Monday, August 16, 2021

What Is Active Recovery?


Anytime I hear the word recovery, I think either a person is trying to get over something or they need to relax so the first time I heard the phrase active recovery in the middle of exercising, I thought I'd get a chance to relax a minute or so before continuing the punishing workout.  I definitely wasn't right since we continued exercising.  Over time I've learned more about active recovery. 

Since then, I've learned that active recovery is defined as performing some type of low intensity exercise after a strenuous workout as a way of catching your breath.  It might be like taking a walk after completing a high impact cardio workout or it might be a section of low intensity between the high levels in a HITT workout.

Most consider an active recovery better than sitting or resting because it keeps the blood flowing, while helping your muscles recover from intense physical activity and provides time for the muscles to begin rebuilding at the same time.  An active recovery has multiple benefits such as reducing lactic acid buildup, eliminating toxins, helps keep muscles more flexible while decreasing soreness, increases blood flow and helps you keep up with your workout routine. If you are injured or in pain, passive recovery where you rest completely is recommended rather than active recovery. 

There are three types of active recovery.  The first happens after a good workout.  At the end, rather than sitting down to rest, it is strongly recommended that you take a walk or jog slowly for about 10 minutes to give yourself a chance to cool down.  If you've been lifting weights or doing a HITT workout, you might consider using maintaining an easy pace on a stationary bike.  No matter what exercise you choose, you should never be working at more than 50% capacity and reduce it from there.

You might use active recovery while going through a circuit or interval training. The active recovery is sprinkled between the high intensity sections so you rest but keep your muscles warm. Again, the active recovery should require no more than 50 % of your prior effort. The third situation is on days you are not doing strenuous exercising.  Instead of doing your normal exercising you might want to take a walk, jog, swim, try yoga, or enjoy a nice easy bike ride.

When you decide to have a day of active recovery, you should plan something completely different from your usual workouts.  You might look at swimming because it is low impact and it is theorized that the water may help reduce inflammation.  In addition, it is easy on your joints and muscles.  Tai Chi or Yoga are a good for active recovery because they stretch muscles while increasing flexibility.  Either can also reduce stress and inflammation.

Walking or jogging are considered some of the best forms of active recovery.  If you walk or jog at an easy pace, it can enhance blood flow encouraging recovery, while reducing stiffness and soreness. Another suggestion is to take engage in a nice leisurely bike ride using a stationary bike or one that can take you around the neighborhood.  Biking is low impact exercise that doesn't put pressure on your joints.  If you have sore muscles, think about using a foam roller to help stretch muscles, increases your range of motion and reduce inflammation. 

It is important to remember that active recovery plays an important part in your weekly workout schedule so you stay healthy and avoid injury.  Make sure you schedule active recovery appropriately.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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