Five good ways to spend your rest days

Ian Carroll

For outdoor athletes, rest days are just a fact of life. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a board or climb a rock, there are days when the weather just isn’t right, or your body needs a rest. Unless you know some great card games, it can get pretty boring playing cards at your hostel all day. Just because you can’t get out there doesn’t mean you can’t be doing something productive or exciting though.

If you use your rest days to strengthen your body, eat healthy food, and focus your mind, you can get the most out of your days on as well as your days off. Here are five good ways to use your rest days to your advantage. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are nearly limitless ways to make use of your extra time.


You don’t need a beautiful sandy beach like this to do your own practice.
You don’t need a beautiful sandy beach like this to do your own practice.

I don’t care what your sport is, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, yoga is good for anyone to do on their off days. Hell, yoga is good for you on your on-days too. Depending on what type of exertion you usually put your body under, different forms of yoga may work better than others for you. Stretching should be a part of your daily routine anyway if you spend time playing outdoors. But doing a full hour of yoga, or even half that, can really clear out your mind as well as do your body good.

Yoga gives you time to reflect on your performances, where you are, and what you still want to achieve. If you’ve been facing challenges in your undertakings, this is a great way to examine the nature of your obstacles. The great thing about yoga is that you can practice it anywhere. In a chair, on a mountain, in your grandma’s kitchen, on top of a desert tower – literally anywhere. Stretch, breathe, and focus on yourself and your surroundings. Tomorrow, you’re going to need it.


Sometimes, pursuing your passion can be an all-consuming process. Many outdoor pursuits like rafting, climbing, or mountain biking can be solitary and at times lonely. If you’ve been out in the mountains doing your thing for several days straight, I know two things that will help recharge the system. Good friends, and good food. So why not have both? A potluck or friends-dinner is a great way to spend a day cooking healthy food together and hanging out. Filling yourself up with calories and while connecting with friends is a sure way to focus your mind and body on the challenges of the days ahead.

Go find some hot springs

Looking for hot springs takes you to some pretty impressive places.
Looking for hot springs takes you to some pretty impressive places.

One of my favorite rest day activities, no matter where I am in the world, is to go hunting for hot springs. You’d be surprised by how many there are, scattered across the globe. When you find a natural hot spring in a far off and frigid place, it can be a game changer, a life saver even. Not only do the minerals and warm water soothe your body and refresh your skin and muscles, the adventure of finding the place will probably test your mind and produce at least one memorable story. The best hot springs are hard to find and tend to attract the most exciting characters. If you do decide to go off in search of secret springs though, be sure that your tank is full, your maps are downloaded, and you’re ready for any weather that could come your way. More than once, I’ve spent days on an afternoon trip to the hot springs.


Most of our outdoor passions get us out into some pretty spectacular places. One of the best ways to spend your rest day is to go for a hike and see what’s around. Even if you are backpacking, taking off the pack for a day and going on a shorter adventure can be a great way to stretch out tired muscles without straining them too hard. As a rock climber, I frequently find myself deep in the mountains or desert. There is always something just over the next ridge to see. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to spend a rest day. Plus, I usually use my hike to scope out new objectives or areas. That way, when I go to approach my next climb, I already know the way there and what to expect.

Explore the local market or town

Exploring the city
Exploring the city

If you’re near a town or city, it can be great to get a dose of the local culture on your day off. This is especially pertinent if you’re traveling abroad. In a foreign country, just about anything can make for a memorable experience. Strolling the streets or a local market is a sure way to see some curiosities and learn about the locals. This can help bring a new perspective to the place you are experiencing and the way you bring yourself to it. It’s easy to travel and practice our own respective sports without opening ourselves fully to where we are. We’re just passing through. Going to a market isn’t just an excellent way to connect with the place where you are, it’s a great way to find good, healthy food. Maybe even something for a potluck later?  

However you decide to spend your rest days, be sure to use the time positively. After all, it’s the time we spend asleep when our muscles grow the most. It’s the time we’re quiet when we can hear the most. If you stop seeing your rest days as a wasted time, each one is an opportunity for more growth, more learning, and more good memories.

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ian-carroll is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival