8 Ideas for Active Recovery on Your Rest Day

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We’re told that our muscles need rest to grow-- and for good reason. When we work out intensely, we create tiny tears in the muscles. When we rest and take some down time, our body repairs the tears, allowing our muscles to adapt to the stimulus that caused the tiny tears, making it possible for us to lift heavier weights the next time around. You might be tempted to skip your rest days to work out and push yourself, but taking much-needed time off to let your body rest and regrow properly is important. Skipping rest days could put you at higher risk for injuries, or prevent you from seeing any improvements in your fitness levels.

Most of us tend to spend our rest days passively, sitting around the house. Although passive recovery days spent on the couch watching television are important in their own right, active recovery can improve your health and fitness without sacrificing muscle recovery.

Active recovery can be defined as light physical activity that is less intense than your regular workouts, and can include massage or mobility workouts. It increases circulation of lymph, blood, amino acids, and oxygen throughout your body, allowing it to recover better and faster, without loading or challenging your muscles. Active recovery can also flush the body of the chemical byproducts of working out, such as lactic acid and hydrogen ions, which can damage and fatigue the muscles. Plus, by letting your brain take a break from the usual workouts,
trying out different active recovery exercises can help reduce mental fatigue too.

Here’s a few ways to mix up your workouts while recovering efficiently:

Yoga
Yoga can improve your flexibility, balance, and control, while increasing blood flow to your muscles.

Self-myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release consists of massaging the connective tissues of the body using a foam roller, tennis ball, massage stick, hands, or any other tool. It helps reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness, increase blood flow, and increase flexibility and range of motion.

Hiking
Taking your workout to the great outdoors can brighten your mood, while the uneven terrain can lightly challenge different sets of muscles and improve your glutes, core, and ankle strength.

Cycling
This low-impact exercise can improve circulation to the lower body and improve cardiovascular health without great stress to the joints. Try biking outside, or try a stationary bike indoors and pedal to your favorite music.

Lighter weight-lifting
Avoid exerting yourself by lifting weights at or below 30% of your usual weights, and performing one set less. It’s a great way to correct your lifting form and increase blood flow to the muscles.

Rollerblading
This might be a blast to the past, but rollerblading can work your brain and motor skills, challenge different muscle groups, increase blood flow and circulation, and promote heart health.

Swimming
Working out in the water releases joint tension and pressure while promoting circulation in the muscles, heart, and blood vessels. 

Tai chi
Tai chi is based on defensive martial arts movements. Not only does it help improve strength, balance, and control, but its slow, meditative movements can help your mind and body recover from the stress of intense workouts and daily life.

Remember that your active recovery session is supposed to heal your body, not exert it. Don’t overwork yourself, and enjoy!
 

Yooyeon Shim