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Listen to Olympian Gabby Douglas: Sometimes You Need to Take a Break

Apr 8 2014 - 3:08am

Whether you're a serious athlete or a SoulCycle regular, hitting your fitness goals has as much to do with resting as it does with the amount of hours spent in the gym. This is especially true if your muscles are feeling tight, sore, and overworked. This reminder to let the body slow down is something that has helped send gymnast Gabby Douglas [1] straight to the top of an Olympic podium. "I work out so much that rest is really important," Gabby shared with us at a recent Nike Training Club [2] event. "I find that when I don't rest, my trainings are sluggish, and I'm slacking. And that's really not good for me, because every day is important," she says.

While we might not all be training for the Rio Summer Games [3], after a few days spent running on the treadmill and another few lifting weights, it may be time to give your body a rest. After all, Gabby gave herself a full nine months to slow down after her big moment in London. "My body got to rest, and mentally and physically, I was just like — ahhhhh — relieved," Gabby says. But rest doesn't mean hanging out on the couch for days on end. Instead of succumbing to laziness, use this time to take care of your body by doing things that will help it recover, which will make your future workouts even better! And when it comes to recovery, what works for Gabby can also work for you.

Source: Instagram user POPSUGARFitness [4]

Load Up on Protein

Feed muscles and ease soreness by eating protein after your workouts. Studies have found that recovery drinks that contain protein help decrease muscle soreness [5] better than carbohydrate-based sports drinks. Gabby is a huge fan of eating lots of protein to offset sore muscles, whether that means lean cuts of meat or a pumped-up smoothie. When you're in rest mode, start off the day with some Greek yogurt, and then have some grilled chicken or fish later in the day. And as Gabby can attest, do not forget to stay hydrated with water all day long.

Get a Massage

Sometimes the best way to deal with sore muscles is to indulge a little. Pamper yourself with a therapeutic massage, or really work out the knots by getting a sports massage. If a massage is out of your budget, use The Stick [6], a foam roller [7], or a tennis ball [8] to loosen up muscles instead.

Do Some Light Cardio

While it's important to give your body downtime, you don't have to plop down on the couch all day. Light cardio helps get the heart rate up and blood flowing, which will bring oxygen and nutrients to sore muscles. So unless you're injured or have strained a muscle, get up and move a little! Use this day to stroll through your farmers market, take a walk with a friend, or enjoy a leisurely swim. Also, switch up your workout — if your legs are sore, work on your upper body, or vice versa.

Gabby is a huge fan of balancing out her body on rest days. If she runs on one day, she'll strength train on another. The goal is to just stay active and moving without putting stress on an already-worked body. "You can't push your body too hard, because you don't want to get injured or pull something," she says. When coming off an extended period of rest, Gabby says it's important to not force everything at once. "Just ease yourself into it. Do five push-ups today, and then ramp it up to 10 push-ups next time," she says.

Turn Up the Heat (or Cool Things Down)

When sore muscles are at their worst, reduce pain and inflammation with a cold compress. Once you've reduced the inflammation, nothing beats warming up muscles and improving circulation like time spent in a sauna, steam room, or Jacuzzi.

Stretch It Out

Flexibility training should be part of any good fitness routine. Light stretching and yoga help to keep the body loose and limber — pretty important when you're muscles feel tight, overworked, and sore! On your rest day, do some restorative yoga or soothing stretches. Just remember to warm up the body first with a few minutes of light cardio.

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