Just like it took me a bit to get into the home workout groove when gyms closed, I also had to work at establishing a healthy rest-day schedule.
Once I discovered the at-home workouts I actually liked, and after my resistance bands and dumbbells arrived in the mail, I got in the habit of intensely working out every single day – which isn’t ideal because I wasn’t giving my body the proper time to recover and repair. I was potentially setting myself up for an injury and stunting my own fitness goals.
Just because I could do a workout in the comfort of my own living room with just a click of a button, doesn’t mean I should do so every single day.
After some reading on establishing a workout routine for my goals, I finally got it down – and now look forward to my days off from exercise. I turn off my alarm clock so I can wake up naturally, with help from the sun peaking through my curtains. I try to spend my rest days as digitally unplugged as possible, too – truly “resting” in every sense of the word. Sometimes I go for long, leisurely walks, other times I kick back on the couch and read through a few chapters of a new book.
Getting my routine in order made me start wondering what fitness pros do on their rest days, so I reached out to five experts – from Pilates instructors to certified personal trainers – to find out.
For Mercedes Owens, a Chicago-based Barry’s instructor, time spent with a good book always makes the list – oh, and some puppy bonding time, too, of course.
“My favorite rest-day activity is spending a couple of hours at the park with my dog, Leia, and a good book. I almost always keep a lineup of love stories, family dramas, and thrillers. Right now I’m reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett and A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum,” Owens says.
CorePower Yoga senior master trainer, Anthony Chavez makes self-care a priority on rest days. “I cue up whatever show I’m currently obsessed with on Netflix, then grab myself a treat (glass of wine on some days or Oreos – whatever I’m craving!). Give yourself permission to ‘take off your life’ and rest in ways that are self-indulgent. Rest is just as essential as exercise is for vibrant, human health, which is why it’s so important to me!”
But Chavez still incorporates movement on rest days, too – just in a different way.
“Second favorite rest-day activity is to incorporate stretching and body work. We all work so hard in the gym and at work. Carving out dedicated time to deeply stretch your muscles and connective tissue by doing some yin style poses actually helps me sleep better, which in turn promotes better recovery. Body work can also be getting a massage or investing in something like the Hypervolt by Hyperice to help breakdown and massage muscles when you can’t get an appointment from your favorite body worker! Ultimately, lean into doing things that fill you with joy and allow you to fully rest and reset,” Chavez says.
Light activity – like walking, hiking with his dog, and yoga – is an essential part of Mindbody Fitness Expert and NASM-certified personal trainer Keegan Draper’s rest days, too.
“I never truly take a complete rest day,” Draper says.
“I don’t believe that taking a day to just lay around is the best for our body, or for recovery, so I always like to do some light physical activity. It’s easy to do, gets me out in the sunshine with the vitamin D, and is a nice way to meditate/clear my mind. This also helps get my heart rate above resting and helps get oxygen and nutrients spread out to the muscles that need them the most. I can still manage to get my daily steps in, too!”
For Pure Barre teacher, Shantani Moore, spending time at the beach and spinning poi is one of her favorite things to do on rest days, but Moore also mentions strolling around her neighborhood with tea at sunrise.
“I’ll even silence my phone sometimes or just turn it off entirely,” Moore says. “It’s so important to unplug and have that time to reset. I try to take a different route each time to keep it fresh, and sometimes I get some of my best ideas while I’m out!”
Sometimes, though, Moore mentions that rest days mean doing absolutely nothing: “Wake up, brush my teeth, hit the couch, and just veg. I think doing nothing gets a bad rep sometimes. When you’re so physically active and on your grind most of the week, it’s important to give yourself time to just eat hummus and binge Queer Eye. I mean, what else would you do on your day off?”