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Whether you’re training for a marathon, or just trying to get back into shape, rest days are a necessity to your workout routine. Rest days not only allow your muscles the proper time they need to recover, but put your mind at ease after putting in so much hard work at the gym or on the pavement.
You shouldn’t look at your rest days as a loss, however. You can maximize your rest days to improve your future workouts.
A good night’s sleep is essential to recovering from a workout. More and more Americans are sacrificing sleep to the detriment of their health. Younger adults aged 18 to 25 years old and adults aged 26 to 64 years old should plan for seven to nine hours per day — but this doesn’t always happen.
While missing a few hours here and there won’t affect you too much, chronic sleep deprivation can dramatically hinder your workout performance.
Quality sleep gives your muscles plenty of time to recover from your workout and leaves you well rested for the next time you hit the gym. Lack of sleep could have you feeling sorer and less focused during your next workout.
Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, or at least sleep well on your rest days. If you have trouble sleeping, turn off your electronics and avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime and keep your bedroom cool and dark. Your body will thank you the next time you hit the gym.
Drink, Drink, Drink (and eat!)
Your rest days are the perfect days to hydrate and prepare foods that will replenish your body after working out. Dehydration can seriously your workout performance and your health. Make sure you stay hydrated the day before you workout and right after you workout. Aim to drink seven to 10 ounces of fluid at regular intervals.
Less carbohydrate intake and more protein take is ideal for rest days. Protein will help your muscle tissue repair, while carbohydrates are not as important when you are not as active. You could also use your rest day downtime to prepare some foods for your pre-and post-workout meals or snacks.
A balanced intake of protein and carbohydrates can speed up your muscle recovery and leave you feeling energized for your next workout.
More Than Just Rest
Your rest days don’t have to entirely consist of rest either. Low impact physical activity on your rest days can help improve your health and mood while helping your circulation, which allows your muscles to recover quicker. Activities like yoga, walking, swimming or stretching are great ways to keep yourself active without putting a strain on your body.
Whichever activity you choose to do, make sure you are not overtiring yourself. Any physical activity you do on your rest days should be less intense than your normal workouts.
Don’t Overdo It
Above all, do not skip over rest days. Rest days are necessary to avoid overtraining and fatigue. As much as you want to see results, you will not see them unless you take some time to rest.
Over-exercising can lead to overtraining syndrome and fatigue. Commonly seen in athletes, overtraining syndrome can harm your overall health and workout performance, leaving you feeling drained physically and emotionally. The last thing you want to be doing is running on fumes during your next workout.
Clear Your Head
A rest day gives you time to clear your mind and take a step back from your workout routine. You might consider meditating, going for a long walk, reading a book or taking some time for any other hobbies you have.
It’s important to center yourself and remember that your fitness routine is a process that, like any other, will take some time to produce results. You might not see the effects of your efforts immediately, but will begin to notice them over time.
A Balancing Act
Whether you choose to spend your rest day lounging on the couch, taking a long walk or stocking up on your protein-rich snacks, you’ll be sure to start your next workout feeling refreshed and reenergized.
Your workout routine is a balancing act. Though it is important to put the work in, it is just as important to take some time to rest. When you manage to balance both, you’ll be doing the best for your body.