Weekly Workouts

Wellness Wednesday: Active Recovery

Welcome back, friends! In keeping up with the marathon theme, today’s Wellness Wednesday is all about the importance of rest and recovery. If you’re training for a race, long runs are important. If you’re training for a powerlifting competition, sticking to your lifting schedule is important. It only makes sense, right? We have to train what we’re participating or competing in, duh. As it turns out, rest and recovery is just as important as the hard work you’re putting in.

There are two kinds of rest and recovery: total rest and active rest/recovery. For today, I’m going to focus on active recovery and next week will be reserved for total rest.

What is Active Recovery?

I used to absolutely dread these two words in high school soccer. We primarily focused on Active Recovery during pre-season conditioning but it would often show up to morning practices. Thankfully, morning practice was rare! Back then, active recovery meant running fast for a period of time and then jogging slowly. And then we’d do it again. And again. Laps upon laps until coach decided we were done. Yeah, it was not pleasant. When we did those workouts before school, even with a shower, I was a sweaty mess all day. While I hated this kind of active recovery, it definitely has its advantages; for starters, this form of recovery helps your heart rate slow down and in return, your body benefits in the form of increased strength and endurance.

Presently, I perform active recovery with my interval training runs: I push it to the limit for a set period of time (or distance) and then I slow it down and recover my breathing for set time or distance.

The other form of Active Recovery (and my favorite kind!) involves light exercise on a day you’re not training hard. When I wasn’t training for the marathon, I was working out 4-5 days a week with at 1-2 active recovery days. As I said earlier, this form of active recovery involves light exercise: maybe you go for a walk, do some relaxing yoga, or go for an easy bike ride. Active recovery should not be crazy challenging; it’s called “recovery” for a reason.

Benefits of Active Recovery:
  • Reduce muscle soreness: Yeah, believe it or not, an easy run (like, very easy) in the few days after a difficult race can lead to a faster recovery. When you’re running, especially long distances, lactate (that burning feeling you may feel in your legs!) builds up in your muscles. If you let the lactate sit there for too long, you’ll feel sore and fatigue whereas if you move around a bit, you can essentially flush the lactate and feel better faster. If you’re injured, though, you should definitely speak with a doctor or your physical therapist to determine the best route to recovery.
  • Happy hormones: exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t! Yes, even a light workout in active recovery will release endorphins and keep you riding that runners’ high.
  • Work on form: active recovery allows you to really hone in on form. When you’re working hard (running, lifting, swimming, whatever), your form tends to break down. But with AR, you can slow things down and take it easy to really focus on fixing your form.

So, that’s Active Recovery in a nutshell! Stay tuned next week to learn all about TOTAL REST! Curious about electroyltes? carb-loading?  I’ve got posts about that, too!