6 Active Recovery Workouts You Need to Try Today

active recovery

If you think that working out every day of the week will get you closer to your fitness goals, you may need to think again. For our bodies to grow, repair, and strengthen, we need to have a couple of days off from hard training, such as active recovery. Otherwise, you may be overtraining and doing more harm than good. 

According to research, approximately 80% of endurance athletes suffer from overtraining syndrome. This not only negatively impacts your fitness results, but it can also lead to other problems such as depression and injuries. 

The issue here is, how can you take a couple of days off from training, but still get in some exercise? The secret is knowing how to perform active recovery workouts. 

That’s why we’ve created this guide, to teach you the top active recovery exercises and workouts so that you can avoid overtraining syndrome, but still get the results you want. Keep on reading to learn more.

Why You Should Not Overtrain

If you are pushing your body hard enough during the week, you need to take a couple of days off to let your body recover, rest, and rebuild. 

Imagine a city having an earthquake, then just as the city begins to rebuild, another earthquake hits. Once the city begins to recover and starts rebuilding again, a third earthquake strikes, and so on. Eventually, the foundations of this city will become very weak because of the constant interruption of rebuilding. 

This same situation occurs with your body when you are working out consistently. You must give your body the chance to recover, or else you could cause injuries and lead to a weaker foundation. 

Overtraining symptoms look like:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Decreased body weight
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiousness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overstimulated nervous system
  • Decrease in performance
  • Chronic fatigue

Overtraining can also lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections, viruses, and illnesses. 

What is Active Recovery?

If you are now thinking that it is good for your body to sit on the couch and shove your face full of potato chips, you need to think again. Resting from intense exercise does not mean that you should be doing nothing, in fact, this could make you feel very stiff.

This is where active recovery comes in, a form of exercise that is more gentle, yet still allows your body to rest, rejuvenate, and recover. Active recovery is much more beneficial than inactive rest, as it allows your body to move through the motions without intensity.

This same principle applies to sports injuries. If you are injured, it is important to mobilize your limbs gently instead of keeping them still in a sling during the full recovery period. 

The Many Benefits of Active Recovery

Active recovery keeps your blood pumping, which sends nutrients to your muscles to aid in recovery. The specific active recovery exercises also help your muscles to move through their full range of motion, without too much resistance so they can rebuild and recover. 

Other benefits of active recovery are:

  • Increased blood flow
  • Reducing soreness from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
  • Removes toxins and metabolic waste
  • Increases flexibility
  • Helps with mental health
  • Reduces inflammation

You may be feeling extremely sore after your weekly workout routine, so thinking of adding another workout could be an intimidating thought. Thankfully, active recovery is much more of a relaxed type of workout.

Another incredible benefit of active recovery is that it can remove excess blood lactate from the body. During intense exercise, your body produces a lot of blood lactate, which causes the buildup of too many hydrogen ions, which eventually leads to fatigue. As paradoxical as it seems, active recovery will actually help to lower your post-workout fatigue. 

Different Types of Active Recovery

As long as you are getting your heart rate up slightly above resting, you are effectively performing an active recovery workout. This will ensure your blood is pumping nutrients to your muscles, and you are efficiently removing excess metabolic wastes from your body. 

There are multiple different forms of active recovery, so you have many options to prevent you from having a redundant exercise routine. 

1. Yoga

Yoga is perhaps, the best form of active recovery that you could practice. While you are working out, your muscles are constantly constricting in the shortened position, which is why you feel that tightness post-workout. 

On the contrary, yoga is all about elongation of the muscles, which is why studies have discovered that flexibility can improve by up to 35% in just 8 short weeks. 

Yoga is also an excellent form of movement meditation which not only helps you to recover, but also helps you to breathe better, move better, and relax the mind. One 2017 study discovered that yoga has helped many populations to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and postpartum depression. 

For athletes, yoga improves more than just your flexibility. It can also improve your focus, muscle elasticity, strength, power, and motivation. 

While intense exercise focuses on energy output, think of yoga as more of your energy input, as if you were plugging yourself into the energy source.

For an active recovery, try participating in a Yin, Hatha, or restorative yoga class. If you want a bit more of a sweat, try Ashtanga, Vinyasa, or hot yoga.

To make the most out of your yoga experience, take some Vitamin B12 for a natural energy boost beforehand, or Gingko Biloba to help you focus

2. Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, also known as “self-myofascial release”, is a great form of active recovery. Foam rolling began in the 1920s when it was created by a martial artist and physicist named Moshe Feldenkrais. It made a comeback in 1987 when it was coined as a self-massage tool. 

Since then, the popularity of the foam roller has exponentially grown due to its benefits for the Crossfit and HIIT training athletes. Foam rolling helps you to release the tension buildup on your myofascial system, which is partially responsible for muscle wellness.

Your myofascial system is one entire piece of connective tissue that runs from the base of your skull, all the way down to the tips of your heels, with the same in the frontal body as well. If your fascia becomes tight, it could lead to an injury, which is called upper-cross or lower-cross syndrome. This means that you could have an injury in your right shoulder, this eventually could lead to an injury in your left hip, due to the pulling of the tight fascia.

Foam rolling on your fascia is like loosening up a tight knot of elastic bands. Eventually, you will release the tension and dissolve the knots in your muscles and fascia.

To start, ensure your body is warmed up properly, then apply the foam roller underneath the focused area and slowly begin to roll back and forth over the muscle body. When you discover an area of tension and/or pain, sit still over that area while applying pressure, for about 30-60 seconds. 

This may not be the most enjoyable experience, but trust us when we say that there are numerous benefits of foam rolling, including:

  • Release of metabolic waste
  • Reduced toxins in the muscles
  • Reduced tension in the body, and the mind
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Reduces irritability
  • Improves muscular strength and performance
  • Increases flexibility

There are many instructional videos online that can teach you how to foam roll effectively. Check out this foam rolling article by Healthline for more information. To make the most out of your foam rolling experience, take some BCAA’s to better support your muscles for better protein synthesis. 

3. Hiking

Hiking is a very beneficial form of active recovery as it not only gets your body moving, but it has numerous other health benefits such as boosting your overall mood.

Hiking is your chance to slow down, connect to the natural world, breathe the fresh air, and improve your overall health. Many studies have discovered that hiking helps to slow down the rumination of a busy mind, and helps to eliminate negative thoughts. This is because of the benefits that the combination of nature and movement has on the prefrontal cortex.

Other benefits of hiking include:

  • Core strengthening, due to the uneven surface area that demands better stabilization
  • Increased heart rate, which helps to filter out toxins and increase nutrient flow to the muscles
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Establishes a deeper connection with yourself
  • Better mental health, lowering stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Improves cognitive abilities such as focus and concentration
  • Calms the nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Reduces SAD (seasonal affective disorder

According to WebMD, many doctors are now giving out prescriptions for nature therapy, which is essentially walking out in nature. 

To begin, lace up your running shoes or hiking boots and go to the nearest spot of nature you can find. Start by walking slowly, observing the sights, smells, and all the senses around you, hugging a tree is optional!

If you are more athletic, hit up a small hill or mountain if you are fortunate enough to live near one. Or go for a long, brisk walk on the beach. Challenge yourself, but do not overexert yourself by doing a very long, intense hike as this is your active recovery exercise!

Supplement your hiking with some Ashwagandha, which helps to improve your mood, boosts athletic stamina, supports, and supports your adrenal function.  

4. Swimming

Swimming is an excellent, low impact form of active recovery. This is especially important if you have any joint discomfort or nagging injuries. 

Swimming is great for cardiovascular endurance, confidence building, easy on the joints, and can also improve athletic performance. An Australian study discovered that using swimming as an active recovery exercise helped endurance runners to improve their performance the following day. 

Try beginning with slower lap swimming instead of vigorous, high-intensity swimming workouts. Swim for about 20 to 30 minutes maximum, and take breaks when you need to. If you do not know how to swim, consider taking adult swimming lessons as a form of active recovery instead.

5. Jogging

Going for a nice, light jog can help you to increase blood flow to the body, boosts your mood, and eliminate toxins from the body.

The most important thing to keep in mind when using jogging as a form of active recovery is to make sure your heart rate stays below exertion. To ensure you are doing this correctly, you should be able to maintain a conversation during the jog. Once you are unable to talk while jogging, you are no longer in active recovery.

Perhaps one of the best benefits of jogging is the effects of the “runner’s high”, which is the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain. These are feel-good chemicals that uplift your mood and send you into an immediate state of post-jogging euphoria. 

If you choose jogging as your form of active recovery, make sure you are taking adequate sports nutrition supplements to ensure your muscles are adequately nourished. 

6. Light Bodyweight Circuit

If you feel that you have a lot of gas left in the tank, then try a light bodyweight circuit for your active recovery. This will help to flush the lactic acid buildup out of the muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and ensure you are not using heavy weights. 

Start by doing a brisk walk around the block or on a treadmill. Then perform a series of exercises as a circuit, with about 30 seconds of exercise with 15 seconds rest.

Some of the exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Jump squats
  • Skater jumps
  • Jumping jacks
  • Glute bridges
  • Walking lunges
  • Stationary lunges
  • Toe taps
  • Inchworm pushups

Keep in mind that this should only be done if you feel you are at the fitness level to use this as your form of recovery. If you are newer to fitness, opt for hiking, walking, yoga, or swimming instead.

Learn More Active Recovery Exercises Like These

The most important advice for your active recovery is to learn to listen to your body. You may want to go work out again, but your body may really need that rest. The more you connect to yourself, the better off your physical health will be. 

To learn more about using optimal supplements to support your active recovery, check out our full selection in our online shop

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