Active recovery days – also known as rest days – are absolutely vital, regardless of what sport, activity or workouts you do. Your body requires these periods of rest and recuperation in order to reset before you get stuck into your next workout or training session.
Before you go thinking that a rest day gives you a pass to sloth out on the sofa watching your favourite Netflix series, we’ve got some news for you: this is not how your effectively utilise an active recovery day!
By including an active recovery into your weekly routine, it can be beneficial in sustaining and achieving in your chosen sport/activity.
What is active recovery?
The beauty of active recovery is that it varies from person to person. To help you understand it a little more, in basic terms, an active recovery session is a more leisurely workout in comparison to the regular one you would do if you were training on a usual day.
For example, if you are a road cyclist and you clock up 60 miles in a single ride with several thousand feet of climbing too, an active recovery day would include a shorter, less demanding ride.
A ride on an active recovery day would include fewer inclines and would be performed at a rate in which the heart rate remains in the zone two (just above resting). Essentially, an active recovery day involves less intensity compared to your typical sessions.
Why is it important to include active recovery?
The plus sides to including active recovery into your routine are plentiful, and there’s no getting away from their benefits to you as an athlete, no matter what activity you do.
For example, it helps to lower your heart rate. Studies have found that active recovery aids the body in flushing out the lactic acid in the blood quicker than if you were to not do so.
This means that your muscles can recover at a quicker rate and your body will be in better physical shape as a result, leaving you able to hit your next full session feeling fresher.
What should I do during an active recovery day?
Now that you know the important role active recovery plays in your routine as an athlete, you might be wondering what you can do to make the most of your rest day. We’ve listed four of the best things you can incorporate to help you be the best athlete possible.
1. Use a foam roller
Foam rolling, irrespective of your chosen activity, is a wonderful recovery-based string to your bow. By actively foam rolling on your recovery days, it permits a massage of your muscles that is as close to a sports massage as you can get without visiting the physio.
This helps with the prevention of stiffness and eases soreness. Additionally, by foam rolling, you can pinpoint areas in your body that might need some more attention, or even a bit more of a break, depending on what type of exercise you are doing.
2. Get walking
Walking is often very underestimated in terms of how beneficial it can be, particularly when used on active recovery days. Taking a walk isn’t just a resourceful mental health aid, it’s a great way to enjoy spending time when you aren’t focused on training.
What’s more, walking is effective at burning calories and has the ability to get your outdoors and moving around when you’re not on a training day. This is obviously a good thing, as it keeps the blood flowing and eases tightness, tension and improves your mood too!
As mentioned earlier, a steady ride in zone two is a wonderful way to recuperate from a heavy week of training sessions. It’s non-impact, so, therefore, helps protect your joints from suffering any damage, while you get to enjoy the cardio benefits.
You can go for a ride on a flat area, such as cycle trail or you can use a turbo trainer in your own home if you want to; either are just as effective.
It’s best to skip the spin classes though, as these are going to be way more intense than what is required on your active recovery days and you will risk suffering injury.
If you are keen on attending a class, then yoga is a sound option. By going to a yoga class, you will enable a better range of movement with the body, while also gaining the advantage of a good recovery.
Alternatively, you can go through around half an hour of stretching; starting from the top and working your way down.
Slumber experts, The Sleep Advisor, also promote yoga as a great way to relax and unwind too, so it’s always worth bearing in mind the additional benefits of a less intense activity to help you progress in your chosen field.
Just remember to take it easy with the activity you do on rest days. It is important to remember that your body won’t be able to reach its optimum level if you persist with continual intense training, so avoid burnout and use the active recovery day wisely.