You may be forgetting the most important part of your workout regimen — the rest day. Identify the best ways to incorporate resting into your schedule with tips from fitness expert Taryn Toomey.
Cardio, strength training, HIIT, Pilates, yoga, spinning…there are endless ways to pack movement into your week, but ensuring time for rest is just as beneficial as a workout. From a physical perspective, workouts that improve lean muscle mass contribute best to overall health and do so by creating micro tears in the muscle tissue, which strengthens as it repairs itself. So, while it’s good to feel a little sore a day or two after a high intensity session, anything that ventures into pain or persistent soreness is a sign that it’s time to back off. Not only are rest days imperative to avoid injury, they allow the body to replenish itself and build that all-important lean muscle, in turn stoking your metabolism and creating strength and tone. Resting also allows for more energetic and explosive training sessions and helps you maintain motivation and consistency by avoiding burnout and fatigue.
Taking one or two rest days per week is a chance to check in and make time for self-care: have a magnesium soak, prep some healthy meals for the week, meditate, practice pranayama (breathing exercises), catch up on sleep, get a massage or do a spot of foam rolling to release tightness in the muscles. A rest day can look different for everyone: choose to do absolutely nothing or if you’re a die-hard movement junkie, segue into the idea slowly by making your rest a gentle jog or restorative yoga session. Rest days are also a chance to re-fuel with good quality whole foods and plant protein to repair the body’s tissues and restore hydration and vital nutrients (a good excuse to try out chia pudding breakfast bowls or whip up a batch of homemade protein bars).
A woman who is no stranger to “never not moving”, we asked Taryn Toomey of The Class in New York (a dynamic, challenging mix of cleansing cardio and high-energy strength moves) to show us what a rest day looks like for her.
How many days would you recommend people do a high intensity workout such as The Class per week?
I teach The Class five times a week, but I recommend anywhere from two to five depending on your wellness goals.
Do you like to mix up The Class with other forms of exercise?
Absolutely. I’m a firm believer in cross training. I love to practice yoga and go on cleansing outdoor runs.
How important is a rest/recovery day in your movement routine?
I believe that rest days are extremely important but, unfortunately, I don’t take them enough. I constantly interact with people, move and talk about energy every day, and know that my feelings and emotions resonate deeply in my physical body. I’ve found that exercise allows me to clear and cleanse myself. I find that my “rest days” usually involve a nice 30-minute tempo jog to flush energy through my body and ground myself.
How do you like to spend your rest days in terms of self-care?
On a rest day, I try to be screen-less (sans computer and phone) so that I can be completely present for my children. If I’m lucky, I get to take a nice long Epsom salt bath and finish the day listening to calming music with my legs up the wall.
What would you say are the body’s telltale signs that it needs to rest?
Foggy thinking, rollercoaster emotions, inability to sleep when you’re tired, and obviously the lovely bags under the eyes.
What are your thoughts on balance with regards to maintaining a healthy and joyful lifestyle…are there any indulgences you incorporate to keep things fun?
There are many different ways to clear and balance one’s mind-body and allow fulfilment of soul. You can think of things in life as a pendulum, always knowing that if you start to pull something too far in one direction and then let it go, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. Whether it’s food, exercise, sleep…it’s important to slow it down, look at the big picture and make decisions wisely. I am a huge proponent of balance and truly believe in the “work hard, play hard” principle. The key for me is to stay aware of my choices to make sure I stay on track. Meditation is my therapeutic alone time in the whirlwind of being a mother and managing a growing business. The cathartic sweating and moving of my physical body (usually in The Class) keeps me sane, but things that really fill me are good belly laughs with my girlfriends and tender moments with my daughters.
Do you think women are too hard on themselves in terms of overtraining or striving for perfection through exercise?
I interact with large groups of people (the majority women) every day, and body image comes up in conversation all the time. What I’ve gathered from them and from my own personal experience is that we are our own worst critic. I often cue my classes to “get out of the mirror and go inside” because what we see in the mirror is usually a half-truth and most women are way too tough on themselves. All of that said, I’m so happy to see that there is a movement toward self-love and self-care.