Active Recovery | How to spend your rest day
Active recovery? You’re probably thinking “ain’t no one got time for that!” Don’t worry we get it. You’re focused and committed to achieving your goals. You’ve got a one way ticket on the gains train and you don’t want to get left sitting on the platform! Well if you haven’t already, have a read of our post about calorie intake on training days vs rest days and that might just help you drop that mantra you’ve been clinging to that “More is Better” when it comes to your training and workouts.
You’ve got an hour of Crossfit daily, plus some accessory and/or skill work, a weightlifting program to get stronger, plus a couple days of spin or track to keep up the cardio. If and when you take a rest day you either feel guilty for not doing anything, or you end up hiking a 14 miler with your buddies, doing an open water swim race, or (surprise!) back at the gym to help ‘spot’ your mate on his lifts and then end up maxing out just for kicks.
If that sounds like you, do you also find yourself more irritable, more frequently injured, sick, or tired, or even unmotivated and apathetic towards your training? Well, you just might be overtraining, and it’s not just restricted to Crossfit athletes. Training for marathon after marathon, doing lots of double days at your HIIT or spin class, or maxing out multiple times a week can all lead to overtraining. BUT, there is a solution!
Cue active recovery.
Active Recovery – What is it?
Active recovery (as opposed to passive recovery) is essentially an active rest day, meaning you’re not confined to your couch, but should choose low-intensity activities where your heart rate is not significantly elevated.
Why should you do it?
While we all know that exercise is good for our health, the point of exercise it to stress our body to create adaptations that the body must overcome, thereby getting stronger (building muscle), faster, leaner, etc. Even though this stress to our body can be and is good, it’s still a stressor and our muscles, CNS, and mind need a break from that stress regularly to rest, repair, and continue making the adaptations we desire i.e. progress at the gym!
Ways to do it
So, how do you build this into your weekly routine? There are many ways to implement active recovery:
- Active Cool Down: instead of falling to the floor when your workout is over (or in between sprints or intervals), try walking around, or rowing or biking at a slow pace. The longer and harder the effort, the longer time (but not more intense) should be spent in active recovery. This helps flush lactate levels (that burning, heavy feeling you often get in your legs) and reduce muscle soreness, aka the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
- Active Recovery Days: on these days, stay out of the gym if you can! Get your blood moving, but don’t go crazy. And remember, recovery is not just a break for your muscles, but your mind as well.
- Get out into nature and go for an easy swim, hike, bike, or walk
- Go to a yoga class
- Find a rock wall to climb
- Rollerblade on the boardwalk (bonus points for the fannypack)
- Go for an easy ski in the winter
- If you’re a weightlifter and haveto go to the gym, just do some technique work with an empty barbell. Make every rep perfect!
- Mobility: Once you’ve got your blood flowing, it’s also a great time to get in some mobility work too. Do a ROMWOD or yoga session, myofascial release (foam rolling, lacrosse ball, etc), or getting a massage are all more great ways to reduce soreness and promote muscle and joint recovery!
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you have to be sedentary (although give yourself permission to do that once in a while is OK too)! Active recovery actually helps your body to recover as you increase blood flow to your muscles. Keeping the intensity low allows blood flow to remain constant and helps your CNS and mind to decompress from the stresses of your intense workouts. Taking rest days is an important element of any training program as it gives your body the opportunity to repair and grow stronger so that you can continue to make improvements in the gym.
Try out some of these active recovery ideas and see if you find your days in the gym, on the track, or on the road more productive, energetic, and mentally focused!
What are some of your favorite things to do as active recovery or ways in which to spend your rest days?