Did those last few reps wear you out?After an intense workout, few things are more appealing than plopping down on the couch, kicking up your feet and flipping on the newest episode of Survivor before calling it a night. Before you do, though, be sure to take those extra few minutes to recover the right way.
What is Active Recovery and Why Is It Important?Active recovery involves low-intensity exercises after a workout to alleviate muscle fatigue, otherwise known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It’s proven to be a healthier more effective way to recover than a routine of static stretching or resting for while after a workout. Apart from reducing soreness, active recovery helps to speed up muscle building and increases blood flow without putting further strain on your recently worked muscles. Other benefits include improved flexibility and a reduction in lactic acid.
It’s the reason pitchers in baseball, for example, run “poles” (a light jog from one foul pole to another) after bullpen sessions to promote the circulation of blood and to break down the built-up lactic acid in their arm. In 2016, a group of Polish researchers conducted a study focused on exercise induced muscle fatigue and led participants through a series of post-workout cycling and arm ergometer exercises. The research overwhelmingly concluded that a routine of active recovery had clear benefits in reducing DOMS in a way passive recovery could not.
Passive recovery, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like. This involves sitting and relaxing for a while - or laying down - after a workout.
There are certainly appropriate times for passive recovery. For example, if you’re injured or recovering from an injury and you want to avoid aggravating it. Similarly, if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, it’s probably time to sit down and take it easy.
Still, for those looking to maximize results, a post-workout active recovery protocol is the way to go.
Sometimes, soreness from a workout can persist into the next day. If you need a recovery day, but you’re not one to take a day completely off, replace your workout with some active recovery exercises. Rather than put further strain on your muscles, this will help them to heal and grow.
Recommended Active Recovery ExercisesThere are several active recovery techniques that have proven effective. It’s important to think about which muscle groups you exhausted during your workout and to focus on exercises that engage those parts of the body.
Walking and jogging are great ways to enhance blood flow to your muscles which help speed up recovery.
Swimming is one of the most highly recommended of all active recovery exercises. It’s fantastic for circulation while also being easy on your joints.
Yoga is helpful in reducing stress after an intense workout and improving flexibility - especially if you’re feeling tight. Men, I’m talking to you, too. Put that pride aside and get on a yoga mat.
- A Stationary Bike is also low impact and doesn’t put extra pressure on recovering joints.