The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, kids are out of school, and the humidity occasionally becomes unbearable — yep, that means it’s officially summer! Many love the summer for its beautiful weather and happy vibes, but I love it most for the variety of fun activities available for active rest days. Not sure what an active rest day is? Let me elaborate.
Rest days are the (very necessary) day or days of the week where you take it easy and let your body recover. Contrary to popular believe, hitting the gym every single day is not a fantastic display of dedication; it’s a fantastic way to sabotage your own progress. Rest is key to any and every individual’s fitness routine because in order for your muscles to become stronger, they must have the time to repair and recover.
This concept is especially notable in strength training; has anyone ever advised you to either A) avoid working out the same muscle group on consecutive days, or B) avoid strength training muscles that are still sore from a previous workout? That advise is definitely worth taking! If you work the same muscle group, such as the pectoralis muscles in your chest (ahem: men) or the various muscles in your legs (ahem: ladies) over and over again without giving them a break, they will never recover and grow stronger. By working a muscle group that has not fully recovered, you’re essentially undoing your previous workout, as your body has to start from square 1 in recovery again.
With this in mind, rest days are obviously crucially important in a well-balanced exercise routine. However, that doesn’t mean you have to–or should–spend an entire day lying in bed, binge-watching Netflix (although we aren’t judging you if you do every so often). Active recovery, as opposed to passive recovery (a complete break from exercise), may help prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery. Additionally, active rest days may help brighten one’s mood and help with healthy diet adherence.
Before you choose an active rest day activity, take your current fitness level into mind. For example, a marathon runner may find a light, 2-mile jog to be the perfect form of active rest, while the same activity would be a full workout to a new exerciser. As a general rule, exercise qualifies as active recovery if you feel better after exercising compared to before you started, so you should listen to your own body when determining what will be the perfect active rest activity for you. Keep in mind that active rest typically involves performing light exercises (often swimming or cycling) that stimulate the recovery process without imposing undue stress on the injured body part.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite activities for active rest days — enjoy, operathletes!
1. TAKE A HIKE
Grab your bug spray, SPF, and water bottle, Google some excellent (and safe) hiking trails near you, and enjoy a hike on a beautiful day! Bring a couple of friends for a fun adventure and a little added safety. Don’t forget to research each trail and remind yourself of nature-related safety precautions and procedures before you take your trip. Perhaps you could do a little Geocaching while you’re at it as well?
2. GO FOR A BIKE RIDE
Bike riding is a fantastic rest day activity for both urban and suburban folk, and everyone in between. Enjoy a ride through the city, down a boardwalk, alongside of a river, or wherever the wind takes you. Don’t forget your helmet & a water bottle!
3. GO KAYAKING / CANOEING
Soak up the sun and enjoy Mother Nature by taking a trip down your local river or on a nearby lake. Although they don’t look ‘cool,’ keep your life vests on, folks 😉
4. TAKE A YOGA CLASS
Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram… With so many different denominations of Yoga and a large repertoire of poses, the possibilities for practicing Yoga are truly limitless! Bonus: Yoga breathing technique utilizes diaphragmatic breathing, making it a particularly excellent choice for singers.
5. STRETCH IT OUT
Have you read our recent article on stretching? Grab a yoga mat or a blanket, play some soothing music, and enjoy a good full-body stretch session.
6. TAKE A PADDLE BOARDING CLASS
Paddle boarding seems to be on the rise lately, for good reason! Obviously you can simply paddle board and enjoy the scenery wherever you are, but there’s been a recent influx of Yoga and Pilates classes on paddle boards. Sounds like a little slice of Heaven to us!
7. ENJOY A SWIM
Swim a few laps, do a few tricks in the deep end of your local pool, or just lie back and enjoy a good float. Any of the above sound like an active rest day well-spent to us!
8. GO ROCK CLIMBING
Arguably one of my favorite ways to spend an active rest day: indoor rock climbing. Before you go climb away, remember that you should always climb in a safe and supervised environment with well-trained and educated staff. Most indoor rock climbing gyms offer beginners classes and equipment rentals at a low cost. Always do your research before visiting a climbing gym so you can find the best–and safest–option for you!
9. VISIT AN INDOOR TRAMPOLINE PARK
Definitely my favorite way to spend an active rest day: at an indoor trampoline park. Embrace your inner child and jump away! Be sure to educate yourself on safe jumping techniques before rushing into your local trampoline park. Note that these places are usually swarming with small children, so bringing an adult friend with you is usually a must. You can also keep an eye out for adult-only jumping events at your local indoor trampoline park, to avoid crushing a small child in the process! (Don’t worry regardless, as everyone has to sign a waiver before they jump 😉 )