Active rest sounds like an oxymoron-like rolling stop or , especially in this day and age, petty cash. But active rest is an important part of your fitness regimen, as important as flexibility, aerobic conditioning, or strength work.

The only time you actually get stronger is during rest periods. When you do strength exercises, that soreness that you may feel within the following 24-48 hours is actually the result of minuscule muscle fiber tears. In order to gain strength, you need to overload the muscle which results in microscopic tears-it takes from 48-72 hours for your muscle to repair itself-it repairs itself slightly stronger each time, a process called muscle remodeling). When you get to your strength goals, and aren’t increasing the intensity (via increase resistance, decreasing rest time between exercise sets, etc), you will no longer feel the stiffness. However, you still need to build in rest days, especially past the age of 40.

When I say active rest, it means I’ll change the activity completely. For instance, I have had three hard workout days in a row, so today I will walk the dog. My mind is satisfied that I did something, and my body appreciates the break.

You may be wondering how I could exercise three days in a row, what with muscle remodeling and all, it sounds contradictory. The answer is that I vary my workouts-I don’t exercise the same muscle groups the same way every day. Your body adapts to routine very quickly, and acts like water in that it will take the path of least resistance. So I do what I call “throwing my muscles and nerves a curve-ball”. My body doesn’t know whats coming next, so it can’t “settle in”-all of my being is on high-alert for what’s coming next. Using this protocol keeps my workouts from becoming boring, and helps me to avoid hitting the dreaded “exercise plateau”.

I’m looking forward to my active rest day.


Health tips:

I read where almonds not only are rich in vitamin E and lower cholesterol, they also appear to improve digestive health.

Ghrelin, a hormone secreted when the stomach is empty that stimulates appetite, also enhances learning and memory.

Stay well, John R. Blilie, M.S.