Skip to main content

Rest days are essential: 6 excellent ways to up your recovery game

Try these methods for maximizing your recovery and resting your body between workouts

A man sitting on the bleachers holding a water bottle while wiping his brow with a white towel.
Tetra Images, LLC / Alamy Stock Photo / Tetra Images, LLC / Alamy Stock Photo

Hanging your boots to rest and take a break from your rigorous fitness regimen can be a challenge for some people. You may feel as if every day is the perfect opportunity to make more progress, but it’s important you take at least one rest day a week to help your body recover.

If you have ever walked into the gym the next day not feeling your best — aching all over, fatigued, and sore — you know it’s your body’s way of telling you to stay away from the gym for a bit to allow it to recover. Pushing through with the exercise by ignoring your body’s signal might become detrimental to your health and physical fitness goals.

A man with his eyes closed resting on a gray sofa with his hands behind his neck.
Westend61 / Adobe Stock

Why is regular rest important?

Rest days are as critical as the exercise itself. Whatever your goal is, resting will enable you to see maximal results. Short-term recovery between training/workout sessions is essential in your fitness journey. It aids the maintenance and improvement of your fitness level and helps in injury prevention at all points. It may involve a cool-down phase of a lesser intensity after a workout, especially after high-intensity workouts, as well as your daily activities until the next workout session. All actions done during this time are vital in replenishing energy and fluid lost during exercise and total body recovery.

An ideal rest day will differ from person to person and is dependent on the frequency and intensity of the exercise and activities carried out by the individual after each workout. The American Council on Exercise recommends a minimum of one rest day every seven to ten days of high-intensity physical activity.

Rest days do not necessarily mean you should do nothing. Instead, the aim to improve recovery, which could involve a passive or active activity. Passive recovery means you take the entire day off exercise, while active recovery will involve low-intensity activities, such as yoga or walking, that place minimal stress on the body.

A man on his side sleeping
Ollyy / Shutterstock

6 ways you can improve your recovery


The quality and quantity of sleep within the short-term recovery time are vital in maintaining overall health and well-being. A lot of people agree with this but fail to prioritize it. The truth is that sleep is quite important.

Studies suggest that while the awake cycle is designed for repetitive glycogen breakdown, sleep helps to replenish glucose stores in neurons. Since exercise utilizes adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in energy production for muscle contraction during a workout, it leaves the muscle fatigued, making recovery necessary.

Sleep is a great way to help replenish all the lost stores of energy that allow for further muscle growth, improved performance, and the ability to reap the full benefits of exercise. In addition, the body releases growth hormones during sleep, which aids in tissue repair and building.

The physical exertion which tasks the cells, tissues, and systems of the body can be taken care of by simply sleeping. However, good sleep hygiene is required to get the most out of your sleep. This will include an appropriate sleep environment (dark and cool with little or no noise), avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, putting away all electronics (TVs, phones, and computers), and engaging in activities that help you wind down, such as taking a bath or reading.

A man balancing on one leg to stretch on a road with a view of the mountain.
Yuri Arcurs / Alamy

Stretching and foam rolling

Making sure to warm up and cool down when you are exercising is essential for injury prevention, minimizing soreness, and properly acclimating your heart rate. Two amazing ways to do this for yourself are foam rolling and stretching!

Muscle soreness is an indication that your muscles and fascia are becoming taut and knotted, and foam rolling massages those muscles, allowing the release of tension and tightness. Try spending five to ten minutes using a foam roller on all the muscles you focused on during your workout. If you make this a regular practice, you will find yourself experiencing less and less soreness despite your workouts’ intensity. Also, foam rollers come in shapes and sizes, so there is bound to be one that is right for you!

Stretching also works to neutralize muscle tightness and tension. This is a way to pull the muscle back into its ideal relaxed state. It could be dynamic (involving motion) or static — both work to increase blood flow and the range of motion of the joints.  

You can do stretching and foam rolling separately, or these can be combined and done either before or after a workout. Also, performing these before bedtime can help you get the most out of your sleep!

A man in a green shirt and gray shorts meditating on a yoga mat in the living room.
Moyo Studio / Unsplash


Emotional health is an integral part of your overall well-being. Meditation is a fantastic tool to wipe out emotional stress that comes in the form of anxiety, tension, and worry. Meditation is a type of mind-body interrelated medicine that helps with relaxation, provides tranquillity for the mind, and enhances emotional and physical wellness. 

In order to get the most out of your meditation sessions, be sure that you do the following: 

  • You are in a quiet setting with no distractions
  • You take a comfortable position
  • You take deep, even-paced breaths
  • Your attention is focused, and your mind is clear
A man doing a warrior pose with his eyes closed in the living room.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Active rest days

This is about making your recovery time active. Active rest days involve low-intensity exercises that keep your blood flowing and help your muscles recover. The activities include low-impact exercises such as swimming, yoga, hiking, cycling, and myofascial release with a foam roller. Of course, you could also partake in any low-intensity sport you enjoy playing!

Active rest days are considered safe except in cases where you suspect you may have an injury, you are in pain, or you are physically or mentally fatigued. It might be best for you to keep to passive rest activities in any of these cases. 

A bespectacled man in casual attire sitting beside his dog on the floor.
Westend61/Adobe Stock / Adobe

Stress management

Carrying out activities of daily living comes with both physical and mental exertion that can cause you to feel stressed. These conditions, in turn, can be associated with various psychological and physical health problems. Stress management techniques are, therefore, necessary adaptations to the efficient management of everyday stresses. 

Start by identifying your most present stressors, and then create boundaries by ensuring you dedicate space by establishing a balance. Next, let your focus be on living a balanced life. This can happen by managing your time, taking time to socialize with friends, eating a balanced diet, and having some fun — do what relieves you of the stressors.

A person in the kitchen prepping dinner.


Nutrition is a fundamental part of getting your body to function optimally, and everyone who’s active needs the proper fuel. This means your body has the right energy to get the job done, therefore ensuring you stay injury-free and healthy. 

Your nutrition should be a balanced composition of macronutrients, namely carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Complex carbohydrates, a variety of lean proteins, and healthy fats will aid in reducing inflammation from training. Ensure your calories meet your total daily energy expenditure to keep you feeling energized and full. While caloric deficits are necessary at some points in your life, too severe of a deficit can put the body under a lot of stress and prevent proper recovery. Reach out to a nutritionist or dietician for guidance on what you should be eating.

A man in blue shirt and navy shorts jogging on a road with trees and grassy field in the background.

Work hard, rest hard: Never take rest and recovery for granted

You may have thought that true dedication to your fitness goals means you never take a day off. We hope this article helped show you that this is a myth! You really shouldn’t overlook rest and recovery if you must make the best of your goals, and rest days are a perfect way to see the best results from your workout routine.

Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
6 essential exercises that will help you get better at pull ups
Level-up your pull-up game with these 6 essential exercises
Man doing pull-ups on silver bar in gym shirtless wearing gloves

Pull-ups are a supreme exercise for bulking up and strengthening your upper body. You use your pulling muscles to pull your entire body weight up until your chin is just above the bar. A pull-up is more difficult and advanced than other exercises like chin-ups. We’ve found the six best exercises to help you get better at pull-ups so you can obtain the most benefit from this advanced movement.
What are the benefits of pull-ups?

The pull-up showcases your strength as you haul yourself up to the bar; it also specifically targets your pulling muscles, such as your trapezius and biceps. Pull-ups are an upper body strength training exercise that depends on the shoulder, back, arm, and grip strength, as well as a stable core. 

Read more
Why strength training should be an essential part of your gym routine
Resistance training benefits: 13 great reasons to go to the gym
Man doing curls

Strength training (also referred to as weightlifting or resistance training) involves more than just building muscle. Getting stronger is certainly a plus, but there are numerous benefits to strength training beyond that. And whether you are a gym goer or you prefer outdoor workouts or exercising at home, you can participate in this activity. You don't need a ton of expensive equipment; general resistance is the only thing required.
In fact, any form of resistance works, from dumbbells to barbells, kettlebells to weight machines, and resistance bands to just your own body weight. The key is just to place your muscles under a load.
A good set of resistance bands, adjustable dumbbells, or even a TRX suspension trainer can be all you need at home to get in a challenging, total-body strengthening workout. If you’ve been counting yourself out of strength training workouts because the gym just isn’t your scene or you’ve been reluctant to venture over from the cardio equipment at your gym to the weights, keep reading for a list of the benefits of strength training, which may be just the inspiration you may need to diversify your workout routine and take your fitness to new levels.

Benefits of strength training
In addition to its versatility and convenience, strength training is an efficient and effective workout that provides a variety of physical and mental health benefits, including the following.

Read more
Boxing at home: How to set yourself up for success in your home gym
Your guide to boxing at home
Man putting on boxing gloves

Are you looking for a high-intensity, full-body workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home? 

Look no further than boxing! Boxing at home is an incredible way to get in shape, relieve stress, and learn valuable self-defense skills. 

Read more