Waking up in the morning and suddenly remembering it's Friday is one of the best feelings. And waking up to a forgotten workout rest day is a pretty close tie, especially after a few days of intense exercise.
Whether your rest day comes around once or a few times each week, you want to make the most of your recovery. Although rest days may seem simple, there are some common mistakes you'll want to avoid to get the most out of your day away from the gym.
1. Lounge All Day
Although your rest days should be a break from your usual workout routine, that doesn't mean you should necessarily lie on the couch all day. Instead, April Whitney, certified personal trainer, suggests that you use your rest day as active recovery.
"You might still go on a 20-minute walk, run some errands or increase your non-structured exercise by simply standing more or getting up and moving throughout the day more often," she says. "Or you may do a quick dynamic warm-up to start your day. [There are] lots of options here, including recreational activities."
But remember, the key is facilitating recovery, not burning calories. You don't want to exert yourself too much. Prioritize activities and forms of movement that will make you feel more energized, rather than depleted.
2. Intense Recreational Activities
A game of pick-up basketball may sound like an excellent active recovery activity — and it can be! But the last thing you want to do on a rest day is re-create an NBA game at your local park.
Skipping a day at the gym only to spend it doing another equally strenuous activity won't give your body the time it needs to recover properly, Whitney says. Plus, overdoing the activity on your rest days won't help you gain strength in the long run and can even leave you injured.
No matter how much you may struggle with rest days, keep your basketball game or tennis match low-key and easy-going. Keep your heart rate low and take plenty of water breaks.
3. Change Your Usual Diet
Going for an extravagant dinner becomes all the more tempting when you're not hitting the gym. And while indulging in a comfort meal or snack is totally OK every so often, it probably isn't wise to change your usual eating habits too drastically on your recovery day, Whitney says.
It's also pretty common to eat out of boredom on your rest days when you have more time on your hands, Whitney says. Of course you want to fuel your body when you feel hungry, but try to avoid bored or stress munching too much.
"If you find yourself eating out of boredom and not hunger, find something productive to replace it with, like going for a walk or calling a friend," Whitney suggests. "Become more aware of your hunger cues and save eating for when it's truly hunger and not just boredom."
Also, avoid eating meals or snacks that are totally out of your usual diet. After all, an upset stomach is the last way you want to spend your recovery day.
4. Forget to Hydrate
Your days away from the gym are a time to focus on recovery, and drinking enough water is a big part of that, Whitney says. Although you want to hydrate properly each and every day, it's easier to forget on days you're not exercising and sweating.
Water needs will vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including how much you sweat, where you live and how frequently you use the bathroom. Generally, men need to drink at least 3.7 liters of water per day, while women should aim for at least 2.7 liters of water each day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
5. Eat Too Little
It's not uncommon to feel less hungry on days you're not exercising, Whitney says. After all, you're not burning any calories during a sweat session, so you may feel like your body doesn't need as many that day. But the key here is to listen to your hunger cues, because your body does still need fuel to aid in recovery.
"Your body needs a balanced diet and plenty of calories on a rest day in order to promote recovery and allow your muscles to grow," Whitney says. "Your performance will be enhanced by eating enough calories on your rest days, rather than restricting your total intake."
Despite the lower calorie expenditure, you want to keep your calorie intake pretty close to standard on your rest day. This will help guarantee you're ready to hit your workout on your next day back.