For many of us, when we hear we need to “recover from working out or training,” we think a vacation on the beach or curling up on a couch and making the next few days a movie marathon.
Those that are hardcore exercisers can’t imagine taking days, let alone a week or more off.
Many workout folks love the feel-good sensations you can get from exercise. This could be a form of meditation, empowering a person to feel and look better, or even therapeutic (or all three). I know, I’ve been there.
But going full speed with your workouts every single day of the week and never taking time to rest can backfire. Your body needs time to rest, recover and regenerate to keep operating at a high level. In between hard exercise sessions, resting, getting proper nutrition and doing things that can help the body recover for the next go round is important so the body can repair itself properly — and come back stronger. Plus, if all your body gets is physical stress without rest, you can reach the point of diminishing returns, which means you won’t see the gains from all the pain!
But resting doesn’t have to mean becoming a blob on a bean bag chair day after day. What you can do is incorporate “active rest and recovery” into your program.
Planning an “active recovery” workout on rest days is a great way to give your body a break without being totally sedentary.
If you’re a go-hard-at-every-workout kind of person, or you just hate the idea of taking a day completely off from exercise, active recovery workouts let you get in some activity while giving your muscles and joints the rest they need to bounce back stronger than ever.
Unlike (also important) passive recovery days — where you’re sitting on your couch all day binge-watching Netflix or YouTube videos — an active recovery day features easy workouts equivalent to no more than 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort (low to moderate intensity). For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you can use an active recovery day as an opportunity to jog a few easy miles or take a gentle yoga class to work on flexibility.
Working at a lower intensity, as opposed to doing absolutely nothing, will help increase recovery from your previous workout by increasing blood flow to your muscles and tissues. Giving your circulation a little boost helps get nutrients to your muscles so they can repair themselves. It also helps flush out waste products that built up during exercise and contribute to muscle damage and fatigue,
Also dialing it down for an active recovery day can offer a refreshing mental break from intense training. If you’re working out most days of the week and find it hard to take a day off, consider subbing out one of your weekly workouts for an active recovery day. If you’re currently training three or four times per week, you can turn a couple of your “off” days into active recovery days to keep building strength and aerobic fitness even when you’re not working at your hardest. That being said, complete full-on couch-mode rest days (as well as sleep) are a worthy part of your training routine, too. There’s nothing wrong with taking days off completely, so don’t forget to listen to your body and give it a break when it needs one.
Here are a few options for your active recovery day:
1. Tai chi — Yoga — Pilates
Tai chi, Yoga and Pilates are classic mind-body exercise, so you’ll reap the meditative, stress-reducing benefits while you’re at it. These recovery activities increase flexibility and teach proper breathing techniques and body control.
2. Light resistance training
Yes, you can still lift on your easy day if you want to. In fact, performing high-rep exercises with a light weight helps stimulate blood flow and supply nutrients to the working tissue without straining or tearing them down.
3. Mobility, Stability and Activation exercises
Keeping critical muscles — which include your abdominals, low back muscles, glutes, hip flexors and hip adductors — firing on your off days will help prep your body for the more intense work you may have planned for the days ahead, So add some easy movements into your recovery day.
4. Self-myofascial release
Whether you use a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or massage stick, self-myofascial release — a method of massaging the connective tissues surrounding the muscles and bones — offers a bevy of recovery benefits.
5. Swimming — Steady-state walking or running — Steady-state cycling
Taking your workout to the pool is a great low-impact exercise option. In addition, the water pressure helps improve circulation in the muscles, blood vessels, and heart. If the pool isn’t your gig, get in some steady-state cardio by cycling, walking or doing a long, slow jog instead. Hop on a bike (stationary or moving) and pedal away for a low-impact form of exercise — it lets you get in some cardiovascular exercise without all that pounding on your joints.
By finding an activity that you can do without beating your body up, being able to crank down the volume and intensity, will allow you to still get in your exercise groove and move — just to a slower beat of the exercise drum!
Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen, M.Ed, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, FNSCA is the Founder/Director of Coach Rozy Performance - Powered by AVERA Sports. He can be reached at 817-219-2811, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.coachrozy.com for more information on this article or programs that he offers.