Training can be addictive and you may feel you don’t want or need to take a full rest or active recovery day too often. But recovery is crucial if you want to stay injury free and improve your overall fitness level. One full rest day and at least one active recovery day a week is needed for everyone that wants to improve as an athlete. Let’s dig deeper into the subject.
What Is Active Recovery?
Active recovery workouts are done with low intensity. You should still break a sweat but your heart rate should not be pounding and leave you sore on the floor afterwards. The key is to increase blood flow to the sore muscles and joints, counteracting inflammation. Active recovery also reduces fatigue and the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles which will leave you less stiff and discomfort after days of intense workouts.
Scheduling Full Rest Days and Active Recovery Days
If you follow an online CrossFit program, rest and recovery days are scheduled into the program when rest and recovery is needed. After 2-3 days of hard training, a day of recovery should be added. For example, if you go hard Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at training, you can use a full rest day on Thursday to fully recover. Then you can push training again Friday and Saturday and go for an active recovery day on Sunday to be ready for a new training week on Monday again.
How To Actively Recover Properly
An active recovery session can be used with pretty much any exercise or skill at about 60-70%. The session should last about 30-60 minutes, not for hours. It’s not so important what you do specifically.
Active recovery is not only about doing some kind of physical work. You should treat your body with stretches and improve range of motion, foam rollers, massages and mental work as well. Relieving stress both physically and mentally is key to recover well.
Here are some examples on what you can do on an active recovery day:
- Find a nice trail to hike or walk
- Jump on the rower, assault bike or take a light jog for 30 minutes
- Hot/cold shower shower mixes. (For 5 minutes, mix 10 seconds of a hot water with 20 seconds of cold water)
- Massage and cupping
- Foam rolling
- Breathing and meditation
Active Recovery In Your Daily Training
Recover in the cool down phase immediately after a workout. It differs from a typical cool-down in that it lasts longer than a few minutes. As such, it can be considered an extension of the exercise routine itself.
This allows your heart rate to normalize. You want your heart rate to return to normal slowly after a hard workout. This helps you to recover faster from the hard work, reduces future stiffness and possible soreness and injuries.
Cooling down with active recovery will also improve relaxation after breathing hard.
Instead of just sitting between intervals, doing some low intensity work helps mitigate the buildup of lactic acid by keeping your heart rate up. This will make you perform better at your actual interval training.
So, to sum up, what are the benefits of active recover?
- Reduces fatigue and the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, minimizing post-exercise stiffness and discomfort.
- Promotes blood flow to the joints and muscles, counteracting inflammation.
- Maintains the heart rate at a more steady state, improving the actual training as endurance and training volumes.
- Improves relaxation after breathing hard.
- Mental recovery by doing breathing and meditating exercises will make your mind more rested and reduce stress.
- Taking care of your body with massages, hot/cold showers, cupping, foam rolling, stretches etc. will improve both your physical and mental recovery and health.