While you may feel like performing a full workout every day of the week will help fast track your way to your desired goals, recovery is an essential part of any exercise routine. Not only is easy to burn out or lose motivation if you don’t ever give yourself a break from lifting heavy weight plates, but your muscles also need time to reset and rebuild themselves in order to grow and strengthen. Failing to do so can negatively affect your performance and lead to injury or sickness. However, a rest day does not mean you are forced to be completely inactive all day and just lay in bed. Rather, you can incorporate active recovery into your routine.
What Is Active Recovery?
Opposed to passive recovery which includes a complete break from physical activity, active recovery involves performing very light exercise on your rest days. This allows your body the time it needs to recover while also increasing blood flow to your strained muscles. While there are benefits to also including full rest days after especially strenuous workouts or a minor injury, performing a short active recovery workout helps you stay on track with your fitness routine and allows you to get moving if you are opposed to living a sedentary lifestyle. You can also use active recovery to cool down after a workout or to keep you moving between heavy sets.
Examples of Active Recovery Workouts
When in active recovery, you can plan on putting the barbells away for the day and instead pull out your yoga mat or just a pair of tennis shoes. Here a list of exercises you can use:
- Doing yoga, pilates, or tai chi
- Walking or light jogging
- Indoor cycling or riding a bike
- Resistance training with light dumbbells or bands
- Performing bodyweight movements
- Foam rolling
No matter which of these workouts you choose, make sure to work at no more than 50% of your capacity. Use this day to choose an activity you enjoy and to get outside and enjoy some fresh air if possible.
What Are the Health Benefits of Active Recovery?
As long as your body isn’t feeling overly fatigued or in pain, active recovery is often the preferable option for rest days. One of the major benefits of engaging in some minor movement even on your days off is that you can reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles quicker and release toxins. This will help you feel less muscle burn directly following a workout and reduce inflammation. You can potentially even recover faster and reduce soreness, getting you ready for your next full workout day. By incorporating plenty of stretching on your active recovery days, you can become more flexible and prevent stiff muscles.
As exercise becomes a regular part of your daily routine, having to take rest days may feel more like a burden than a treat, especially if you use physical activity as a way to improve your mood and reduce stress. With active recovery days, you can still get some blood pumping while allowing your body the time it needs to recoup. As always, listen to your body, and get all the equipment you need to enjoy active recovery from home or wherever you prefer to workout.