Believe it or not, it’s good to take some time off every once in awhile. I know, that’s not such a well-regarded concept in our world of constant connection, but it’s true.
Some people just can’t seem to take a break. Even if you are guilty of staying “plugged in” all day every day, hopefully, you are at least on an exercise program that has breaks built in to it.
Since all GMB programs have considerable rest time built in to them, people often ask us,
What should I do on my days off? Should I add in some other exercise program?
You see, a lot of people feel uncomfortable with the idea of completely taking a day off. What they don’t realize is, without sufficient rest, the body can’t fully recover and, after some time, it begins to break down.
As we like to say, you can either give your body the rest it needs now, or you can wait until your body has had enough and takes that rest later, perhaps permanently.
Assuming you know the importance of taking rest, there are some things you should know about how to take that rest. Sitting by the pool sipping a Mai Tai is just fine once in a while, but if you’re taking two or three rest days per week (which we highly recommend), you should probably use that time a little more strategically.
Our five best tips for restoring your sanity by making the most of your downtime:
1. Get Outside
On a day off, what your body needs is all the R&R it can get. Luckily, we’ve got a built-in recuperative device we can access just by stepping outside: sunlight.
Even in the absence of a regular exercise routine, sunlight can help strengthen the bones and joints; but, especially when following a moderate fitness regimen, sunlight is an excellent partner for your efforts.
Sunlight is extremely important for restoring your sanity, as it has been shown to improve mood and energy, and improving those things will help keep you on track. Think about it: If your mood and energy are low, you’re simply less likely to stay on track with your fitness routine.
What if I live in a tundra that never gets direct sunlight?
It’s still a good idea to get outside as much as possible. There’s only so much air re-circulation your body can handle before it needs some fresh air.
Even if that air is frigidly cold.
This comes back to the point I was making earlier, but I really can’t stress this enough. If you have the time, it’s a really good idea to shut off your phone, computer, and all other connections to the outside world and just be. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you do this everyday, but even if you start by doing this for an hour once a week, you’ll probably see some benefits.
What does shutting off my cell phone have to do with letting my body recover?
Your body is ridiculously smart. Seriously, it can figure out when you need to breathe faster, when to slow down your heart rate, and when to increase your body temperature.
BUT it still hasn’t figured out how to distinguish between different types of stress. Running at top speed, and reading a stressful work email elicit the same response from your body, even if they feel completely different to you.
So, when you’re actively giving your body a day of rest, the last thing you want to do is screw that up by staying plugged in to potentially stressful stimuli. Even playing Angry Birds can have the same effect.
3. Eat Great Food
Food is fuel, plain and simple. Without the right balance of the right types of nutrients, your body won’t fully recover. Period.
But, if I just left it there, I’d be leaving out a lot of important information, and we’d potentially have a bunch of people going into full-on macronutrient OCD episodes.
Step away from the food scale!
Great food is about a lot more than just measuring out the right proportions of the right macronutrients. It’s also about enjoyment – which, believe it or not, is also really good for your body’s recovery abilities.
I know I won’t have to twist your arm on this one – delicious food is a pretty easy sell. Just be careful. You can read the official GMB nutrition recommendations here.
4. Choose Your Company Wisely
Again, this one’s probably a pretty easy sell, but important nonetheless. This doesn’t just apply to rest days, but certainly on days when you’re trying to give your body a break, stay away from crappy people. Or any people who stress you out.
We all have those people in our lives – a self-destructive friend, or hyper-critical family member.
I’m not saying you should (or shouldn’t) cut these people off altogether, but just be conscious of how certain people make you feel, and whether those people will have a negative impact on your active recovery efforts.
On your days off, in particular, spend time with people who have a calming effect on you and whose company will almost definitely be enjoyable.
But I thought this was supposed to be a rest day??
Rest does not mean sitting still – that’s why we call it active recovery. But, it also doesn’t mean working so hard you defeat the purpose of a rest day. You have to find a balance that allows your body to recover through movement.
On my active recovery days, I usually go for a 20-30 minute bike ride. Nothing too strenuous, but enough activity that it keeps my body moving.
There are endless possibilities of things you could do to get the movement you need – gardening, yoga, going for a walk. Just pick something you enjoy and commit to doing a little every time you have a day off. It will help your body recover more quickly and more completely.
Hopefully, you now understand the importance of giving your body, not just enough rest, but the right type of rest. Follow these principles for your active recovery days, and you’ll probably like how you feel.
If you’re looking for a great way to implement #5 on this list, we often recommend practicing handstands on active recovery days. Handstands are great for working on shoulder and wrist mobility, and shouldn’t be too strenuous if you work at the right level for yourself. You can get started with our Ultimate Guide to Learning Handstands.