When you’re taking a recovery day off from the gym, this doesn’t mean you should be completely slacking off from your fitness and turning into a couch potato. If you have serious goals that you’re trying to hit with your body then your rest days should still be active days, even though you won’t be using them to go hard in the gym.
As hard as it can be for some people to accept that a rest day is necessary, it really is if you go hard on the weights. Not giving your body any time to heal means that you’ll be putting a cap on on your muscle growth, and it also opens you up for all kinds of injuries and just excess exhaustion. Working out should be tiring but it shouldn’t be making you so tired that you don’t want to do other things or can hardly get out of bed. We have to live after all.
An active rest day should give your body enough of a break to allow the muscles to heal, but still engage the body in a way that will get the heart rate up and keep the blood flowing. When you keep the blood flowing through the body you can cut down on the odds of getting sore and also help to speed up muscle recovery. And yet you still won’t be doing anything so intense that you’re putting any stress on the joints that could impede recovery.
An active rest day should raise your heart raise enough that you break a bit of a sweat, while approaching the areas of the body that are more likely to be problematic for you. For example if you have a weak core you might find some dynamic exercises that deal with that as well as warming the whole body up in general.
If you’re worried about the fact that cardio on your rest day will do away with your muscle gains, just try to keep your heart rate elevated to a only a low impact and steady one. Aim to keep your heart rate between 120 and 140 beats per minute while you’re doing your active recovery, which is plenty to increase the blood flow and actually help prepare the body for more work in the weight room. If you don’t want to do a cardio session you can also do a low impact circuit training session that incorporates weights.
If you pair your rest day with a cheat day on the food end of things, keep in mind that that is not an excuse to go crazy either. A cheat day should really be a cheat meal, and even then it should be in the range of normal calorie consumption. It just might be a little more carb heavy than you would normally go or something. Just as it’s important to keep moderation with your cheat meal, you need to still keep the body moving on an active rest day. This will help drive in the fact that a healthy body is a full time lifestyle.