What To Do On Your Rest Days

performance Apr 30, 2020


Rest days have always been a crucial component for me for as long as I can remember.


From being a young girl trying to become a champion all I wanted to do was dance, and as a beginner sometimes that is absolutely the best way to progress. But just like anything, the better you get at it the higher intensity you are performing it at, and so I knew that to perform at my best on certain days I would need to take rest days on other days, and that’s exactly what I forced myself to do.


Do you feel like you’re falling behind by taking a rest day? Don’t worry, I am with you. My mindset would not allow me to sit still and do nothing as I would tell myself I was going to lose. And so I had to always add in something that was enough to feel like I was making progress without actually fatiguing my body and mind. 


Today I want to share these tips with you but first, let’s look at why you shouldn't train on every day of the year. 


Why are Rest Days Important for Dancers?


Science tells us that it is super important to take at least one full day off from your dancing and training routine each week. That's because doing so allows your mind and body to recover. 


You see, training hard causes various physiological changes within your muscles. One of these is that strenuous dance classes cause muscle damage, which produces that sore and tired feeling the day after a session.


While muscle damage may sound bad, it's actually a good thing. That's because when you rest, your body will repair those damaged muscle fibers and strengthen them for a similar stimulus in the future.


The result is that you'll be better prepared for your next dance class, causing your performance to increase over time.


Now, to ensure this happens, your body needs enough rest to repair and strengthen damaged fibers. If rest does not occur, you can exceed the recovery capacity of your body, leading to overtraining.


What Should You Do on Rest Days?


Just because you're taking a rest day doesn't mean you should spend all day watching Gossip Girls. There are still certain things you can do to help you get the most out of your rest days but still achieve that productive feeling that as athletes we all look for.


Here are my top suggestions that I love to include each week:


  • Go through a stretching routine. This is especially beneficial if a lack of flexibility is hurting your dance performance. Pay particular attention to the tight areas of your body without any strict rules in place. 


  • Do some foam rolling. This reduces muscle soreness and benefits the flexibility of your muscles, leading to a larger range of motion on all dance steps.


  • Get enough sleep. It's primarily during sleep that your muscles, central nervous system, and connective tissues recover, so slip in some power naps across the day! 


  • Go for a walk. Doing so aids recovery because it stimulates blood flow within your muscles. As a result, your muscle fibers will get more nutrients that benefit their rejuvenation.


  • Practice meditation or mindfulness. This type of training isn’t for everyone but if you can do it it will be sure to unwind your mind and reduce the stress that may have built up from the week before. Try some meditation or if it’s not for you then listen to some relaxing music to take you away.



What to Eat on Rest Days


It's not only important to get enough protein on days you dance, but also on the days you don't do too. The reason is that protein functions as the building block of muscle, helping you recover between sessions.


On your rest days ensure you consume at least three servings of protein-rich food. Examples are dairy, eggs, fish, meat, and nuts. High-quality protein powder can also be beneficial here too.


It is also super important to hydrate across the day. Proper hydration will aid your muscle recovery, and flush out toxins from your muscle cells.


It can also be beneficial to reduce your intake of carbohydrates on rest days while increasing your intake of healthy fats. 


Many dancers and athletes, in general, don't get enough healthy fats, which can have detrimental effects on hormonal health, mental well-being, and recovery between sessions.


Since you need fewer carbs for fuel on rest days, this is a great moment to eat fewer carbs but more high-quality fat sources. Examples are avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon.



How Often Should Dancers Have a Rest Day?


There is no set-in-stone answer. How much rest you need depends on various factors. Examples are your training style, training intensity, stress levels, nutritional status, and recovery capacity.


Some people simply do not work hard enough to warrant any rest days, whilst others are training super hard and like me are scared to take a day off. That's why there's no hard rule for everyone on how often you should have a rest day.


That said, there are three things to keep in mind.


First, if you’re often fatigued even before your workout begins or if your exercise performance drops over time, overtraining may have fatigued your body. Then, it's generally best to take more frequent rest days.


Second, high levels of mental stress impair recovery. So, if you're under a lot of stress (e.g., because of an exam period or the loss of a relative), it may be wise to reduce your training volume a bit whilst keeping the intensity. 


Third, as a general rule of thumb make sure to have at least one rest day per week. Not only does this help unwind your body, but also your mind.


Here’s the bottom Line:


Rest days may not be as exciting as training days, but they’re essential and if you’re working hard then I want you to take them. 


The flip side is that you also have to earn your rest days, and so if you have had a lazy week of training or are simply not putting in the work then a rest day should be the last thing on your mind.


Work hard then rest hard,


The Reaching New Heights Team


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