For those who have been into a regular exercise routine for a long period, working out can often take an addictive form. In this case, one enjoys the adrenaline rush and the sense of empowerment but forgets to take time to rest to ensure optimal active recovery.
However, the human body needs its rest time to rejuvenate itself enough to move forward. Sometimes, an excessive physical strain on the body can take it into a state of regression where workouts stop bringing any positive outcomes. Active body recovery is one of the most important ways of giving the body its required phase of rest while still keeping the movement happening.
What Is Active Recovery
This form of recovery in layman terms can be called as the “slow down and catch up” time for the stressed muscles of the body that result after hard physical training or workout. It is a kind of “rest day” after a period of extensive exercises where the body is not brought to a level of complete rest, but put on a short time (usually from one day to a few days) of low-intensity exercises.
These low workout periods are focused on keeping the body in light movement mode without giving it the stress that rigorous workout days bring. A race trainer or an athlete, for example, could use a day of light yoga exercises as a period of active recovery.
Types of Active Recovery
Most experts agree to there being two forms of recovery as discussed below:
During a Cool-down Phase after an Intense
This form of recovery as the title suggests, happens in the intervals between high-intensity training. The period can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Rather than sending the body into a state of complete rest during the interval period, low-intensity exercises such as running at a very slow pace or other basic activities like stretching or slow-paced walking, jogging are used.
Sending the body to a complete rest state is a slower method of reducing the muscle lactate levels than using active recovery forms. Various researches point to the fact that using recovery exercises after high-intensity workouts could help clear the lactate levels quickly which allows the body to deliver better performance levels.
Days Following a Rigorous Training
When you have gone through an intensive routine spanning few days to weeks to perhaps a month or so, giving the body a couple of “off days” by putting it under less intensive work out sessions is also a form of active muscle and body recovery. The trainee/athlete might find these active recovery days extremely relaxing as compared to the high-intensity workout periods without getting the sluggish feeling that comes with zero activity type rest days.
The Best Way to Recover
The fact to remember during an active recovery period is to not really challenge the stressed-out muscles but focus on other forms of low-intensity workouts that improve your blood circulation and keep your metabolism regulated. While it is true that some forms of high-intensity sessions leave the body feeling sore, getting into a passive recovery phase immediately after kills the results achieved by the training period.
It is instead recommended to choose active recovery forms that are easy to manage and yet focus on maintaining healthy blood circulation and joint mobilization level. Selecting low-intensity exercises like slow cycling, walking or simply mobility exercises is the best way to go about during an active recovery period.
Forms of Active Recovery
In addition to the several recovery forms like walking, slow jogging, slow cycling, etc. mentioned in the earlier sections of the article, there are several other fun ways of engaging in active recovery. Following are some excellent options to choose from:
Working on static and dynamic stretches during those “off” days will help release the sore points in the muscles while improving the overall flexibility.
This form of recovery is safe to practice and has immense benefits to offer alongside. Yoga exercises that focus on improving breathing, flexibility, and range of motion are excellent options for a recovery period.
3. MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
This technique aims at massaging or mobilizing the connective tissues around our muscles and joints. Simple forms like using a foam roller, a tennis ball or even a massage stick can get huge recovery benefits by reducing muscle pain and soreness that comes with intense workouts.
4. GLUTES AND CORE STRENGTHENING
These set of muscles include the abdominal muscles, the glutes, the back muscles, the hip flexors, hip abductors and adductors, and the glutes. Simple home-based workouts like glute bridges, trunk rotations, planks, fire hydrants, etc. are good options to keep your strength quotient up along with giving your body an active recovery day after a period of intense training.
Considered one of the best forms of recovery exercises, swimming offers multiple benefits like joint relaxation, an increase in blood circulation and muscle strengthening while offering a good dose of fun alongside.
6. SLOW PACED CYCLING
This can be a good option for a low-intensity cardio work out. Just getting on a bike and pedaling off to a nearby market can get you all the benefits of recovering actively.
7. SLOW WALKING OR JOGGING
For those who have had a long period of athletic training, taking a slow walk or jogging along a trail for around 30 minutes is almost meditative. This kind of low to moderate paced activity elevates the heart rate and helps in building endurance.
Often underestimated, crawling is an excellent way to build a complete body strength, improve endurance and focus. Crawling also strengthens the sense of balance and helps in posture correction. Options like baby crawl or a leopard crawl are excellent ways to start your recovery actively.
Roller-blading not just helps improve the overall body flexibility, it also enhances the sense of balance within your brain.
Various light home activities like gardening, mowing a lawn, etc. can be taken up to get a change in the daily schedule while still keeping your muscles moderately active.
Why Recovery Is Important
While some people may debate the usefulness of having a zero-activity passive recovery day, scientific research and facts point out to the benefits of keeping an active recovery day instead. The sudden stop that comes with a passive rest day is not a happy state for the circulatory and the muscular-skeletal system of the body to be in.
A recovery period that focuses on low-to-moderate intensity workouts pushes the body into a faster recovery mode by significantly increasing the blood flow to various tissues in the body. The recovery period also helps to maintain the supply of oxygen and amino acids to muscles and tissues which help the body to repair muscle damage and fight fatigue.
Key Benefits of Active Recovery Post Exercise
Getting the body into a state of relaxation and repairing the tissue damage are some well-known benefits of active recovery. However, most expert trainers and athletes, understand that various other benefits come with this form of recovery. Listed below are some significant benefits that one is sure to get following a recovery period:
- Lowered heart rate
- Faster reduction in blood lactate levels
- Increased blood circulation
- Improvement in strength and endurance
- The release of endorphins causing a happy state of mind
- Getting time to focus on improving form and technique
The Do’s and Don’ts of Active
Here are some great tips for beginners looking for guidelines on what to do and what not to during an active recovery period. You should keep the following tips in mind when you are taking a recovery day.
- Eat within the first 60 minutes after an intense workout
- Consume sufficient quantities of carbohydrates and proteins
- Boost up your fluid intake
- Focus on low-to-moderate intensity exercises (about 30 to 60 percent of the usual effort)
- Focus on exercises like myofascial releases which help in muscle relaxation
- Practice meditation and mental relaxation exercises like Yoga
- Take Epsom Salt baths
- Do not drop your workout intensity too low, too suddenly
- Do not skip meals
- Do not take up high-intensity exercise
While passive recovery options look extremely inviting after a period of intense training, the benefits of active recovery are now a well-accepted fact. In addition to the benefit of maintaining one’s fitness levels even during those “off days,” recovery periods offer immense psychological benefits.
The option of easy, low-stress exercises as compared to a daily routine of high-intensity workouts leaves one feeling in touch with their fitness plan while still getting a couple of days off. Finally, it is essential to listen to your body and pick out the exercises that help you feel good, even when you are in your active recovery period.