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Active Recovery: How to Recover After Hard Workouts

How to recover after hard workouts

When it comes to physical activity, you put in the effort. You work out at a moderate to vigorous intensity, getting your breathing rate up and your sweat on to maintain stamina and a strong heart. You also lift weights a few times per week until your muscles feel tired to keep your bones strong and to maintain your muscle strength.

But are there any benefits to taking it easy one or two days per week? The answer is yes, and I like to call it active recovery.

One of the things I find most amazing about the human body is how adaptable it is. If you gradually exercise more and more over time while getting good nutrition and enough rest, your body can accomplish great things.

Let’s breakdown rest in three categories:

  • Sleep: This is the most important, and the more, the better. Adults should aim for at least eight hours of sleep every night. Children and youth need more.
  • Passive recovery: This means being somewhat sedentary and not doing much. It could be a lazy day watching movies, reading a book and taking naps.
  • Active recovery: This is doing a small bout of low intensity exercise. The length will vary on your sport or activity levels.

It’s important to schedule recovery between high intensity workouts because it allows time for your muscle and connective tissue to repair. It also allows you to decrease fatigue that may have accumulated after a vigorous intensity session. Let’s look a bit more at active recovery.

  • The goal of active recovery is to move your limbs a bit, to increase blood flow to your muscles, and to stay limber.
  • It is easy to overdo it on active recovery days; don’t get stuck in this trap. On easy days go easy, so that on hard days you can go hard. The intensity on active recovery days should be really light – a one or two out of 10. You shouldn’t break into a sweat (unless it is super hot out) and you should be able to comfortably sing a song while doing your activity.
  • The length of your session on an active recovery day depends on your sport and training history. Most people should limit it to 30 minutes. If you are doing a low impact sport (cycling or swimming for example), have been training, or have been consistently active for many years, aim for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Schedule active recovery after hard days where you have exercised at a vigorous intensity to give your body rest. Alternatively, you can schedule it on days where you know work, family or life will be busy.
  • Active recovery days are great for socializing. Plan to be active with a friend, family member or colleague.

The bottom line: take one or two active recovery days per week, remember to keep it at a low intensity, and take a buddy out if you can.

Get questions on how to structure your training answered by the Qualified Exercise Professionals at Healthlink BC. Call 8-1-1!


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