Running, lifting weights and high intensity training are all an important part of getting healthy and strong. However, doing high impact exercises everyday isn’t great for your body. Mixing in active recovery days with activities such as swimming, yoga and tai chi is the best way for your body to repair itself, giving your circulation a boost and offering a physical and mental break from intense training. Check out our favourite recovery day workout ideas!
What Does ‘Active Recovery’ Mean?
Active recovery is the implementation of low intensity exercise in between heavy workout days or after an intense workout. The best way to recover from more high intensity workouts is exercising at a lower intensity, rather than remaining still. Not to be confused with passive recovery (which is also important), where you take full days off from exercising, active recovery entails easy workouts equivalent to around 60 to 70 percent of your maximum effort.
The truth is, if you never give your body a break, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. When you do exercises like squats, push ups or deadlifts, your muscles naturally break down, and completing the same intense activities day after day can lead to muscle soreness, a suppressed immune system, difficulty sleeping, and even injury.
Active recovery days are ideal for people who don’t want to take any days off completely from exercise. If you train three to four days a week, you can do active recovery workouts on the other days to keep building your strength and stamina. But make sure to listen to your body and give it a break when it needs one. Passive recovery is especially beneficial if you’re injured or in pain. It’s also important to take complete days off to rest if you’re mentally or physically tired.
3 Reasons Recovery Days Are Important
1. They Help Your Body Repair Itself
Lower intensity workouts help increase blood flow to your muscles and tissues, sending nutrients like amino acids and oxygen to your muscles so they can repair themselves. It also helps flush out lactic acid, which builds up during exercise and leads to muscle damage and fatigue.
2. Gives Your Mind a Break
Along with giving your body and muscles a break from high intensity training, active recovery days also give you a refreshing mental breather. To do high intensity workouts, you have to get yourself into the right state of mind, which can be mentally taxing. Active recovery workouts are exercises that you don’t really have to think about – you just do them. Mental breaks are just as important as physical ones.
3. Improves Your Performance
Overtraining decreases your performance, resulting in reduced endurance, slow reaction times and poor agility. If you’re not taking recovery days (whether they’re passive or active), it will be much harder to do your high intensity routines. Recovery days increase your energy and reduce fatigue, allowing your body to have consistently successful workouts.
9 Recovery Day Workout Ideas
Yoga is an amazing recovery day workout as it benefits your mind and body with lower intensity exercises that allow you to grow stronger. With yoga, you can give your mind a break, as well as your muscles, enhancing your mental state and allowing you to push negative thoughts and emotions out. It will increase your flexibility and range of motion, as well as promote blood flow to repair your broken down muscle tissues. You’ll learn proper breathing techniques and body control, as well as feel a renewed sense of energy!
2. Tai Chi
Tai chi is based on defensive martial arts movements, and is a great low impact workout that helps improve strength, balance and control. The slow, meditative movements are ideal for your mind and body, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps our bodies calm down and recover from stress.
Swimming is extremely easy on your joints and muscles, making it a great low intensity workout to do on recovery days. Not only does working out in the water release joint tension, it also promotes circulation in the muscles, heart and blood vessels.
Pilates combines stretching and low intensity strength exercises for the best of both worlds on your recovery days. It will keep your blood circulating without flustering your heart rate, and you’ll get to work on your flexibility and range of motion as well.
Walking at a moderate pace elevates your heart rate and gets your blood flowing. It’s great for building up your cardio, as well as brightening your mood. Walk to 30 to 40 minutes at about 40 to 60 percent of your all-out effort for an awesome recovery day activity!
6. Leisurely Biking
Cycling at a leisurely pace is low impact and won’t hurt your joints. It’s a great low-intensity workout that will get your heart rate up. Whether you cycle on a stationary bike or outdoors, you’ll improve your circulation and cardio without going hard on your joints.
7. Stretching/Flexibility Training
Flexibility is so important – it improves your posture and balance, enhances strength and performance, and decreases injury and pain. Flexibility training will help you work through soreness and stiffness from your intense workouts, while also helping you relax and increase your range of motion.
There’s nothing better than getting out into the great outdoors! Hiking allows your to de-stress, breathe in fresh air and brighten your mood. The uneven terrain will keep your muscles engaged, but still allow them to recover from your intense workout days.
Hopping on a rowing machine at a steady state is a great active recovery activity. It revs your heart rate, while strengthening your upper body and improving your endurance. It’s ideal if you want to give your leg muscles a rest, but still want to work your upper body!
Active rest days are essential to keeping your body strong, healthy and invigorated! Try these active recovery workouts when you need a break!