When you’re exercising often enough to need to program rest days into your schedule, you’re doing much better than most people. So you can feel great about yourself for that!
These rest days are important to restore your muscles from the beating they take from frequent workouts. Strength training in particular is predicated upon pulling them apart so they can knit themselves back stronger, resulting in the soreness you tend to feel.
But rest days aren’t as beneficial if you don’t go the figurative extra mile by treating yourself and your body to food, supplements and lower-intensity movement that help you recover more quickly.
Here are a few ideas:
- Epsom salt baths — These are an oldie but goodie for reducing inflammation and swelling after a workout and can be done shortly afterward or on a rest day.
They don’t require a lot of time; dump a couple of scoops (or whatever the instructions on the package say) into a warm bathtub and sit for 15 minutes or so, and let the magnesium relax your muscles and improve your overall sleep quality.
- Percussive massage gun — These little machines are gaining popularity with their effectiveness at breaking up lactic acid buildup in targeted muscle groups, improving circulation and lymphatic flow and improving your range of motion after an especially tough workout.
- Cryotherapy — This super-chilling of your body for two to three minutes has been embraced by many professional athletes who’ve found it useful for reducing inflammation, pain and muscle fatigue following a strenuous workout.
It’s on the pricey side, so you won’t be doing this every week. That might be a good thing because some evidence suggests while it may provide short-term relief, cold therapy (including icing) may work against long-term recovery goals.
- Slow-flow yoga — Simply loafing around all day isn’t normally recommended for rest days, and warming up before gentler activity like walking, cycling or even stretching is just as important as before more strenuous routines.
Slow-flow yoga involves slower transitions, holding poses for several breaths to let your muscles expand and contract slowly and deeply.