You don't get to be a star on the US national football team — and veteran of nearly 13 years — without learning to take care of your body like it's your job (because, well, it is). Just ask Megan Rapinoe, the USWNT midfielder/forward who, despite injuries, has been a powerful presence on the international pitch since her debut in 2006. Staying healthy is the highest priority for the 33-year-old Rapinoe and as important as workouts and diet are (just check out her simple, whole-foods-based daily diet) — it's what she does off the field, beyond the gym, and out of the kitchen that keeps her body at its best.
"Recovery is massively important," Megan told POPSUGAR. In terms of staying healthy and ensuring her best performance, Megan said, "I think recovery's actually as important or more important than what you're doing on the field."
That goes for those of us who aren't professional athletes, too. If you're trying to build muscle, rest days are critical recovery periods for your muscles to rebuild and grow; if you're looking to lose weight, taking a day off gives you the energy to push even harder in your next workout.
The most effective rest days incorporate easy movement that keeps you loose and limber without putting too much strain on your body. It's not something you should overthink, though; taking it easy on your body means doing the same for your mind. Megan's rest days are spent relaxing, recovering, and keeping things low-key. Number one on recovery to-do list: sleep.
"Preferably, I'm in bed by 9:30, then trying to get to sleep by 10:30 or 11 p.m," she said. In fact, that goes for every day, not just her days off. "I'm very precious about my sleep. I like to get a full night out of it." Once she's up and moving in the morning, Megan said that an ideal recovery day would include a massage or some water therapy, like an Epsom salt bath, which is believed to soothe sore muscles, or some swimming to loosen up her body.
"I don't like to be too stagnant. I like to kind of walk around a little bit, or go shopping or run a few errands," Megan added. A nap in the afternoon, followed by a healthy dinner out or at home, is her low-key end to the day. The focus is not to get stressed or overwork anything. "I like to be very calm and relaxed on my days off and hopefully get a lot of rest."
The takeaway: rest days are important, but don't put too much pressure on yourself to make them perfect. Walk, stretch, eat some good food, and sleep. A relaxed, low-stress day will help you recover and prepare, mind and body, for your next challenge, whether that's a tough workout or a World Cup final.