If you want to reap the benefits of your training, you’ve got to get serious about active rest and recovery. While your recovery started the minute your last workout stopped and will end when you initiate your next intense workout, sometimes that lay-over is not enough.
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Why You Need MORE Active Rest Days
If your fitness plan lacks adequate Active Rest Days and solid Recovery you’ll be…
- Setting yourself up for repetitive use injuries from overuse
- Running the risk of traumatic injuries caused by fatigue
- Increasing your chances of mental burnout
- Adding to the amount of stress hormones, like cortisol, coursing through your body, which can stymie efforts to lose or maintain weight.
- Potentially setting yourself up for a system failure! A sustained level of cortisol can cause a serious physical crash from exhausted adrenal glands.
The key to getting in tip-top shape and preventing over-training is to slow down every 3 or 5 days by taking an “active rest and recovery day.” Active rest and recovery includes sleep, eating, hydrating and MOVING!
Exercisers who get serious about strength training and do their homework learn pretty quickly that rest is essential to developing muscular strength. It is common protocol to allow muscles that you’ve zoned-in on at least a day or two to rebuild. Anyone who has ever followed a marathon training program knows there are “no-running” days included in a productive plan.
No matter what physical activity or sport you are trying to master, your muscle fibers need down time to repair. Your mind needs time to reset. Your body needs time to flush itself of stress hormones.
So, what does “active rest” mean? What it doesn’t mean is lying on the couch all day fighting your cat for the best sunbeam. It does mean choosing a low-key cross-training activity that stimulates your body and mind differently and more gently than your intense workouts. To what that equates for each individual will vary. What’s easy for one person might feel like a serious effort for another. Think about how some people float easily and can let go during a swim, yet others find themselves flailing and gasping with every stroke. Others find relaxation in flowing yoga, while their neighbor is stressed and struggling.
Your active rest and recovery should include exercise options that are pain-free and allow you to dig into movements and aspects of physical fitness that might be missing in your other workouts. If you are always moving forward, choose a cross-training option that includes lateral and backward movements. If you don’t stretch much, ease into mobility and flexibility sessions. If you’re constantly sprinting during your hard workouts, stand still and work on balance.
Some General Ideas for Active Rest and Recovery Are…
- Foam Rolling/Myofascial Release
- Dynamic Stretching/Yoga
- Playing a low-key game like frisbee, kickball, etc.
- Anything mild that warms your body and clears your mind
Rest assured, it’s essential to ease-up!