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Becka performing a hamstring stretch. Rest and recovery look different in fitness. Are you doing both?

People often use rest and recovery interchangeably, and while they are both important in one’s health they are vastly different. A quick Google search of the definitions yields these results:

Rest as a verb means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. As a noun rest means an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity. Recovery is a noun, meaning a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

Whenever I have done a workout challenge, taking a day of rest is always part of the challenge. Look back at the definition of rest…recover strength. It is through rest that our muscles are able to recover, repair, and rebuild. When a runner goes for a walk on their rest day, that is not truly rest as they have not ceased work and movement. A body builder who works different muscle groups different days still requires a rest of all exercise one day a week.

Some fitness experts recommend a rest day every 3 to 5 days, depending on the intensity and duration of exercise. At Becka’s Boot Camp, it is not high intensity each day and classes are only about 45 minutes. The one rest day per week is more a minimum that maximum number. It stems from the work we put in here in class.

In addition to rest is recovery. You may have heard it called active rest before, which may be part of the confusion between the two. While rest is ceasing work or movement, recovery is returning to a normal state. Strenuous exercise increases our cortisol, and recovery can help to lower stress in our body. It can also speed up our recovery, promote workout progress, and decrease our soreness.

Recovery can look a couple of different ways. The first can look a bit like “self care” that is often talked about these days. Taking a hot shower followed by stretching. Spending some time on a foam roller or getting a massage. Soaking in an epsom salt bath. Doing a restorative yoga class. All of these are gentle ways to get your body back to its normal state. It is intentional movement, which is not rest, however the intensity is low, often times relaxing.

In our fitness journey, often times when we feel sore, we feel like we have done something, in a good way. Sometimes that can be a signal that we have done too much, or at least need to scale back for a day. After a long run, a workout where our heart rate was taxed, or a lifting session where we used max effort, it can be beneficial to our fitness for the following day to be a recovery day. For a runner, this may mean a brisk walk, a shorter distance run, or even a bike ride. Recovery days can be a lower intensity of the same style of exercise, a day of cross training, or an easy yoga or stretching class.

Are you in the habit of taking rest and recovery days? How do you feel after a rest day? What do you notice differently after a recovery day?