Health guidelines suggest we should all be moving more and sitting less. Regular exercise, to the tune of 150 minutes per week, is associated with a tougher heart, stronger bones, better weight control, and reduced stress and anxiety. So, there are plenty of reasons to get up and stay active. But, while training is important, so is giving your body enough time to rest and recover. Otherwise, you may experience overtraining injuries or become burned out.
Don’t just take it from us. Take it from these seven fitness professionals, who all know the importance of rest days. Below, they share how they spend their days off — from recovery protocols and nutrition to enjoying the simple pleasures of a lazy Saturday.
“To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with rest days. Sometimes they can make me feel sluggish and lazy, but overtraining leads to exhaustion and injury, so they are a vital part of my training regimen. To make the most of recovery days, I schedule them into my weekly routine to help me recharge. Most importantly, I plan ahead to get a little extra sleep. I also prioritize hydration, just as I would on high-intensity days, by drinking lots of water and juicing. Rest days aren’t cheat days for me, so I load up on nutrients with plenty of greens and fruit bowls. And I incorporate yin or hatha yoga classes as well as extra time with my foam roller to help my muscles relax. Being proactive about how I spend my recovery days improves my mental and physical performance all week. It’s all about the balance!”
— Ka’imi Kuoha, owner of Othentik Gym in San Diego
“I have three staples to my recovery day routine: light, active recovery swim or cycle for 30 minutes in the morning, a 25-minute nap in the afternoon, and NormaTec recovery boots for 45-minutes on Level 6 before bed. Most people assume ‘rest days’ mean ‘do nothing,’ but it’s an opportunity to recover from past training and prepare for future training. I also take the time I would have spent training and use it to prepare for the rest of my workouts for the week.”
— Jason Loebig, Nike trainer and co-founder of Live Better Co.
“My normal recovery day is a mixture of mobility, meditation and movement. I utilize my rest days as a moment to reset and ground myself for the upcoming week ahead, as Sundays are my go-to day. I normally start off with a 10-minute gratitude meditation to just reflect on the week, and at the end, I take in the present to set my week off with intention. Mobility and movement come shortly after a few chapters of a book or episodes of a show. I just run through some simple dynamic stretches and pull out my lacrosse ball and get to moving on some tight spots on my body. I also make sure to include ample puppy playtime with my dog, since I lose that with work during the week.”
— Anthony Crouchelli, boxing expert, strength and conditioning coach, and creator of the .1method
“I’m a ‘go! go! go!’ type of girl. Staying still is not my jam. But I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to take a recovery day. I suffered from adrenal fatigue due to lack of proper recovery. Not fun! I now welcome a nice, active recovery. I take the kids for hikes, go on an easy bike ride with my man or a nice swim in the lake. My body craves a good session in my NormaTec compression boots and a foam rolling session at least three times per week. I believe in ‘recover hard’ so I can train even harder!”
— Ashley Paulson, trainer at iFit
“Rest days or recovery days are crucial to performance. I learned the hard way that I needed to take more time off. At the peak of my dance career before quarantine, I was dancing for five-plus hours every day, lifting 5–6 times per week, and doing conditioning workouts 2–3 times per week. Sure enough, I ended up with an ankle fracture and had to take six weeks off. Now, I take a rest day 2–3 times a week; it’s not scheduled; it’s entirely based on how my body feels. I stay moving, I stretch, walk a lot, and when I’m feeling ambitious, I will foam roll or learn a Tik Tok dance, but I stay moving. Rest days are pretty simple for me. I don’t utilize fancy recovery equipment, but I prioritize sleep and aim for 9–10 hours of sleep at least once or twice a week. I think a lot of people like to base their gains off of how debilitatingly sore or tired they are after a workout. While that’s OK every once in a while, workouts should be pretty easy to recover from.”
— Josephine Kelly, professional dancer and coach at Trooper Fitness in NYC
“I usually take my days off on Saturday. It feels like a nice end and break in the week, and my kids and husband are home, around, and relaxed as well. My whole family engages in a phone break, usually from Friday night though Saturday evening, which definitely allows for more family engagement. Even on my days off I still need some movement. I love waking up early before the rest of my family and appreciating the moments of quiet. Then, rain or shine, I venture out for a walk. I love feeling the fresh air on my face, and feel like it really energizes me. Following my walk, I enjoy breakfast and reading the paper. From then on, I hang out with my children, usually playing a board game and then reading whatever novel I am currently into. In the evening, especially during the pandemic, we order pizza from our local pizza store, watch Netflix, and I am more than happy to get into bed around 9 p.m. I truly try to make this day an ‘official’ day off.”
— Ilana Milstein, ACE-Certified trainer and Pilates instructor at Wellness by Ilana
“Off day? What is that? Just kidding! Recovery is very important; especially as a former athlete, I still feel some of those nicks and bruises. First, on my off days, I eat. Not that I eat crazy, but my body is recovering, so I make sure to get in a little bit more protein these days to help my body recover in the form of food and maybe some BCAAs. Two other things I do are cryotherapy at least 3–4 times per month — it’s really good for inflammation, joint pain, tendons and ligaments, and it also helps clear your head when you have to focus on something other than the temperature.”
— Rico Daley, former semi-pro athlete and current head coach at Trooper Fitness
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.