7 ideas on what to do on your rest days

Rest days don't have to be sluggish and boring! Madbarz brings you the best ideas for an active rest day!

August 19, 2019
7 ideas on what to do on your rest days

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If working out became a part of your identity as a fitness enthusiast, you probably cannot imagine taking time off from it. Sometimes, even one day a week without working out can be challenging.

On the other hand, if you have just started your fitness journey, you may be afraid to lose all of your progress if you take a day off.

Neither is good - rest days are important, and you should not avoid them. Madbarz brings you ideas on what to do on your rest days to spend them actively. Avoid feeling like you are falling behind with your workouts and yet allow your body to recover.

Importance of rest days

First, let’s see why are rest days as important as working out. Inadequate rest may lead to overtraining, which occurs when you train beyond the body’s ability to recover. Performing excessive amounts of exercise without proper rest and recovery may lead to some harmful side effects, such as:

  • Decreased performance

  • Fatigue

  • Altered hormonal states

  • Poor sleeping patterns

  • Reproductive disorders

  • Decreased immunity

  • Loss of appetite

  • Mood swings

Your body needs to rebuild itself. When you work out, you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. For your muscles to become stronger, these fibers need to repair themselves. The only way they can do that is if you give them time and nutrients. 

Also, rest days will provide you with a psychological break from working out. This will improve your mental toughness and stamina and allow you to push even harder on the days you work out.

However, rest day doesn’t mean spending your day on a couch, stuffing yourself with fast food. What you need is a good active rest. That means you have to move, but not as intensely as you would on regular workout days.

Here are some suggestions on what to do on your rest days:

1. Walking or hiking

A man standing on a mountain top, facing camera backward, wearing a hiking backpack, gazing at the distance. Mountain range visible in front of him, covered in a light fog.

The easiest thing you can do is open the doors and start walking. It’s simple, it’s stress-free for your body and mind, it’s a light version of cardio, and you can do it anywhere. Plus, it will get your blood flowing, and you’ll spend some time outside.

There is more! Going for regular, brisk walks can lift your mood, increase your coordination and balance, as well as strengthen your bones, according to Mayo Clinic. You might consider adding a 30-minute walk as a part of your daily routine and take a longer hike during your active rest days.

2. Swimming

A man swimming front crawl style in the open water.

Swimming is a great choice for an active rest day activity since it stimulates the recovery of your body. Swimming efficiently reduces the blood lactate levels induced by workout (the feeling of soreness of muscles) and thereby greatly improves and speeds up the recovery.

When swimming, you constantly push and pull against the water, which has a much higher resistance level than air. This is why swimming builds muscle mass, capacity, and endurance much faster than traditional cardio exercises like running or biking.

Consider adding swimming in your routine once a week. You might be amazed by how it affects your performance! 

3. Stretching

A muscular man, wearing black shorts and a grey t-shirt, on his knees, sitting on his heels, forehead touching the floor, arms extended in front of his body (yoga - child pose). Various kinds of weights can be seen around him.

On the rest day, you can work on your flexibility and mobility by doing various stretching exercises. It will help your body relax and prepare for future workout challenges. 

As Harward Health states, stretching will keep your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. On the other hand, not stretching will cause your muscles to shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. This puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

The most important rules of stretching are:

  • Hold a stretch for 30 seconds

  • Don’t bounce, this can cause injury

  • You should feel tension during a stretch, but no pain

  • If you feel the pain, stop stretching that muscle and talk to your doctor about it

4. Yoga

A muscular man, in grey shorts, shirtless, kneeling on the left knee, right leg in front of him, knee in slightly more than a 90-degree angle. Palms of hands placed on his right knee, looking forward (yoga - low lunge pose). In the background, pine trees and rocky landscape can be seen

If you work out intensely, your muscles will develop adhesions (knots) that can cause muscle imbalance. If untreated, this muscle imbalance can lead to postural distortions such as rounded shoulders or arched back. Yoga is the most common approach for those who want to get rid of or avoid postural distortions.

Although yoga seems easy at first, you will find it to be an actual workout that challenges your stability, coordination, endurance, and strength, while also improving your flexibility. If practiced regularly, yoga has great benefits:

  • Improved flexibility - you will have a better range of motion for when you are lifting weights

  • Improved strength and endurance - you will be able to lift more for a longer period of time

  • Better sleep - this will allow the maximum amount of repair hormones to be released during your R.E.M. cycle

  • Reduced stress and blood pressure - keeping cortisol levels down is essential for muscle building

5. Foam rolling

Male tights in grey training shorts, part of shins visible, in a horizontal position, the front side of the tights placed on a foam roller.

Although it hurts (like all massages do), this deep-tissue massage will speed up your recovery. Not only you’ll feel refreshed and recuperated, but it will also improve your mobility and flexibility you need for your everyday workout sessions. You can always consult an expert before using a foam roller on how to use it for maximum gain, but you can also find a lot of suggestions online.

Here are some rules for foam rolling:

  • Roll over each muscle group for a maximum of 20 seconds. Longer periods only increase the risk for injury by damaging the tissue and causing bruising

  • When rolling a cold muscle, ease into it with a softer pressure at first to avoid damaging the fascia and causing inflammation

  • Roll in multiple directions. First, roll side to side, and then roll the length of the muscle

  • Start with rolling the least tight areas and then move your way to the tensest

6. Sleep

A man in a yellow long-sleeved sports shirt, black long sports tights, and black sneakers, lying on a playground floor, arms and legs extended in a starfish position.

The point is to get you moving, even on your rest days. However, sleep is still an important factor in your recovery. Make sure you sleep enough and give your body and mind enough time to settle. Take a long nap or go to sleep a bit earlier. You’ll feel the difference.

  • Sleep is important for building muscle - without it, your body may lack energy and may go into a catabolic state 

  • Sleep is important for weight loss - without sleep, your body will slow itself down, and you will burn fewer calories throughout the day.

  • Sleep deprivation is known to influenceweight gain - adults who sleep poorly have a risk of obesity increased by a whopping 89%

7. Fun activities

A group of men playing basketball next to the sea. Only figures are visible due to lightening.

Sometimes, we just need to have fun. Gather your friends and go for a badminton, ping-pong, basketball, or some other playground activity. You can take dance classes and attend them on your rest days, or go for a bike ride in nature.

Do whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed. This way, you will improve your social life, relax your mind, and still exercise your body (maybe even learn new skills!).


Never skip rest days! Of course you feel over the hill after a great workout, and of course, you want to do more, you might even feel like you’re killing your progress when you rest - you’re not. You are actually doing your body a favor by giving it time to recover and rest.

And when you wake up the following day, you’ll feel refreshed, more energized and ready to rock. Grab your phone, open Madbarz, choose one of 20+ Madbarz Premium workout plans and crush it.

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