It seems a bit ironic to be publishing on a fitness/health blog a list of things to do instead of exercising. But as you may already know, I hold fast to the philosophy of work hard // play hard // rest hard. Rest is a good thing. Without rest, your body and mind cannot recover enough to perform well in or out of the gym. I’ve written before about why it’s necessary to give our bodies plentiful time and a proper environment for recovery (see HERE), and I recently shared about my experience in learning (the hard way) about what happens when you don’t allow your body to rest and recover (see HERE).
But maybe you, like me, are a bit of a headcase on rest days. Maybe you thrive on the routine of regular training and the rush of endorphins that it brings. Maybe you get caught up in the comparison trap, and seeing other people training when it’s your day off makes you feel like you’re being left in the dust. Maybe you get antsy without the sense of achievement from a great training session. Whatever it is, recovery time can be a major mental challenge. If you struggle with figuring out what to do with yourself on your rest days (I hope you’re taking at least 2 each week!), I hope this list will be of help.
And if it’s not, I’ve got floors that could use mopping.
10 Things to Do Instead of Exercising
- Sleep. Seriously, so many of people suffer from a lack of sleep, whether in quantity or quality. A rest day is a perfect opportunity to sleep in an extra hour or enjoy a nap.
- Go for a hike. If you don’t have trails nearby, take an urban hike and explore a new city on foot. Keep in mind that if your hike is too strenuous, it will defeat the point of your rest day. Don’t get me wrong, hike your little heart out, just treat challenging hikes like traditional workouts and plan recovery time accordingly.
- Meet up with friends. You don’t have a workout to squeeze into your schedule, so use that time to meet up with a friend for a cup of coffee…or that hike!
- Clean. It’s shocking how good your house can look (and smell) when you dedicate an hour to tidying and sanitizing and sprucing up your house.
- Work on your car. “Working on your car,” of course, is subjective…in my case, it means vacuuming, polishing the interior, tossing any junk, and checking my oil/brake fluid/coolant/tire pressure. But no matter how mechanically-inclined (or not) you may be, your car will appreciate the extra lovin’.
- Stretch and do self myofascial release. I know it hurts, often more than your workouts do. Do it anyway. Anyone who trains regularly really needs to be stretching and practicing SMFR frequently and consistently. For suggestions on how to do SMFR, see THIS article (and if you’re having trouble finding your trigger points, take a look at THIS website).
- Read. A rest day is a great opportunity to set aside an hour or so to exercise your mind with some reading. If you don’t like to read, get an audiobook. I may be biased, as a lifelong nerd, but reading is something everyone could stand to do more often.
- Learn something new. Pick up that guitar/paintbrush/unicycle/tap shoes and practice a new skill. Deadlifting is wonderful, but there are other great skills out there.
- Food prep. I plan to do a more detailed post on this later, but food prep is one of the best tricks for making healthful eating a habit. Spend a couple hours washing, peeling, chopping, and pre-cooking, and you will save yourself hours upon hours (not to mention lots of stress) throughout the rest of the week.
- Practice solitude and meditation. Studies show that people who practice faith are happier than those who do not, and people who pray frequently, in particular, enjoy a higher quality of life. Personally, I can see a huge difference in my mindset when I’ve been spending regular time studying Scripture, praying, and listening to God. There’s really no substitute for silence, and it’s something that is in very short order in today’s society. Try taking the time you’s normally spend working out, and spending it in the presence of the Creator who knew you and loved you before He even knit your body together. There is no greater place to rest than at the feet of the Shepherd.
Discuss: How often do you take rest days? What is your favorite thing to do on a rest day?