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Currently, my workout consists of (exclusively) high-intensity exercises (some sprinting HIIT, pullups, and more).

After a few attempts at research and help from this community, I've come to accept that I can't do this every day (until recently, I was sure there's no way I would actually want to exercise every day).

However, I'm hoping that there are some things I can do in between to further some goals - such as improving balance and flexibility.

From what I understand, there are many types of stretching, and it generally don't interfere with the recovery. As for balance, from what I understand it requires the use of core muscles, so I'm guessing... don't do it if you've worked out the core muscles the day before?

So, what can I do and what shouldn't I do in my rest days? (btw, I have gymnastic rings, so...)

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On my rest days, I usually try to do these:

  • Long walks. Walking back and forth to work for me is ~5 miles, and it's a terrific way to keep the body moving and learn how to walk long distances, which is about as core to the human condition as you can get.

  • Hiking. Find a decent trail, but your running shoes on, and go hiking for a few hours.

  • Yoga. Yoga is great for a lot of things, but for me I really enjoy the focus on specific muscle activation and stretching.

  • Surfing, playing sports, martial arts practice, or even going for a short run.

If you're doing active rest, which is what most rest days should be, you want to achieve two goals.

First, don't overtax your system so much that you stunt recovery. As a rule of thumb, you don't want to do anything that would "beat you up". DOMS is a bad indicator of that, but for a rule of thumb you don't want to do anything that you couldn't do the next day just as hard.

Second, you want to move. It's anecdotal, but in my personal experience fairly complete rest (inactive rest: sitting in a chair all day) makes me stiffer and more injury prone the next day. The only time I do inactive rest is if I'm ill.

Lastly, a lot of this depends on your schedule. If you're on a progressive overload lifting schedule and pushing your PRs week after week, you really need to not overdo it on rest days. If you have some "routine" you do, you can be a lot more flexible as you're not really squeezing out every inch of progress like an overload program will do.

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  • Hmm. Perhaps I should go hiking with my dog on weekends. And if yoga doesn't interfere with recovery, guess I should start learning a few yoga exercises. Thank you :) – user1999728 Jun 6 '15 at 17:45
  • Hiking with the dog sounds great, and honestly, isn't fitness really about enabling you to enjoy life like that? Regarding yoga, if you can get into a class you should try. It's really hard to nail some of those positions without someone watching you. – Eric Jun 6 '15 at 17:49
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My personal favorite is foam rolling. I mean, why wouldn't you want to give your muscles a good massage? It's kind of a reward. It can also reduce muscle soreness as well as improve your range of motion, according to this study.

I actually didn't know that last part until just now. I've been foam rolling for quite some time simply because of how good it feels, not to mention how good I feel afterwards. It's very refreshing.

Often times, after a heavy leg day, my back tends to act up because of how much I sit, both at work (software developer) and at home. After I started foam rolling, this has been a non-issue.

In addition to foam rolling, I also have a fitness ball, on which I lay down on my back and arch over. I tend to get a huge surge of oxygen flow by doing this. This also really helps with counteracting the effects of sitting a lot.

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  • Thanks! I'm starting a list and foam rolling will be the first item on that list :) – user1999728 Jun 6 '15 at 14:47
  • How do you perceive this "huge surge of oxygen flow"? – Rikki Jun 7 '15 at 9:32
  • It's pretty anecdotal, but I get a sense of being more awake afterwards, and it gets me out of slumps of demotivation which can happen periodically during the day. – Alec Jun 7 '15 at 13:56

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