Great Activities to Try During Off-Days
Rest days aren’t really rest days – it is better to look at them as recovery and recuperation days. This is a subtle difference: you should spend your “rest” days relaxing, but you shouldn’t spend them on the couch watching television. Your body isn’t designed to stop completely except for when you’re sleeping, and there are a ton of great activities for rest days to keep you moving, enjoying life, and boosting your recovery.
Cardio on rest days is a great way to keep your legs moving and improve the recovery of the muscles while improving calorie use, providing some small cardiovascular health benefits, while improving mood and mental health.
When looking at cardio for rest days, be sure to stay gentle with your exercise so you don’t add to the fatigue on the body. This means that your best choices are gentle cycling , swimming, hiking, or walks. This provides a great opportunity to get out and see some nature, or adventure around your neighborhood. Hiking is a great way to get a workout in on rest days, but be careful not to walk too far, or on too much of an incline, as it is easy to overload the legs without noticing!
Many sports, played at the recreational level, are relaxing and fun without being too challenging or stressing the body. This is another way to perform gentle cardio: badminton, tennis, soccer, swimming, volleyball, kayaking, paddleboarding, and other sports all provide great ways to enjoy yourself, socialise, and make the most of your rest days.
Stretching and Prehab
These aren’t quite the same as cardio exercise or recreational sports, but stretching and “prehab” are great ways of getting the most out of your time away from intense exercise. These movements focus on the loosening of tight muscles (which contribute to pain and injury), as well as strengthening the muscles that are often forgotten.
We’ve written a whole article on the best exercises to prevent injury, but the important thing to focus on with these exercises is stretching the most problematic, tight muscles (chest, shoulders, adductors, quads, calves and ankles) and strengthening the weak, small muscles. This should focus on:
- Rear delts
- Scapular retractors/depressors
By taking a little bit of time to work on these muscles, you can reduce your chance of injury and improve your overall muscular balance.
You might not have put much thought into it, but there are many great ways to focus on relaxing that don’t involve sleeping or laying on the couch eating chips. Yoga is just one example of a great way to improve your mood and mental health, while also providing structured stretching and a new way to socialise.
We all spend time hyping ourselves up for maximum performance, but active relaxation needs to balance this out. Spend time working on calming activities like Yoga, stretching,reading, reflection, and meditation. These are all great ways to relax, boost recovery, and improve sleep quality – which has a huge impact on progress.