What is active recovery? (And do I really have to do it?)

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(Photo: Pixabay)
(Photo: Pixabay)

Here’s the thing: you can’t train at 100% intensity every day (and you shouldn’t try). Simple. You need a balance.

If you don’t take your foot off the gas, you’re going to get injured or sick. Fact. It’s like a car that’s constantly revving at its highest: it’s going to break down; it’s just a matter of time. 

That’s where active recovery comes in: you choose an activity or movement that’s less intense than your regular training sessions. It’s the glue that holds your training together: it helps your body recover and works as a mental reset, like a palate cleanser at a fancy restaurant.

It increases blood flow to your muscles and tissues and transports nutrients for the repair process. It also helps flush out waste products in the muscles. Get it right, and your body gets stronger, and you’re mentally primed for the next session.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. There are three types of active recovery.

There’s the first type which you use the day after a heavy training session, and it’s the most common type: like going for a walk after your leg day.

The second type is used straight after a workout as part of a cool down.

The last type is used in between sets in interval training: instead of sitting down or standing still, you keep moving or training at a lower intensity.

2. It’s not only for days when you’re feeling too stiff.

Active recovery needs to be drafted as a regular part of your schedule and not just a reactive choice. There are also full rest days (passive recovery).

That’s when you need quality couch time after a heavy training session or training week.

And FYI – having sore muscles is not an accurate indicator of muscle growth; it’s better to watch your performance numbers.

Make both types of recovery part of your schedule and alternate your training days with active recovery days.

3. Choose something you enjoy.

It can be anything that involves movement: walking, surfing, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, cycling, or swimming.

Just keep the intensity, heart rate, and exertion levels low – less than 60% of your max effort.

It should be relaxing and meditative.

This article was originally published on The Movement Empire (TME).

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