My favorite active rest: hiking with my kiddos!
I tried out a new kick-boxing workout this past week. Something about punching the air, no weights involved, and some ridiculously good music (I love the Dance Workout and Workout Throwback playlists on Spotify!) makes me go HARD. When I lift weights , I lift what feels right and often don’t push myself as hard as I could. When I do cardio sometimes I just feel over it and skip the last few seconds of jump-squats. But nothing feels dumber than lightly punching the air. So, I never do. That’s why kick-Boxing leaves me beat. My workout on Monday left me aching for days. Several.
On those days I realized how deeply important rest and recovery are. My body was screaming at me to rest. That workout came on the heels of several hard workouts, my first run in too long, a family hike, and caring for sick kiddos. My muscles were ready to recover. I felt stuck in my body. I was so sore that sitting up straight was uncomfortable. Walking was synonymous with waddling, and my usual sore day yoga felt painful and like I needed to back way off of every pose and just slow stretch. I couldn’t even care for my body, because it was so sore.
So I brought out the big guns, Biofreeze®. And it was worthwhile. Spiked with arnica, burdock, menthol and aloe, Biofreeze® gave me some major muscle relief. And? I could put my arms above my head again. Trust me, this was a win at that point. I use Biofreeze® for a few reasons, mainly because they’re easily available to me (here is a store locator! It used to only be available through your health care provider), never tested on animals, produced in the United States, available dye free, no steroids and is paraben free. But the main one? I recognize the primary ingredients. And it’s effective when I’m really (really) sore. I was able to move through my rest day after this. I want to share my typical recovery day practices (and some truths).
Rest Day Necessities . . . and Truths.
- Baths. Anyone who knows me knows that baths (and a myriad of drinks in the bath) are my love language. I load up the Epsom salts, lavender or peppermint essential oils (depending on time of day). Then I dip in with a book (currently re-reading You Are a Badass). TRUTH: I ought to shower after my baths. I sweat like I’m in a sauna, but I really think that that much sweat is part of why my skin is so healthy. Soaking in epsom salts helps warm and loosen up those muscles, and leaves me feeling really relaxed.
- Meditation. I’m making this a part of my every day, but I feel its positive brain benefits most on my rest days. But, as you probably know already, it’s hard. It’s a practice. I’m finding it easier and more doable as I let go of my image of meditation, vs. the realities of meditation. Because, TRUTH: You can meditate even if it’s not silent (today’s was punctuated by Elmo and my kiddos popping bubble wrap. I’m not kidding.) Even if you aren’t in a beautiful, well lit space on a cool pillow (I want one, FYI). You can mediate with bad posture, your eyes open, and no cool lambskin (but, again, I want one of those too). Meditation, for me, has been easier when I focus on a mantra. Often times just “yes, please.” or “I’m connected to my body.” I have to repeat it whenever the thoughts start to swirl in, and it isn’t always the worlds most productive meditation, but I always feel slowed down and more focused afterwards.
- Gentle Thoughts. Sometimes rest days get all wrapped up in how we move, or don’t. What walks we take, poses we work though, and foods we refuel with. All of those are incredibly important. But also (arguably more) important: Your thoughts. Are you beating yourself up for taking a day (or 3) off? Are you eating less, or treating yourself poorly because it’s not a workout day? Those thoughts aren’t productive. TRUTH: Shame, guilt, and harsh words are not effective long term motivators. It’s easy to feel like shame, or guilt will get you into the gym (“No excuses!” right? Nope). In reality, the only way to a lifestyle change (long term, positive change) that won’t be detrimental to your brain is grace, self-acceptance, and love. Habits stick when we are doing them from a place of actual, deep care. Habits don’t stick when we white-knuckle hate ourselves into eating/moving in a new way.
- Yoga. Restorative, calm, slow stretching yoga is where it’s at for rest days for me. I often pop on a Yoga video, or just do my own flow, and it’s so nice to move slowly and thoughtfully. TRUTH: I know it’s less effective. But on rest days, I often just do yoga while I watch a movie or show with my kiddos. The time passes, muscles feel better, and it feels even more like rest.
Making rest day practices important has made it easier for me to train more, and harder without feeling so depleted. I work out anywhere between 3-6 times a week, depending on my motivation, momentum, and where I’m at in my cycle. And I make rest and recovery my JOB on the off days. Slowly moving, using what I need (sometimes that’s just a bath, other times it’s employing Biofreeze® and its cold therapy for pain relief, sometimes it’s all of that and a family walk), and not sweating the ways that I’m ‘doing it wrong’.
You really can mediate with bad posture, lights on, eyes open, and a ridiculous mantra. Just because your recovery may not look Instagram worthy (mine often doesn’t!) doesn’t mean it isn’t effective for you, body and heart. Spending some time massaging your body, caring for it deeply, and really making active rest a priority after strenuous workouts will help your muscles grow and recover more efficiently! Do you have any tried and true rest and recovery day rituals? Favorite ways to refuel your body? I’m on the hunt for some great rest-day meals that fill you up and help muscles to recover, I’d love to some suggestions!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER but the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.