When I’m dancing and teaching Pilates 6 days a week, that 7th day of rest is absolutely essential. This is where I learn what’s best for my body: what helps it recover quickly, prevent injury, and prepare for another week of intense physical activity.
Even if your exercise regimen isn’t so extreme, days off are still a paramount part of building yourself up. Your body needs time to recover, and only you can give it that TLC.
1) Roll it Out
Time to pull that foam roller out of the closet. After a few consecutive days of intense exercise, your muscles may develop knots of tightness where blood flow is restricted. Rolling out releases tension in those knots by increasing circulation. This helps return the muscle to normal function. If a severe and persistent knot is ignored, it could have a ripple effect, compromising the function of your entire body.
For example, if you ignore a significant knot in your right hamstring, your entire right leg won’t be able to function properly. The right quads will overcompensate, as will the entire left leg, causing patterns of malalignment and muscular dysfunction up and down your entire body.
Check out our Sunday Stretch It Out class for more foam rolling tips! And always consult your doctor or PT before rolling out an injured area.
2) Hydration Station
It’s advice you’ve heard before, but bring on that water! When you get a good workout, your muscles develop small tears. Not to worry: These tiny tears are what allow muscles to grow stronger, but they need proper hydration in order to do so.
Imagine a bone-dry sponge, brittle and tough. It doesn’t have much movement. You can’t wring it out easily or squeeze it into small spaces. When you soak that sponge in water, though, it becomes incredibly malleable. Our bodies aren’t so different. We need hydration to keep our skin and muscles supple.
3) Put On Your Chef’s Hat
Try to think about your meals in terms of how they will serve your body during your next workout. Better fuel = better performance.
I like to cook in large quantities so I have leftovers to bring to work or quickly heat up when I get home late and hangry. I often make simple meals of sautéed vegetables mixed with a grain like quinoa or whole wheat pasta. They keep well for a week or so in the fridge, and there are endless possibilities for seasonings, not to mention add-in’s like beans, chicken, cheese, or nuts. This kind of dish is also forgiving if you’re not yet an expert chef (notice how this trainer does not have a food blog?!).
4) Treat Yo’self
Take a hot bath with a big ole bag of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil. Splurge on a massage, sit in a steam room, or plug in a heating blanket. Your muscles relax much more easily when they are warm, so especially if you’re sore or nursing an injury, let the heat do the work for you! When our bodies feel great, there’s nothing we can’t do.
I know, I know: easier said than done.
But exercise, especially Pilates, challenges our brains as much as our bodies. When we’re well-rested, we can think, focus, even breathe better, allowing us to perform better when we work out (and when we do everything else). We’re also better at listening to our bodies, making us less prone to injury.
The most important thing we can ever do for our body is listen to what it needs. Listening takes a bit of practice, but once you start paying attention, you’ll find that you body has a lot to say. Try these tips and let us know what helped you the most!
Author: Ali Weeks