How To Use Rest Days To Blast More Fat And Get Better Workout Results
You pushed yourself on arm day, crushed an 8km run the next day, and knocked out a HIIT workout yesterday morning. It’s time for a much-needed, well-deserved rest day.
But before you park yourself on the couch for an eight-hour series binge, know this: Being strategic about your “day off” will make the hours you spend sweating work overtime. Yep, you heard us: Prioritise a few expert tricks, and you’ll max out your fat-busting, muscle-sculpting results.
You’ll notice all of these techniques have one thing in common: Their purpose is to increase circulation. “When you enhance blood flow, you deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your skeletal muscle, so your muscles can repair themselves more quickly,” says Dr. Jonathan Mike, an assistant professor of exercise science at Lindenwood University. And remember, when you repair more muscle tissue than you tear (during your workout), you build stronger, bigger muscles. Here, five top ways to speed the process.
Add low-intensity cardio
You’ve heard of active recovery, yes? If not, now you have. Complementing aggressive workouts with an easy cardio sesh will get you your blood moving and help you burn some kilojoules—without triggering your sympathetic nervous system (your fight-or-flight response, or adrenaline factory), which only causes more distress to your body, delaying recovery. Take your normal cardio duration and cut it in half, or aim for 20 to 40 minutes of incline walking on the treadmill—just make sure you can talk throughout, as a measure of staying within the low-intensity zone.
Get a massage
We knew you’d like this one. Whether it’s from a massage therapist or your foam roller, moving around tight tissue not only feels amazing, but studies show it also reduces DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness), so you can get back to boot camp faster.
Work on breathing
We tend to hold our breath on a regular basis, which doesn’t help us in our workouts or everyday life. Efficient breathing comes from your diaphragm, which is probably the most important core muscle, says Mike. Your diaphragm helps with rib-cage expansion so you can invite more oxygen into your lungs, to be transported into your blood and then to your muscle. In order to “strengthen” it, you need to practice taking long, deep inhales and exhales as your belly rises and falls. “This type of breathing is also a brain reset,” says Mike. “It will make your nervous system feel safe, so it can then send out all the right signals to help your body recover.” If you feel silly at home, try it in yoga.
Prioritise stability movements
No, we don’t mean more core work. “Stability comes from functional, primal chain movements, like crawling and rowing,” says Mike. When you go back to these fundamental movements, you clear your nervous system so that all your moving parts (shoulders, pecs, legs, glutes, etc.) can start working together again (you inherently improve mobility). You’re also forced to recruit smaller muscle groups that may not be the focus of your regular workouts—which can help you when you get back into the gym. Hit the rowing machine for a light workout (go fairly slow), or if you don’t feel like visiting the gym, crawl on the floor with your dog or kids—any basic movement helps.
Take a power nap
OK, so there is a difference between lounging all day and lying down for a quick 30 minutes of shut-eye. And the difference is, one actually helps! A short daytime power nap has been shown in recent studies to help rejuvenate the body quickly, as deep, slow-wave sleep can restore energy—including energy needed for recovery processes to take place.
Looking for more? Here are seven recovery day mistakes you could be making.
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