One thing I've struggled with is taking days off of exercise. On one hand, I know that the body needs rest, and it's unsustainable to work out hard every single day. On the other hand, days when I get activity in, I feel more energetic, I tend to eat better, and I'm sticking to my routine.
Now, I have read a lot about fitness, health and nutrition in the past 20 years. I probably could write a book about it myself, but there's a concept that I hadn't heard of (or paid attention to) until this week.
I saw a reference to it in a book I'm reading and decided to research it further.
If you're interested, this article and this article are both worth a read.
An active rest day is a day where you don't strenuously work out, but still get some activity in. According to one of the articles, "active rest is light exercise performed on non-training days at an easy pace with little stress." So, you might go for a walk, or a easy bike ride. Maybe try something that you don't normally do: go rollerblading, canoeing or a yoga class.
The key is that you shouldn't be stressing your body or your muscles. Light activity gets the blood flowing in your muscles and can help recovery, but if it feels like hard work, it's too much to be considered active rest.
Active rest can also be useful when dealing with overuse injuries, like my recent knee injury. The first couple days, I really did need to stay off of it. After that though, I noticed that the days I started doing something, even just a little something, my knee felt better the next day.
In good knee news, I'm back on my bike. A few nights ago, I took advantage of my mother, who was visiting and my husband and I went for a ride together in the evening. This morning, I took my kids to the park. They hopped in the chariot. I got on my bike and I rode about 10 minutes from my house. They played for a while and then we rode back. The ride with my husband was a light workout, but with the kids it wasn't particularly strenuous. The key is, I'm using those muscles again.
Getting fit is a balancing game. You want to push your body so that it grows and develops without pushing too much. At the same time, it can be frustrating when you feel like you just want to get going. Next time you're taking a "rest day", don't feel like a walk or some gardening is off limits. You can still do it; just take it easy and consider it active rest.