Equinox trainer and all-around badass Rachel Buschert Vaziralli. (Photo: Ryan Michael Kelly)
Since high school, when I blearily logged pre-dawn laps during swim team practice, I’ve been a committed AM exerciser. Dragging my tush out of bed is painful, but it’s way better than being sluggish and grumpy—the way I feel when I miss a workout. On the flip side, I’ve been known to go too far and ignore my body when it needs rest. With that in mind, I asked Rachel Buschert Vaziralli, one of my favorite Equinox instructors (not to mention a Master Schwinn Trainer and recent winner of Fit or Flop), for advice on balanced fitness. Read on for her tips, plus the best post-sweat breakfast.
What is your philosophy on rest days?
Recovery is an essential part to your workout. The work happens in the workout but the adaptations happen in the recovery. So if you don’t rest, your body can’t change.
So how often should you rest?
That depends on four factors: duration of workout, intensity of workout, type of workout, and the individual’s fitness level. Longer, more intense workouts and those that involve weight training require longer recoveries, and fit people may have faster recovery times then the novice exerciser. Typically it takes 24-48 hours to recover. If you are extremely sore, then your body has not fully recovered and you need more rest time.
What is the best way to improve overall fitness?
Although a mix of workouts can be good, it’s important to stick to a plan for four to six weeks so you can see if you are making improvements and your body has the opportunity to adapt. You can gradually progress to a different—potentially more intense—workout over time.
How much should we be stretching?
Current research suggests that prior to a workout we should do dynamic stretches to prepare our bodies for the movements we will be doing. Post-workout is when we should do static stretches, which help counterbalance the movements, restore length to muscles that have been shortened during the workout, and maintain flexibility.
Do you have tips for stretching in the gym?
Think about the exercises you did and what muscles they used and focus on those muscle groups. To stretch a muscle you do the opposite of its action. Stretching should be done two to three times per week, preferably when the muscle is warm. You should also use foam rollers to release tension in muscles—here’s a basic guide.
Favorite pre- and post-workout foods?
My pre-workout faves are oatmeal, cereal, or Greek yogurt with berries. Post-workout I like scrambled eggs on toast or chocolate milk.