Active Recovery Tips for Better Performance

Active Recovery Tips for Better Performance

📅June 22nd, 2015, 13:16

When you think about athletic recovery, what comes to mind? Most people would say resting, relaxing, eating…the list goes on and on. Those answers are correct, but you can get more out of your rest and relaxation while giving your body the physical and mental break it needs. Your recovery sessions should not solely consist of laying on the couch all day with your feet up – that can lead to stiff muscles the next day, longer recovery times, and the potential for higher injury risk. You definitely need a focus on full recovery which should include sleeping in, taking a nap, and spending time off your feet, but by also incorporating active recovery along with the aid of recovery tools on your rest days, you really speed up your muscle recovery while still giving your body the rest it needs. But what do we mean by active recovery?

Active recovery is defined as easy, relaxed activities that take you out of your normal training routine. Typically this type of recovery would be done on an off day from your specific training and/or about 6 hours after a harder workout session. Generally an active recovery workout is less intense and has less volume with a focus on activating and getting blood flow to your muscles. For example, a runner who does a low amount of volume to begin with could do active recovery by taking a brisk walk on an off day.

Opposed to passive recovery (which means complete rest from exercise), active recovery has several distinct advantages. By getting the blood moving and increasing your heart rate just a little, active recovery workouts help prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery as well as getting the platelets, growth factors, cytokines, and oxygen in the blood to your muscles that stimulate the healing of bone and soft tissue.  This is further aided when combined with a variety of innovative recovery tools, such as Normatec compression, contrast bath therapy, foam rolling, massage therapy, and AIS stretching.  Active recovery can also make your body more efficient when it comes to the recovery process as a whole, and recovering faster allows you to get back to training faster and healthier. Remember your recovery sessions are just as important as your harder workouts because they enable you to absorb the training you put in!

Here are some different ways you can plan for active recovery in your training schedule and speed your body’s recovery:

1. Cycling/Elliptigo – Both exercises provide awesome low impact active recovery options. Between the two, the ElliptiGO burns 33% more calories. For runners, the Elliptigo compliments the running motion better than cycling, but depending on your primary activity they’re both a great way reduce impact and move muscles in a different way. Just remember to keep it easy…catch up with a friend and ride to your favorite coffee shop.

2. Hiking – Going out for a walk or a hike is a great way to get some easy exercise, but it also takes your mind off of training and puts your body in a relaxed state. Save the extreme climbs and long hikes for workouts, and enjoy the opportunity to slow down, snap a photo or two along the way, and enjoy what you may generally move too quickly by to actually see!

3. Sauna Sessions – Stretching and performing range-of-motion exercises in an Infrared Sauna is good for muscle flexibility because the infrared rays target your muscles and blood vessels warming them to enable deeper, healthier stretching and movement. You also get your heart rate elevated a little, produce a detoxifying sweat, boost growth hormone production, lower cortisol levels (stress hormone), and get the blood flowing to your muscles while speeding up the recovery process. And nothing is more relaxing.

4. Swimming – Hitting the water is one of the best methods of active recovery with absolutely no impact. Not only does it provide great cardio benefits, but it is also low impact and easy on the whole body. And the lower gravity environment helps speed up recovery and get the blood moving! Swim, aqua jog, or just splash around in your local pool, lake, or river.

5. Recharge Mechanics + Mobility – Another low impact activity that provides activation, correct form, stretching, balance, core strengthening, and just the right amount of sweat. Recharge Mechanics + Mobility is the perfect way to focus on specific muscle groups to improve activation and mobility, while giving yourself the opportunity to take a mental break from the rigors of everyday training.  

See a pattern here?  All these activities involve easy movement in order to get the blood moving to the muscles – which the latest research has found to be the very mechanism through which recovery is accomplished.

In conclusion, active recovery combined with the use of recovery tools will promote blood transport to the muscles and full range-of-motion movements which is very beneficial when mixed into your training week to speed healing, promote injury prevention, and yield greater performance gains. Just be sure you don’t over do it! It is easy to get out there and start feeling good, then before you know it you have gone too hard or too long. When you start your active recovery session, force yourself to go easier than you think you should and enjoy this break from your normal training schedule. Use it to reconnect with your friends, do errands around town, or just have fun doing the activities you love!

When you’re done with the active recovery portion of your day, come see us at Recharge for a Normatec compression massage followed by a dip in our contrast baths or book a massage with one of our incredible massage therapists for the ultimate in athletic recovery.