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8 Tips for Optimizing Your Rest Days

A woman relaxing in an epsom salt bath, a woman reading in a bed next to a Hatch Sunrise clock, and a woman doing yoga.
Solimo/Hatch/Karla Tafra

Whether you just started exercising recently or are a regular gym rat, every workout schedule should include at least one rest day per week. Not only will this give your muscles time to recover and repair themselves, but it’ll also give you a chance to relax. These eight tips will help you get the most out of your rest days.

Improve Your Sleep Quality

New Africa/Shutterstock.com

During sleep, you undergo a process of many R’s: recovery, recharging, repairing, replenishing, and renewing. This is why a healthy sleeping routine is crucial, not only for recovery after a tough workout, but also for long-term health and longevity.

Here are some tips for creating a healthy sleep routine:

  • Try to keep your bed- and wake-time the same each day.
  • Remove all tech from your bedroom.
  • Limit your exposure to blue light and screens at least two hours before going to sleep.
  • Avoid eating a big meal late at night.
  • Maintain an optimal temperature setting in your bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom completely dark or wear a sleep mask.
  • Use a white noise sound machine to help you de-stress.

Stretch It Out

Woman stretching on a mat.
Karla Tafra

Speed up your recovery with a long, slow stretching routine that tackles every area of your body. Start from the top and stretch your neck and shoulders, upper back, and chest. Then, move down to your lower back and legs.

Take deep breaths as you stretch and allow your body to naturally open up. This can help increase the blood flow to the areas that need to repair and rest the most.

You can stretch anytime, anywhere, but a sturdy, nonslip mat will ensure you’re able to get deep into those stretching poses without sliding around or risking injury. Gaiam offers high-quality, affordable mats in a variety of different styles and designs, so there’s something for everyone.

Foam Roll

A woman using a foam roller on her upper back.
Rollga

A good foam roller can be a real lifesaver when it comes to sore muscles. Use one on your rest day and focus on getting deep into the muscle fascia. You’ll love how efficient a roller is at massaging out knots or sore spots.

Foam rolling is also efficient for breaking down lactic acid, stimulating lymph flow, eliminating inflammation, and improving blood flow. If you’re new to foam rolling, be sure to pay attention to your technique and avoid these common mistakes.

Drink Plenty of Water

A woman taking a drink out of a water bottle.
KieferPix/Shutterstock.com

Getting adequate daily hydration is important, especially on your rest day. Stress can accumulate in your body in the form of inflammation, which then piles on toxins that can get stuck in some areas. Drinking water helps eliminate these toxins at a much faster rate, thereby soothing any inflammation, while also aiding your muscles to recover.

So, how much water should you drink, exactly? This has actually been up for debate over the years, but the National Academies of Sciences recommends 91 ounces for women and 125 ounces for men per day. If you’re sweating more than usual, you would want to increase that amount.

A water bottle with time markers, like this one from Giotto, will remind you to take nice, long drinks throughout your rest day. If you’re not a huge fan of the plain taste of water, add some lemon or sliced fruit. You can also drink tea, or add some broth to your meals.

Take an Epsom Salt Bath

A woman taking a bath in Epsom salts.
Solimo

Many people love nothing more than relaxing in a hot bath. Not only are they emotionally soothing, but they can also work wonders on any sore muscles. Add some Epsom salts and you’ve got yourself a real recovery booster.

Epsom is a naturally occurring mineral salt that helps reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and stimulate the lymphatic system. It soothes the skin by exfoliating dead cells and promotes the flushing out of toxins. It can also help remove you from a fight-or-flight state into a restorative mode.

Add More Magnesium to Your Diet

A bottle of Thorne Magnesium CitraMate supplement.
Thorne Research

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in our body, and it plays a role in over 300 processes. When it comes to rest days and recovery, try to add more magnesium-rich foods to your meals. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and even dairy are all good sources of magnesium.

If you prefer, you can take a magnesium supplement in the form of magnesium citrate, which allows it to be absorbed by the body in the best way possible. One of the best brands on the market is Thorne Research’s Magnesium CitraMate. It contains two of the best-absorbing forms of magnesium: citrate and malate.

Take a Walk

Some people prefer to avoid any kind of physical activity on their rest days, but if you don’t mind a bit of exercise, taking a short walk is an excellent idea. The fresh air can help with lymphatic drainage and flush out toxins, as well as help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness.

Getting outdoors for a bit can also work wonders for your mental health. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous walk, either—walk at a slower, more relaxing pace and just take in the sights.

Practice Self-Care

Magui RF/Shutterstock

The term “self-care” seems to be everywhere these days, and there are many good reasons for that. Thanks to the pandemic, the last few years have been particularly stressful for most people. As a result, finding ways to relax and reduce anxiety has become more important than ever before.

That’s why you should definitely spend a chunk of your rest day focusing on self-care. Whether your favorite way to relax is via meditation, journaling, painting, cozying up with a good book, or binging a show on Netflix, do whatever makes you feel the most restful.

Just a bit of self-care can go a long way in recharging your batteries, so you’ll be ready to tackle whatever tomorrow brings.


When it comes to fitness routines, our rest days are just as important as our workouts. Make the most of yours with these tips, so you can jump back into your exercise schedule feeling completely recharged, refreshed, and recovered.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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