Your rest days aren’t really rest days. They’re days when your body repairs the damage you did to it while you were training. So really they’re actually “alternative training days”. As such it pays to make the most of them. Here are some tips.
Schedule in rest days
How much this matters probably depends on your lifestyle and your organization skills. If you work regular hours and are fairly organized, you can probably just remember your training pattern. If, by contrast, you’re on shifts and/or less organized, then there’s a lot to be said for having a training calendar. Then you can mark in your rest days and your plans for them.
Decide if you need to exercise on your rest days
As the old saying goes “a change is as good as a rest”. In fact, in some cases, it’s better than a complete rest. It largely depends on what you do most of the time. Specifically, it depends on how evenly your muscles are worked.
For example, with strength training, you can create a routine that works all your muscles equally. With running and cycling, by contrast, it’s essentially all about the lower body. This means that your lower-body muscles can get really strong but also really stiff. They can therefore benefit from gentle exercise on rest days, for example stretching or swimming.
Assess your body for damage
Sometimes damage to your body is obvious and simply cannot be ignored. Often, however, damage to your body starts small. If you identify it and treat it quickly, it generally stays small. If you don’t, it can become a serious problem.
Resist any temptation just to keep going through aches and pains. If you’re sore there’s a reason for it. General post-exercise stiffness should go away with basic treatment like stretches, a hot bath/shower, and/or (self-massage). Minor injuries can often be eased with a roll of nanotape. For anything more serious, however, seek proper medical attention.
Eat what you feel you need
Obviously, you still need to follow the standard rules on healthy eating (and drinking). Otherwise, just listen to your body and be guided by what it says. Remember that exercising regularly boosts your metabolism even on your rest days. This means that there’s a good chance you’ll still want your standard-sized portions of what you generally eat on training days.
Check (and charge) your equipment
Your equipment will suffer from wear and tear in much the same way as your body. As with your body, the quicker you catch this, the easier it is likely to be to deal with it. Any safety-related equipment should be checked quickly after each use and checked thoroughly on your rest days. Err on the side of caution when it comes to replacing it.
For everything else, you’re going to look for any indication that equipment needs to be maintained, repaired, or replaced. If so, then be realistic about whether or not you have the skills to do this yourself. Rest days are also a good opportunity to charge up your exercise-related electronics.