Exercise is a necessary and enjoyable part of our lifestyle, and for many can be used as a way to improve not only physical strength and endurance, but mental health and our sense of empowerment. If you have specific fitness goals that you are working hard to achieve, remember that in addition to the physical demands your body is achieving, rest days are equally important to factor into your active lifestyle. It can be easy to feel like we need to work harder, longer, faster to reach our fitness goals, however when it comes to exercise and movement, our body needs time to rest and recover after our workouts in order for our joints, muscles, cardiovascular system and our stress response system to realign and reap the benefits of that exercise.
Learn more: An Ayurvedic Guide to Exercise
Exercise is inherently stressful on the body. Although we may use exercise as a “stress relief”, our biological response to exercise includes an increase in our stress hormones which impacts our nervous system. We may not consciously feel “stressed” in this scenario, however internally we do need to take time to decompress and calm down our body’s stress system to further “rest and digest” for the duration of the day.
Much of our muscle development is happening after we exercise on our rest days. These days away from training or heavy exercise allows the body time for muscle growth and development, while muscle breakdown is happening during exercise..
“Active rest days” can still support muscle growth and recovery while still maintaining your mental health. These days should include restorative practices such as yoga, gentle swimming, walking, and stretching.
Rest days help to energize us long term. During exercise, our glycogen levels (which fuel activity) are quickly depleted, while rest days will allow time to build these reserves back up with rest and nourishing foods. This will support balanced energy throughout the day and help us to perform better on our more active days.
Start by getting a good night's sleep to prepare your body to feel energized in the morning. Begin the day with a glass of room temperature water, or a mug of Turmeric Active tea. Turmeric has been shown to support the inflammation response after injury or exercise and provide moderate pain relief. Pukka's Turmeric Active tea is an ideal formula to support everyday mobility and flexibility and for use after exercise and outdoor activities. This tailored blend of 9 herbs including turmeric, ginger and galangal is designed to maximize the benefits to the body during activity and to support ease of movement and recovery. This can be enjoyed directly after your workout, or throughout the day on your rest days! Enjoy some gentle stretching to get your blood flowing and awaken tight muscles. Take the day at a slower pace - allowing moments to breathe deeply, go for a light walk, spend time outdoors, and prepare nourishing food for yourself. If your body is craving movement, enjoy a light, gentle yoga practice. Continue to stay hydrated with water and herbal teas throughout the day. Prepare a warm bath with epsom salts to soak in during the evening before bed to relax your body, calm your mind, and soothe your muscles. Ideally, take at least 2 rest days per week to support your most active lifestyle.
What we put into our bodies everyday has a big impact on not only how well we perform, but how optimally we can recover afterwards. Good nutrition is key every day, and here are a few things to keep in mind for optimal recovery in particular:
Consume antioxidant rich foods and herbs. Antioxidants help in cellular repair, and protect the body from free-radical damage. Options here include green tea (found in Supreme Matcha Green), blueberries, red grapes, tomatoes, pecans, goji berries, spinach and beets.
Hydrating and electrolyte rich foods including coconut and coconut water, watermelons, raspberries, strawberries, oranges and cucumbers. These delicious fruits and veggies not only provide healthy fibre for optimal digestion, they are water rich and highly absorbable, allowing your body to stay hydrated and nourished right down to the cellular level.
Keep your protein foods varied and high quality. Protein is essential for healthy muscle development, and needed both before and after your workout. Try to consume a variety of protein rich foods throughout the week including salmon, beans and legumes, organic & humanely raised meats and eggs, and nuts and seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and brazil nuts.
Remember, it’s the small things that we do for ourselves consistently every day that can have the most impact on our overall health and wellness. You do not need to have a perfect diet or perfect exercise routine all of the time to still have a positive impact. Take the time you have to commit to small steps and nourishing habits that are realistic for you, and stick to those as often as possible.
Saf is a qualified Nutritional Therapist from the College of Naturopathic Medicine and runs a private clinical practice specialising in digestive health. She delivers herbal education both internally at Pukka and externally to our partners and practitioners and is passionate about making herbs and nutrition exciting and accessible for all.
DipCNM, mANP, mGNC
Qualified nutritionist (College of Naturopathic Medicine, 2021)