If you’ve ever browsed through any fitness blog or magazine, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of the phrase ‘active recovery’ somewhere in there, but do you actually know what the term stands for? Though most people think that reps and drills alone are enough of a lifestyle tweak to banish fat and build strong muscles, things can get tricky if you spend the time in between workout days lazing around doing little save working, breathing, and eating.
Even with a custom-tailored training program in the mix, post-workout recovery can be a painful place to be, starring sore muscles, painful and stiff joints, and energy and strength dips. That’s where active recovery comes in: instead of going all-out couch potato on rest days, try incorporating a light-to-moderate physical activity in the rest day agenda to do a favor to your performance, body, and muscles. But why exactly is active recovery better than passive resting, and how can you activate the time outside the gym?
Recovery Gone Active = Massive Gains
After periods of intense physical activity, your body does need to rest and replenish, but if you switch from physically demanding routines to a complete bodily standstill, the risks of muscle inflammation go up a few notches. Why? Contrary to popular gym myths, lactic acid has nothing to do with post-workout muscle pains. During intense physical activity, muscle fibers experience microtrauma (i.e. minuscule tears) which leads to swelling, rigidity, and aches the morning after.
In a way, post-workout soreness is like a hangover, but unlike its classic counterpart, the cure to morning-after muscle aches is the same as the type of abuse that caused the pain in the first place. By engaging your muscles on resting days, you’ll boost blood flow to the muscles and curb the impact of irritating substances released by the damaged tissue on the nervous system.
In addition to muscle soreness prevention, active recovery has a few more beneficial effects on your physique, such as:
- improved blood and lymph circulation;
- speedier repair of damaged muscle tissue;
- better oxygen and nutrient exchange in the cells;
- increased long-term endurance and strength;
- easier adaptation to training intensity tweaks.
How to Activate Recovery and Stay Safe
However averse to exercising on your resting days you may be, you should definitely try to make at least a few changes to activate your recovery if you wish to stay on top of long-term workout intensity and performance. The only situation in which you can ditch active recovery altogether and take a few days’ long break is in case you have sustained a serious injury: in such circumstances, rest is necessary for the injury to heal, but you should pick up light exercises once acute pain has gone away to prevent muscle mass dips and loss of shape.
To activate your recovery, try one of these tips: you shouldn’t push your limits too far, just don’t let blood flow to your muscles take a sudden nosedive.
1. Go Jogging. Jogging engages leg and core muscles, allowing muscle tissue to stay active while taking pressure off the arms and upper body in between weight lifting sessions.
2. Try Push-Ups. Push-ups are a go-to for strong arms, shoulders, chest, back, and abs. Keep reps to 5-10 per set (try to do 3-5 of these), and stop in case your muscles begin to ache.
3. Take a Walk. A brisk 30-minute walk will engage all major muscle groups in the body and get your blood flowing for improved nutrient and oxygen exchange in muscle cells.
4. Stretch It. Yoga or stretches targeting critical muscle groups in the body are another simple strategy to introduce light-to-moderate activity in resting days and keep soreness and inflammation at bay.
5. Lap Time. Swimming is one of the healthiest workouts you can take up on your days outside the gym, and a moderate-intensity lap routine will help tone your entire body and boost blood flow to the damaged tissue.
Other tips to help set your recovery on the active and efficient track include light-pace cycling, yoga, doing warm-up exercises in the morning and evening, and eating foods with optimal carb-to-protein ratio. You can also reach for first-rate Legion Athletics supplements to ensure glitch-free metabolic functions and keep muscle protein breakdown to a minimum.
Whatever you do, don’t let your workout work against your bulk-building success: activate your recovery days and prevent muscle pains and training stagnation. You can do it: just keep moving even when all you want is to curl up and take a day-long nap.