It is easy to get carried away by the feel-good sensations you get from exercise. Some find it meditative, empowering or therapeutic. However, leaving room for active recovery during a busy training regime can ensure longevity when it comes to training.
An active recovery workout involves performing low-intensity exercise following a strenuous workout. Your body needs time to recovery between bouts of hard exercise enabling it to repair itself properly and allowing a stronger and better return to performance. Examples of this are walking, yoga and swimming. In addition, active recovery is utilised during a deload or tapering week of training whereby, performing an activity that is different to the ‘regular’ discipline helps maintain movement and physical components without the risk of task specific effects taking place that may hinder performance.
Over recent years research has suggested that in fact active recovery is more beneficial than inactivity, complete rest or sitting. The ability to keep blood flowing encourages muscular recovery and rebuild following intense activity. It’s vital that when performing active recovery that you are active enough to increase blood flow but gentle enough to allow your muscles to heal. Typically, research suggests that active recovery should be performed at around 60-70% of your maximum effort (low to moderate intensity). Attention should be paid to your breathing and ensuring that the activity chosen leaves you feeling refreshed, energised and ready for training.
Reducing lactic acid build ups
Eliminate toxins and waste products like hydrogen ions and lactic acid
Maintain muscle flexibility & pliability
Increase blood flow
Improved circulation of amino acids and oxygen
Encourage the maintenance of an exercise routine
Mental break from the intensity of physical training
Active vs Passive Recovery
Active recovery allows for a break from training without the sedentary eliminant. Unlike passive recovery days (sitting) active recovery is MOVEMENT! Now, although a combination of both active & passive recovery is highly advantageous knowing when to do what is vital. When stiffness and DOMS is felt in the muscle, movement is key! Despite this, rest when fatigue and tiredness is apparent will help with recovery too.
If you’re training more than 5 days a week or dislike the idea of taking a day completely off from exercise, consider substituting out one your workouts for an active recovery day! If you’re training 3-4 times a week turning a couple of your off days into active recovery days will result in the continued build of strength and aerobic fitness.
With the sporting season in full swing for many of us it't vital we look after ourselves!
Thank you for reading,
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST
MSc Strength and Conditioning