Beginners Guide: What is Active Recovery?

We all have days when we’re just too beat up to train. Our muscles are sore, limbs are stiff, and the idea of throwing or lifting anything heavy above our head is pretty much the last thing we want to do. If we were to listen this is our bodies are telling us to take a day off to recover. Most of us never listen. So, do you take the day off and rest or do you recover?

You may be surprised to learn that there is a difference between rest and recovery. Both are crucial in reaching your goals. Rest is generally categorized as sleep and time spent not training or exercising. Recovery refers to techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. And this doesn’t just mean muscle repair. Recovery involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state and more. One of the most effective methods of helping the body (and mind) recover is through active recovery.

Active recovery focuses on completing 15 minutes of specific exercises at a low intensity, but high enough to increase blood flow and enhance the clearance of enzymes responsible for muscle damage and residual fatigue. Are you ever curious why, after a strenuous workout, you might not feel sore until the next day or even two days later? This is due to lactic acid building up in your muscles during anaerobic exercise. The molecules in lactic acid break apart during strenuous exercise which decreases the pH of the blood, this is what causes the pain you feel during exercise and as well as a couple days later. Active recovery can help clear this lactic acid through a sustained elevated heart rate which generates lactate oxidation. This is why cooling down post workout with some light work on the rower coupled with mobility is so valuable to reducing the effects of muscle soreness and allowing you to perform at similar levels throughout the week.