Don’t just stretch! Take time to rest.
Taking rest days may come more easily to some than others. When you’re on a roll with your training it can be hard to hit pause and schedule time to rest and renew. The StretchIt community is full of people who genuinely love to move and make progress on their goals, so it’s no surprise that sometimes rest days are an overlooked part of the training schedule.
We’re here with tips and tricks to make your rest days the best ever. You can turn rest days into purposeful—and productive! —times of relaxation that you can look forward to as much as any other part of your training routine.
"It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.”
1. Actually take them.
The first way to make rest days the best ever? To actually take them! Overtraining can lead to burnout and injury so make sure that you have rest days scheduled…and not just “Oh, I’ll do some Olympic weightlifting instead” kind of rest day—but an actual rest day when you allow your muscles to repair and rebuild.
Think about your health and wellness with a big-picture perspective: it’s not just about splits and goals like “getting abs,” but it’s also about being more mindful and connected to your body. It’s about developing healthy eating habits, getting good quality sleep, and improving your mental and emotional wellbeing. You can’t focus on your whole health if you’re working out all the time!
Physical activity is a big piece of staying healthy but to be your healthiest self, it’s important to pay attention to all the avenues of health—not just fitness. Think of rest days as opportunities to spend time doing other healthy things for yourself, whether it’s cooking a healthy recipe, meditating, or relaxing in a hot bath.
"That's the thing I'm worst at: resting. I have to be forced to do it. Sometimes I think of loopholes. 'Oh, I'm just going for a walk, up a dune that's 45 degrees, but I'm walking, so it's not a workout.'”
2. Plan when you’ll pick back up after your rest day.
Have you ever fallen into the rest day trap? You know, when you take a rest day and then….BOOM! Two weeks have gone by in a blink of an eye. When you schedule your rest days, also try to schedule in when you’ll start up again. Knowing you’ll start back up again soon can also help you enjoy your rest days to the fullest. Savor the time off and be grateful for the chance to get back to it the next day.
Staying active is a habit and the more you reinforce the habit, the easier it’ll be. Rest days are part of the momentum because they can help you return to your training with more energy and a restored body. If you need more than just one day to feel better and get your rest, that’s okay! But don’t let your one day snowball into weeks.
Building healthy lifestyle habits takes time and commitment and once you get into a routine of training-resting-training-resting, you will likely start craving the days that you’re more active (exercise is a mood booster, stress reliever, and much more). It’s like a switch goes off and suddenly working out becomes more enjoyable than not missing a session so you won’t need to worry about taking rest days and falling completely off the wagon.
"I have to take care of myself in order to live life the way I want to. It's important to have rest days. But in the long run, if I don't work out for, like, three days, I feel worse, not better.”
3. Do some gentle ‘active recovery’
Rest days don’t necessarily mean hitting the Netflix and snacks (although that is an option!). If you’re itching to move or your body is feeling particularly sore, it can be helpful to do some gentle active recovery like foam rolling, a long walk, or another low-intensity activity like swimming.
Foam rolling, aka self-myofascial release, is one of our favorite ways to do active recovery. Basically, it’s a cheap way to get a deep tissue massage! It’ll speed up the recovery process by increasing circulation throughout the body. To foam roll for the best results, go slowly back and forth over areas that are particularly sore. Pause in trouble spots, take a few deep breaths, and then slowly release.
Keep your core engaged as you foam roll—especially when rolling out your back—so you can control your body over the roller. We recommend the round log rollers for your back and legs and a tennis/lacrosse ball for the glutes, hip flexors, and your lats/shoulders.
Another one of our favorites is to just turn up the tunes at home and dance around your room/apartment/house. A little bit of fun, free-flowing movement can help the body feel a lot better!
4. Do something special
Make your rest day special! Now trending in wellness circles is this idea of ‘Hygge,’ which is the Danish art of personal wellness, coziness, and convivial socializing. Rest days are perfect opportunities to take hygge for a spin!
Get started with hygge by taking time for your favorite self-care practices like:
- Making a healthy brunch at home (or pack it up to take with you to work)
- Plan a cozy movie night in with your favorite socks/slippers/sweater
- Invest in some super comfortable loungewear and spend a lazy weekend morning reading or catching up on your favorite show
- Practice an old hobby or try your hand at a something you’ve always wanted to do (drawing, cooking, sculpture, poetry…whatever calls your soul!)
Rest days are those times to devote to doing something for ourselves, our families, our housemates, or our partners. Cooking up a healthy dinner, spending some extra time meditating, having a deep conversation with your partner or friend, meeting someone special for a date…the options are limitless!
5. Invite the joy in!
In this fast-paced world, so much of our time is scheduled and filled up with obligations and responsibilities. There’s always something to do, something to take care of, some other peak to reach whether in our career, our relationships, or with our training goals. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Remember that rest days are as much a part of your goal-setting as the times when you show up and put in the work.
When your rest day arrives, enjoy it to its fullest. Know that you are doing the best thing for your body by not constantly pushing it to the edge. In these moments of rest and renewal, let some extra joy shine in your life. You have this amazing body. You have this amazing life. The path to greater flexibility can be joyful and meaningful each step of the way.
Questions or comments? We’re here for you! firstname.lastname@example.org