Participants during Red Bull Goni Pony at Slovenia on September 4, 2021.
© Sinisa Kanizaj
Fitness Training

9 great rest day workouts for active recovery

Active recovery offers countless benefits.
By Alice Giuditta
6 min readPublished on
In our highly competitive world, it’s easy to feel like we have to be better, stronger, or faster to avoid getting passed by. But constantly training to improve can be detrimental to your health, both physically and mentally. That’s why rest days are so important.
A rest day is a break between workouts intended to decrease tissue inflammation, ease muscle soreness, and allow your body time to repair muscle damage. A rest day reduces your risk of injury and prepares your body to be challenged again.
But even on a rest day, research shows light movement can improve your rate of recovery. How many rest days should you take, and how many of them should be active? That depends on how much you train.
If you exercise intensely twice a week, you should allot four days for active recovery, and one for total rest. If you’re going hard four days a week, then plan for active recovery for the remaining three days— or leave one of them for total rest.
Most importantly, as mountain biker Brook McDonald says, “Everyone’s body works differently… you have to listen to your body.”

9 Great Rest Day Workouts For Recovery



Sasha DiGiulian

Sasha DiGiulian

© Christian Pondella

Hiking is a great way to keep your body moving on a day off, with the added benefit of getting some fresh air into your lungs. If you’re lucky to live near beautiful landscapes, it’s a nice mental refresh, too.
Use supportive hiking boots with good grip, and choose a trail that’s relatively flat to make sure it’s still active recovery. Aim for between 30 minutes to an hour of hiking — anything longer will start to tire your body, even if it’s an easy route.


Matteo Berrettini

Matteo Berrettini

© Gabriele Seghizzi

Stretching isn’t just the five minutes after your workout when you cram in a few lunges and call it a day. Incorporating a longer, deeper stretching session into your routine can significantly reduce muscle soreness and improve your mobility for your next workout.
A 30-50 minute stretching session will do the trick, and you can easily get started with a quick search on YouTube. Alternatively, check if there are any stretching classes in your local area, away from the distractions of home, with the added advantage of a professional on hand to correct your form and make sure you’re holding all the stretches safely.

Light Yoga

Celia Fernandez

Celia Fernandez

© Romina Amato

While yoga can certainly be a sweaty, exhausting workout, there are also options for a relaxing rest day. A hatha yoga flow will focus on uniting the breath with the movement, transitioning slowly between restorative postures, and holding them for long periods of time.
This will help your muscles stretch out while also calming your body through breathwork. Becci Curtis, yoga teacher, cyclist, and co-founder of VeloVedic cycling says, “I like to think of yoga postures as supplementing the cyclist’s ‘movement diet’ by stretching the tight bits and tightening up the weak bits!”

Light Sports/Games

Neymar Jr at Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five World Final in 2022.

Neymar Jr at Red Bull Neymar Jr’s Five World Final in 2022.

© Youssef Loulidi

A laidback game of soccer, volleyball, basketball, or any sport you like, is a surefire way to keep your blood pumping while enjoying every moment of it. For mental agility, it’s also good to learn a sport that’s new to you. New research shows it will increase your brain's neuroplasticity or ability to organize after learning a new physical skill.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi helps you stretch sore muscles, increase your flexibility, and is also known to reduce stress and inflammation. Its slow, controlled limb movements involve practically zero impact, giving your joints a good rest while keeping your circulation in tip-top shape.
If you’re feeling sociable, many local communities organize weekly Tai Chi gatherings in the park. Otherwise, you can always turn to trusty YouTube to squeeze in your active recovery at home.

Light Jog

Participant during a WFLWR Pre-Event in Sankt Gilgen, Austria in 2021

Participant during a WFLWR Pre-Event in Sankt Gilgen, Austria in 2021

© Philipp Carl Riedl

Although a light jog might not sound like rest to you, it will keep that blood pumping without pushing your muscles too hard or over-exerting your cardiovascular system. Your pace should be easy and enjoyable, and you should feel like you could hold a steady flow of conversation.
If a jog feels like too much, you can start off with walking — don’t underestimate the power of a couple of circles around your neighborhood!

Foam Rolling

Indian hockey captain Manpreet Singh works out with a foam roller in Mumbai, India on February 10, 2018.

Manpreet Singh on the foam roller

© Ali Bharmal/Red Bull Content Pool

Myofascial release, aka releasing tension in your muscles, with a foam roller offers many of the same benefits as the other activities, and it can be done anywhere. All you need is yourself, a floor, and a roller.
It can help relieve tightness and reduce inflammation in sore muscles, in turn increasing your range of motion. It might be a little painful if you’re particularly sore, but it brings relief shortly after and improves your performance during your workouts.
Of course, if you experience any intense or sharp pains, listen to your body and give it a break.


Lucy Charles-Barclay at the Ironman 70.3 World Champs in France in 2019

Lucy Charles-Barclay at the Ironman 70.3 World Champs in France in 2019

© James Mitchell

Like yoga or running, swimming can be an intense workout, but you can also take it easy for some gentle rest day activity. Instead of exerting yourself fully and going as fast as possible, go for a relaxing wade in the waters.
This low-impact exercise gives your joints a break from supporting your body weight, and some researchers believe the water helps reduce inflammation. One study even found that triathletes who swim after a HIIT session perform better the next day.


Participants during Red Bull Goni Pony at Slovenia on September 4, 2021.

Participants during Red Bull Goni Pony at Slovenia on September 4, 2021.

© Sinisa Kanizaj

Cycling on your rest day is no Tour de France. Just grab your bike and pedal through your city, or out in nature at a leisurely pace. Weather putting you off? A stationary bike will do the trick for relieving your joints with some well-earned rest.
As an active recovery activity, cycling shouldn’t leave you out of breath or with your heart pumping super fast — you should be able to have a chat without struggling.
Active recovery offers countless benefits. It reduces muscle soreness while keeping your circulation active, increases your mobility for your next workout, and encourages movement of the lymph fluid (carrying waste products away from the tissues) which is known to improve your energy levels and immune function.
At the end of the day, our bodies are constantly communicating with us. You’ll know you need total rest vs active recovery if you feel truly spent and achy, with really low energy. But if your muscles are a little sore from a more intense workout, but your energy levels are generally fine, then active recovery could be a good option for you.