Active recovery is the engagement of low-intensity exercise after completing a challenging and difficult high intensity athletic event. An example is going for a low-intensity bike ride after completely a full 26 mile marathon. This might seem like the opposite thing to do since the body needs rest but this is actually not the case. When our bodies continue to move after an event like a marathon; we can reduce the risk of cramping and we can help the blood to circulate properly for recovery. Another example of is having an easy day in our training routines. It might be something like running on most days but on the active recovery days, a person might spend 30 to 60 minutes stretching. A person could run four days per week but on the active recovery days, they could stretch, take a yoga class or use a foam roller.
The body needs a break and rest from our routines. When we change the routines, we are allowing our bodies to rest and recover properly. For example, a runner might need to rest from an injury. The water can be a great source of active recovery for people who exercise and athletes. Using a pool to do a light workout can be one way to change our routines. The key is allowing the muscles to recover by doing something completely different and less intense for our bodies. Stretching and using a foam roller are commonly used for active recovery techniques since it may help prevent injury. Stretching is often overlooked but is a great idea for active recovery since everyone needs flexibility.
Active recovery is not to be confused with cross-training. Both are different but the main difference is the activities for cross-training might still be intense. The activities for active recovery would most likely be less intense. This is only because the muscles need rest and recovery. Someone doing cross-training might run and swim with the same intensity on different days. A person should try to do less on off days and remember they are recovering from the main activity they are focusing on. This is why I strongly feel the exercise should be lighter and not as challenging.
In closing, I think it’s important for all of us to choose an activity that requires less energy. The idea is to not be completely sedentary on our rest days. Choosing a less intense activity can really help our bodies with the recovery process.