Let’s talk active recovery – something that many of us tend to forget about. When it comes to fitness results, we want to see fast results, and sometimes we feel as if we’re not sweating profusely, then we aren’t getting an effective workout in. Higher intensity workouts are often thought to give us better and faster results, but that’s far from the truth. Our bodies need active recovery to help increase performance and help us move more efficiently. Incorporating low-intensity activities into your routine could actually transform your fitness results in a major way.
Let’s look at what active recovery is, how often you should be doing it, and the best forms to fit into your current fitness routine.
What is Active Recovery?
In short, active recovery is when you choose low-intensity exercise after going heavy on the workouts. It could be something as simple as a brisk walk cool down after a run or on an off day, or quick yoga practice to stretch out sore muscles on days where you are not engaging in highly strenuous activities.
The point is to allow your body to recover a few days a week but to also engage and stretch out those muscles you’ve been using in your strength and endurance workouts.
What Are the Benefits?
There are tons of reasons we all should be doing active recovery, whether we do high-intensity training or engage in more low-impact activities.
Some of the benefits include:
- Helps you focus on form with slower, more controlled bodyweight movements.
- It’s a great way to prevent all the pain associated with lactic acid build-up.
- Combat fatigue and boost your overall mood by doing less intense activities like yoga or Pilates.
- Cool inflammation by boosting blood flow to your tired muscles and joints.
- Supporting exercise endurance and maintenance of strength and training.
- Reinforced mental strength.
How Often Should You Do It?
The amount of times you should be completing active recovery workout sessions a week is going to depend on how often you are engaging in high-intensity strength or endurance workouts. If you are typically doing high-intensity workouts 2-3 times a week, engaging in the same amount of low impact exercises a week will help your body to stretch, remove any built-up lactic acid in the body, and let’s not forget how much it will help with any aches and pain you may be feeling post-workout.
Active recovery days are vital to increasing performance in everyday movements and in your more challenging workouts, so even including at least one in your weekly routine is a great start.
The Best Kinds of Active Recovery
- Yoga: Yoga is the perfect way to connect with your body and connect to breathe. Yoga helps the body to increase its range of motion through slower, deep stretch movements. It also helps boost flexibility, reduces stress, and supports blood flow to your muscles and joints.
- Pilates: Pilates can be a little more challenging than yoga, depending on the level of your core strength. But a gentle Pilates workout is a great way to strengthen deep core muscles, improve flexibility without being hard on your muscles and joints, increase body awareness, and help with balance and control so you can perform better in your strength workouts.
- Static Stretching: Static stretches are stretches that you hold in place for a period of time. A good stretch after a workout makes for a simple active recovery exercise session. Holding your stretches helps your muscles recover faster, decreases the risk of injury, and will help improve your range of motion over time.
- Walking or Light Jogging: A simple walk or light jog will do just the trick. Both walking and jogging enhance blood flow to your muscles and aid in recovery.
- Swimming: Swimming allows your body to be weightless, helps relax your joints, and stretches your body in movement. In addition, the water pressure helps improve circulation in the muscles, blood vessels, and heart.
Make Active Recovery a Regular Part of Your Fitness Routine
While it is important and let’s not forget necessary on some days to completely rest the body and do nothing, active recovery days really help release tight muscles, retain strength, and help improve mobility and flexibility. Fitting in active recovery days into your week at your standard workout time maintains the link in your brain that it’s time for movement, whatever that may look like.