, Per Trainers

    If your goal is gaining muscle, the number of rest days depends on your exercise programming. "If you're lifting weights five days per week at moderate- to high-intensity for an hour at a time ...

  21. What's a Rest Day Workout

    A rest day workout is also known as active recovery because it involves performing low-intensity exercise the day after a high-intensity workout. The goal is to increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and to keep them warm. Both of these factors are key for bringing more nutrients to the areas in need of healing, said Alexander ...

  22. Can You Do Cardio On Rest Days? [Pros Vs. Cons]

    Doing cardio on rest days boosts your endurance, which leads to better workout performance while weightlifting. Cardio has several benefits for heart health, including lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels. Cardio also reduces your blood pressure, lowers bad cholesterol, and boosts good cholesterol levels.

  23. CrossFit Rest Days: When (and how) to take them

    May 5, 2023 by Aurelio Locsin. The rigors of Crossfit demand that you take a rest day so your body can recover and build muscle. One recommendation is to work out for three days and then rest the following day. That rest can consist of active recovery, which encourages light exercise, such as walking or yoga, just to keep the body moving.

  24. How Many Rest Days Do I Need to Take Between Workouts?

    How Many Rest Days Do You Need? Generally speaking, everyone should take at least one rest day a week, says Ellis. But, as with anything in fitness, it depends on your individual training program ...

  25. How to Rest

    Feb. 17, 2024, 6:58 a.m. ET. Saturday morning of a long weekend and there is, for the moment, enough time. You play that trick: If Monday is a holiday, then today is really Friday, and if today is ...

  26. Positive COVID Test? Here's How Long You Need to Isolate

    Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that if you have COVID, you should isolate from others for at least five days from the start of symptoms or a positive test. And if you need to go out in public during that time or interact with people, you should wear a mask. Five days is not an arbitrary number ...

  27. What Are the Stages of Weight Loss? Dietitians Explain

    But for the majority of people, safe and sustainable weight loss takes time ." In general, though, weight loss can be delineated into three stages: rapid weight loss, gradual weight loss, and ...

  28. What should I do if I have COVID in 2024? Experts on isolation rules

    These rules say people should isolate only if they have a fever and other symptoms are mild or improving. Fever is a terrible metric for deciding whether someone is contagious with COVID-19, Mina ...