Recovering after a workout is an essential part of being physically active. When you hear the word ‘recovery’, you probably picture yourself hanging out on the couch the day after an intense workout. And while this may seem like the best way to give your muscles some time to recover, your body actually bounces back better if you keep it moving and incorporate some active recovery into your day instead.
What is Active Recovery?
Active recovery is low intensity exercise that a person performs after higher intensity exercise to improve their recovery and performance – think walking, yoga or swimming.
It is typically performed on a day after high-intensity exercise, or before your next workout, and has a number of benefits, including aiding muscle recovery. In general, an active recovery day features easy workouts equivalent to no more than 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort (low to moderate intensity).
Benefits of Active Recovery:
Working at a lower intensity helps to increase recovery from your previous workout by increasing blood flow and circulation to your muscles and tissues. This will help to:
- Reduce lactic acid build up
- Eliminate toxins
- Keep muscles flexible
- Reduce soreness
In addition to this, getting in some active recovery on your rest or lighter load days will help you maintain your exercise routine by keeping the momentum going. If you’ve ever had a lazy weekend and struggled to get back into that first workout on Monday, you’ll know what we’re talking about!
Active Recovery Activities:
Depending on your fitness level and available time, your active recovery session could last anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes. The great thing about active recovery is that it doesn’t have to be a structured training session – it’s more about making movement a daily, long-term, healthy habit.
Here are some ways to include active recovery sessions in your training plan;
The easiest way to get some movement into your active recovery day is getting out and going for a walk or light jog. Walking or jogging at a leisurely pace can enhance blood flow and help with recovery. Meet up with a friend, take the kids, or put on your favourite podcast and enjoy exercising outdoors in the fresh air – you’ll feel both the physical and mental health benefits!
Swimming is a great low impact exercise that can help increase circulation and reduce muscle soreness. It’s easy on the joints and is a form of exercise that can be performed without pushing yourself too hard – just take it easy and focus on your breathing.
If you’re not that much of a swimmer, a recovery ride is another great option that is low impact and easy on the joints. You can cycle either on a stationary bike or on a bicycle outdoors.
Yoga combines flexibility training with low-intensity, total-body strength training, making it a great form of active recovery. It’s also relaxing and stress-relieving, so you really can’t go wrong!
A stretch session can sometimes be exactly what your body needs after a tough workout. Working on your flexibility and getting in some mobility through dynamic stretches will help to increase your range of motion, avoid muscle imbalances that can lead to injury, help you relax, and improve your posture.
Myofacial release, aka foam rolling, can help to reduce tightness, tension and inflammation of muscle tissues. It also helps increase your range of motion which can improve your general performance when you’re ready to jump back into your training.