You finally figured out a daily workout routine. You’re making gains in the gym, building muscle, and burning fat, but your body really needs a rest day (or two) each week. Going hard all the time only leads to mental and physical burnout. It’s OK and necessary to take a breather.

For the person who feels guilty taking a break and resting, scheduling rest days is essential. Here’s how to rest and recover after a hard workout on your days off from the gym.

Refuel Your Body

Gym Hooky founder and personal trainer, Ariel Belgrave Harris encourages everyone to properly refuel their bodies. Food after a workout supercharges your recovery time and helps meld back the muscles you just shredded. In a LinkedIn post, she shared how it is critical to give your body the foods it needs to complete a workout. 

“Eat meals that always include a form of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats,” she said. “These will give you energy for and after your workout.”

Prioritize Sleep

When you’re dealing with post-workout soreness, one thing your body needs is sleep. A good night’s rest is critical for muscle recovery after a tough workout or injury. During sleep, your body undergoes physiological changes that aid in tissue repair.

Try Low-Impact Movement

When your body is in recovery mode, low impact movement is ideal as it is gentler on the body. It’s easy to think that all exercise and movement should be high energy and get your heart rate pumping.

Low-impact exercise, like yoga and pilates, can improve your mobility and strengthen your core. Exercises like swimming, hiking and walking are easy on the body and don’t interfere with muscle repair. 

“The last thing you want to do is move around when your legs are super sore, but just sitting around will keep it stiff,” Belgrave Harris said. “Going for a walk will help loosen up the muscles.”

Utilize Foam Rollers 

Rolling out your muscles helps release muscular tension and tightness post workout. Foam rollers help flush out toxins and lactic acid from your muscle groups. It’s also a great form of self-massage.


On those rest days, don’t forget to hydrate. Proper hydration is key to flushing out toxins that build up when you are exercising. If you allow the toxic materials to accumulate, then you’ll feel poorly and become dehydrated. Hydrate with water or alternatives, like coconut milk, herbal tea, iced tea and low-calorie sports drinks.  

“Make sure you hydrate before, during and after your workout, as well as in the days following it while you recover,” Belgrave Harris said. “This will help your muscles heal and deliver.”