What are “active recovery days” (and how can you make the most of them)?

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If you’re just starting an exercise program, you know you can’t go hard every day. Taking a day off between intense workouts is usually recommended to reduce fatigue and give your muscles time to recover. However, not all recovery days require total rest

If you’re scared of the idea of ​​a completely passive rest day, here’s what you need to know: active recovery days and how to make the most of them.

What is Active Recovery?

Not to be confused with a cool down after your workout, active recovery is a low-intensity activity. Both active and passive recovery are needed to improve recovery and performance. But instead of lying on the couch all day (which can be great!), you work on your muscle groups to promote recovery.

Whatever you do on your active recovery days, it should be noticeably easier than your standard workouts. You want to make sure you focus on the “recovery” part of it all, and that you don’t do so much that you disrupt your most important workouts

Ideas for Active Recovery Days

One benefit of active recovery days is the chance to incorporate activities that are different from your primary routine. For runners, this can be a light strength workout; for lifters, it can mean light cardio. Examples of active recovery exercises include:

  • Walking or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Aqua jogging
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chio
  • Cycling
  • Zumba or dance
  • rock climbing

Whatever activity you choose, you should not be working with maximum effort. Be on the lookout, go slow, and don’t find yourself accidentally pushing too hard.

Make sure you take it easy

Part of perfecting active recovery days is learning to calibrate your own exercise sense. One person’s light jogging may be the other’s long run that week. Remember: The goal for this day is to give your body a break before starting your workout again at higher intensity levels.

Active recovery days are great opportunities to mentally break out of your training plan. Try something new and listen to your body to make sure you don’t accidentally push yourself too hard. And if you’re injured, in pain, or very fatigued, your body may need passive recovery instead.

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