Seven recovery methods to try on your next rest day
Recovery methods to try on your next rest day coming at you!
First of all, I feel like readers of my blog are mostly in three camps:
- You work out a ton and have to force yourself to rest, because you don’t like to take a day off.
- You don’t work out much at all and keep hoping to get into a regular exercise routine.
- Or, you have your workouts and recoveries down to a science. You are solid.
Which one are you in?
For those of you who don’t have a regular routine yet, you may not be as worried about rest. But active recovery methods can still be important for you. And for those of you who love to exercise and struggle to take time off … this one is absolutely essential for you.
And believe me, I’ve been there. I’m speaking from a place of “been there and done that” and I can assure you that once I started taking a day off from exercise each week and doing intentional recovery methods, I started to feel better in all of my workouts.
If you’re not currently taking any days off of exercise each week, I recommend you start by reading this post I wrote a while back about how to talk yourself into taking a day off from exercise each week and why you should do it. It’s a big mental challenge to allow yourself that rest day, but you need it.
Let us remember that working out feels great, but it is also stress on the body. And if you never give your body a chance to recover, you not only risk overuse injuries, but you will also start to have a performance plateau, and you may notice you start to gain some nagging stress weight. Your muscles grow during rest, and this is a principle you should keep in mind. Rest is important.
I recommend one to three rest days a week, but everyone’s schedule and needs will look differently. And you don’t have to sit on the couch all day on your rest day. You can use the time that you would be working out to engage in a specific recovery method. Put it on your calendar, and enjoy it. 🙂
Seven recovery methods to try on your next rest day
Let’s get into the methods …
1. Take an Epsom salt bath
I mean, who doesn’t love a good bath? Epsom salt baths help to alleviate swelling and soreness and much of that comes from the active magnesium sulfate in the Epsom salt. All you do is fill a slightly warm tub, dump in a couple scoopfuls of Epsom salt (the amount can vary, but follow the directions on the bag of the particular Epsom salt you buy), then jump in the tub and soak for about 15 minutes or so.
Because of the magnesium, not only will you soothe your muscles for better recovery, but you also may notice that you get an extra good night of sleep post-bath. This is a super-easy and efficient option you can do at home once a week. You can find Epsom salt online or in the medicine section of the drug store — it’s different from table salt, so make sure you get Epsom salt.
2. Try a Cryotherapy session
Okay, truthfully, I’ve only done cryotherapy one time. But I instantly felt the amazing effects and would absolutely love to incorporate this more regularly into my routine.
Cryotherapy is essentially cold therapy. You go into a full-body cold chamber that’s usually around -200 degrees Fahrenheit and stay in there around two to three minutes. That’s it. Yes, it’s super chilly. But the cold temperatures are healing, said to reduce inflammation, repair tissues, numb painful nerve issues, improve your mood and even more. Professional athletes are said to swear by regular cryotherapy, with some of them even putting chambers in their home gyms. It’s not cheap, but it’s something to consider rewarding yourself with every once in a while.
The one time I did cryotherapy after a workout, it gave me a boost of energy and made my body feel like I just did restorative yoga. I’ve been dying to do it again, so maybe I will one day.
3. Spend time slowly foam rolling
Yes, you can and should do foam rolling throughout the week. But on your rest day, it’s a great opportunity to spend more slow moments rolling on your roller for real self-myofascial recovery.
The real recovery comes from holding your body on the tight spots for maybe 30 seconds or more to release the knots, then literally roll them out. You can even bring your roller with you in front of the TV and watch a show while you’re rolling. Don’t rush it, and lean into the uncomfortable parts.
By the way, I have an old blog post with some tips on foam rolling here, so check that out. I also have a 10-minute foam rolling follow-along video on Fit Revolution, so head on over to try that app for free with my promo code ASHLEYPITT3PC1 here.
4. Use a percussive massage gun
Have you noticed that I’ve put the percussive massage gun on the last several gift guides that I’ve published on the blog? Because the percussive massage gun is the gift that keeps on giving. We have two, and I’ve tried so many models. This is the brand that I think works the best.
The percussive massage gun came onto the scene just a few years ago, and it’s getting more and more popular. Essentially, it’s a little gun with a percussive knob that you rub all over your muscles, and it provides a targeted massage. The percussive (not vibrating) therapy alleviates sore muscles, helps break up painful lactic acid build-up from workouts and reduces muscle tightness too.
Sometimes, Dave and I take turns doing the gun on each other’s backs, but really, you can do most of your own body. I like to use our gun every Sunday, but sometimes throughout the week before or after a workout. I feel a big difference in my muscle soreness and tightness when I use it. If you can fit a percussive massage gun in the budget, go for it. It’s a real delight.
5. Book a massage
Okay, I know it may not be reasonable to get a massage every week, but some people do. I haven’t had a massage in almost a year, but I always feel great after I do.
If you want to treat yourself and treat your muscles, book a massage. Not much else to say on this, other than a sports massage or deep tissue are both super beneficial, even if they are a little intense. There are some great in-home massage services I’ve tried in the past, so see if there are any in your area, if you don’t have time to go to a spa.
6. Try a short slow-flow yoga session
Now, I’m all for stretching on your rest day. But I don’t think it feels that good to stretch totally cold muscles, which is why I prefer slow flow or restorative yoga for a day off. This is not power yoga. This is not laying totally still and holding a stretch for a minute. But instead, this is gentle movement, with slow pauses into poses that improve your mobility, lengthen your muscles and move your body in helpful ways.
I do a slow-flow yoga from the Peloton app almost every Sunday evening as part of my recovery process. You can find some great free slow-flow yoga sessions on YouTube, if you don’t have access to any streaming workout apps. It doesn’t need to be a long session, even a short one does wonders.
7. Go for a relaxing walk outdoors
I cannot sing the praises of slow solo walks outdoors enough. When I feel really stressed, when I’m sore, when I’m down — whatever it is — walking outdoors (away from as much concrete as possible) heals me. I know it seems like you could just walk on a treadmill. But being in the trees, under the sun and in fresh air (if at all available to you where you live) is the real magic.
Yes, you can get in a good workout with a power walk, and that’s amazing. But on your rest day or rest days, slow walks where you listen to a podcast or you just listen to your own thoughts can truly help promote recovery. I’m all for these.
Honorable recovery method mentions …
A few other things that you can do to help your body recover on your rest day(s) …
- Drink a ton of water (always)
- Sleep, nap and rest (sleep is the ultimate recovery)
- Experiment with CBD lotions and creams for your muscles (I haven’t used any of these, but they are growing in popularity and worth considering)
In conclusion …
If you engage in any of these activities on your rest day, I bet you will notice a more healed and happy body for all your workouts moving forward. Take care of that bod, because it’s the only one you’ve got!
Other posts you may like …
- How to talk yourself into taking a day off from exercise each week
- What I learned while taking time off from teaching group fitness
- How to start 2021 off right and my goals for this year
- How to schedule your week of workouts
Thanks for reading about recovery methods on the blog today! Head on over to Instagram to say hello, if you’re not already hanging out with me there. 🙂
Questions of the day
How many rest days do you take each week?
What’s your favorite form of recovery?
Have you ever tried cryotherapy?
I’m not sure what camp I fall into anymore. Right now I’m dealing with a clicking right knee so I’m walking everyday and doing a core challenge on Peloton or a arm workout. A occasional bike ride until I can get to PT. I should foam roll more but I dislike it! I also massage my feet with yoga tune up balls which I love!
Hi Alexa! Sorry to hear about your clicking knee — have you tried rolling your IT bands and quads and calves? Sometimes that helps loosen up the knee area. Hope you can get someone to look at it soon. Until then, walking and core are a great combo!
Great list! I usually take one rest day when I focus on flexibility or yoga. Idk if it’s just me, but if I don’t add in extra walks or some fun dancing (both things I enjoy!) that day I usually struggle to fall asleep at night without a good workout. I need to get better at adding in more flexibility, mobility, and foam rolling into my life. I should probably focus on that this month 😀
Hi Jessie! Isn’t it funny how a body in motion stays in motion? Me too! I feel like I NEED to move, even if it’s not a workout day, something gentle has to happen! 🙂