Last updated on April 20th, 2014 at 02:30 pm
Active recovery is the strangest concept that most people don’t understand about fitness. Active are the days you have a workout, and recovery means rest days with no workouts, right?
Past fitness information has misinformed us with the idea that days we are active and days we are “resting” are mutually exclusive. The truth is that your fitness may benefit from moving every day.
Here is the trick – Choose the right exercise and intensity for your off days. For those of us who may not know how to hold back, this is the challenge.
Active Recovery is your key to reduce soreness.
Anyone who sits for a living, stuck at a desk all day, will know the benefit of moving to reduce stiffness. The same goes for anyone who has woke up the next day very aware of a sore body part after a tough workout.
A good definition of active recovery would be an easier workout of what you normally do. This is the one you do on your off days, and it really depends on what you do to stay fit. Lower intensity and lower volume makes for a good active recovery workout.
Are you a marathon runner? A slow jogging pace probably won’t impact their training days and may help your fitness goals.
If you are just getting your fitness path started, you may not be able to workout everyday, so please consider your own fitness level when thinking about adding active recovery to your off days.
Are getting sore after your workout? That’s an excellent sign that you are ready for active recovery days.
Tip: If you feel better after your active recovery workout, you are doing it right!
There are a few camps of thought on the benefit of active recovery overall – those opinions range from “not useful at all for recovery” to “potentially adding too much work” for your body.
For my own training, putting these active recovery workouts into my training plan has allowed me to keep moving when I get to those tough training days.
Another awesome side effect? On days that I exercise I am much more aware of the food that I eat, which means that even on active recovery days, I much less likely to over indulge.
Active recovery workout ideas to get you started
If you aren’t sure what to do on your active recovery days, get moving with these easy ideas.
If you are sore or feeling tight after your heavy workout days, this option is my favorite way to recover. A foam rolling session is a way to give yourself a massage, or Self-Myofacial release (SMR), until you can book time with your massage therapist to really get those knots out. The rule of thumb after foam rolling is that you should feel better afterward, so pay attention to the amount of pressure you are putting on any one muscle group, go slow and avoid any bony areas.
Working on increasing your mobility is something you can do everyday. It can also be a wonderful way to stretch through any soreness as it works all the joints within a safe range of motion. A great way for those of us who stick to very active, kinetic workouts to find a little Zen on our active recovery days.
This is a classic standard for any active recovery solution. It burns calories, gets you outside breathing fresh air and kicks in those feel-good chemicals that keep us smiling. Pick a good distance that is in line with your fitness level and keep it to a walk.
Lighter Weight Lifting
If lifting is your go-to fitness then cutting the weights down to no more than 30% of your usual weight, and doing the same exercises that made you sore, can help your recovery. The point here is to let your muscles remember and recover, not to perform to failure.
Floating is just about as low impact as you can get. I love the weightlessness of water, and you still engage muscles and cardio without pounding on your joints. Keep it short and at a slow pace if using for a recovery workout.
Take the bike out for a spin and keep the intensity low. Your active recovery cycling day is the day to explore those back streets and trails at a nice mellow pace. Leave that hill you have been meaning to conquer for a full workout day instead.
Recover from your activity by moving and stop those sore muscles.
More exercise does not equal recovery. Most people assume that more moving will help them burn more fat. Consider that whether you choose to use active recovery or taking full days off from exercise, the key to staying on track will always be your eating habits.
If you are using active recovery, don’t over train on those days. That is the quickest way to lose motivation or get tired and risk injury.
Are you planning on trying any of these active recovery ideas this week?
Go get your fit on – Heather
Disclaimer: Ready to get fit? My goal is to share my experience with weight loss and fitness. I am not a professional trainer, nutritionist, or dietitian and all opinions are my own. This worked for me, but may not work for you, so please research what is best for your health and fitness goals.
Heather Montgomery is a fitness writer, triathlete, and serial entrepreneur who is devoted to sharing what she has learned about becoming a triathlete after age 40. She uses her Metabolic Training Certification to help other women struggling to get fit in mid-life. She lives and trains in Santa Rosa, California, the new home of the Ironman triathlon. You can find her biking the Sonoma County wine trails.
Note: Articles by Heather may contain affiliate links and will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link.