How to Have Productive Rest Days
Author: Ottis Bailey — Read Time: 3.5 minutes — 24th April 2022
Rest Days Don't Have to Be Lazy
There's a difference between having a full on "Lazy Sunday" where you chill stressfully, fretting about the week ahead, and a REAL relaxation day. It may seem counter-intuitive, but resting fully doesn't mean slobbing out.
Without the right steps, we can start to treat rest days like a stagnant day of sofa-sitting and throwing in a few cheat meals too (Ben & Jerries for lunch anyone?) But what are some ways to achieve this mythical "real rest" day?
How to rest without crashing?
Take the Green Pill...
Get out into nature and do your best Koala bear impression.
It's way more relaxing than just staying in all day, distracting yourself with the latest episode of Bridgerton.
Getting out of the house and going somewhere with a bit of green can:
1) Alleviate stress
Studies show that spending 20-30 minutes in nature three times a week can drastically reduce our levels of cortisol — the stress hormone.
2) Make sleeping easier
One study found that time spent outside, in natural light — even when it’s cloudy, helps keep our circadian rhythms running on time. Our modern lifestyles, high power lamps and office lighting have blurred our natural rhythms — time to reclaim our natural night and get some black-out blinds?
3) Improve psychological wellbeing
According to a Stanford study, a 90-minute walk in a natural environment helps to alleviate ‘negative mind chatter’ which we may be harbouring after a long week.
This is a bit of a wake-up call to all the gym-bunnies out there too, who prefer the treadmill over the park. In the gym, you're not getting any of those city-beating nature benefits.
Where to go, though?
Your local park is good enough for a quick dose of nature. But if you want to really feel the effects, make a day-trip out of the city and check out these areas of natural beauty around London.
Bonus points if you can combine nature with a little bit of light exercise too. Which brings us to...
Do some active recovery!
An active recovery day can leave you feeling more relaxed than if you'd just taken passive recovery (aka, nursing a wine hangover with the curtains closed). Light exercise will help you de-stress and focus on what's important, too.
An active recovery day should include different activity than your usual workout. If you're usually pumping iron, swap the deadlifts for a lap in the pool, or the dumbbell curls for a tai chi routine. The idea here is to NOT work at a maximum effort. Go slow, grasshopper.
1) Practicing tai chi or yoga
Practicing tai chi or yoga can be beneficial for active recovery. Both help stretch sore muscles and increase flexibility, plus reduce inflammation.
Not only that, but Yoga in particular has been proven to create a sense of well-being, feelings of relaxation, improve self-confidence, and even help build an optimistic outlook on life. You don't have to be Russel Brand to practice yoga, it's seen a massive boom in recent years — so why not sign up for a class to try it out?
2) Myofascial release with a foam roller
Active recovery can also mean taking care of your body — stretch and roll a foam roller over your muscles to get many of the same benefits as light exercise.
If your muscles are sore after a tough week in the gym, foam rolling can help relieve tightness, reduce inflammation, and increase your range of motion.
Studies show that foam especially provides positive benefits for runners. Foam rolling improves your range of motion and strength, plus reduces your risk for injuries.
3) Swimming or walking
Swimming (not floating!) is a low-impact exercise that’s easy on your joints and muscles. One study found that athletes who followed an intense exercise period with a recovery session in the pool had better performance the next day. Researchers also say that the water itself helps to reduce inflammation, too.
Walking or jogging at a leisurely pace can enhance blood flow and help with recovery too.
If getting off the couch is a no-no...
If your body is screaming at you "Lie down you idiot!" and your muscles are screaming at you to stop moving, maybe it's time for a passive recovery day.
But that doesn't mean you can't recover your mind with some helpful productivity and relaxation hacks whilst you rest to set you up for success the following week!
1) Get the moleskine out
Often, we tend to expect results sooner than later, and get disheartened when we don't achieve our lofty goals in one bloody month. Make a list of the small steps you can realistically take this week without burning out or hiring a butler (no, we don't ALL have the same 24 hours in a day!)
When you give yourself realistic goals, you can feel you fully deserve to relax at the end of your week next Sunday.
And whilst you've got your notebook out, try to start a daily journaling routine. It's shown to reduce stress, help you to gain confidence and problem solving skills.
2) Start a new book
Rather than sitting in-front of the telly watching re-runs of Friends for the 50th time, choose a classic form of entertainment that forces you to concentrate and use those brain cells!
Studies show that reading relaxes you, stimulates your mind, increases your vocabulary, and is a great way to de-stress before bedtime too.
It could be a romance novel, self-improvement book, or whatever you're into. You'll feel way less guilty having read a few chapters of a book, compared to binging a series. Plus reading gives you bragging rights at brunch these days too (sadly!).
3) Sip on something healthy
For bonus points grab a green tea. It's been proven to boost brain function, reduce the risk of heart disease, and protect the body against disease in general through its high polyphenol count. Alternatively grab a bottle of EXALT with natural passion flower to sip whilst you flick through the pages and relax!
What will you do to rest next Sunday?
By reading this on a Sunday, you've already set yourself up for recovery success next week! But which specific points will you incorporate into your rest days moving forward?
Doing everything at once, whilst creating a super-charged (or super un-charged?) rest day, may not be possible for everyone. But we hope you can take a little bit of each section to create the perfect R&R day for you.