You learned from the last post that the quality of your rest will optimize the result you get from your training. As promised, here are some forms of exercise that can help you recover.
Walking is the simplest for of active recovery, mainly because it requires nothing more than your body (and the optional pair of shoes). Walking, just like other forms of movement, contributes to the burning of calories, helping to keep the body metabolically active. This means that not only are you getting the desired effects of an active recovery session, but you are also helping to promote fat burning, and a leaner body mass. Taking this a step further, hiking is an excellent way to increase the intensity of a walk, not too much to the point of tough excursion, but enough to get your rate up and increase blood flow more so than a walk in the park. Another added benefit of an outdoor activity like this is getting under the sun for adequate amounts of time, allowing for the absorption of the absorption of one of the most important nutrients we need: vitamin D.
Going for a bike ride has the same benefits of walking or hiking, just with relatively lower levels of impact on joint. This is something to keep in mind if your hard training sessions call for copious amounts amount heavy joint bearing weight lifting and/or high impact movements such as plyometrics.
Swimming, like biking and walking, gets you outside and moving; but swimming has an added benefit for recovery that the latter two modalities do not offer. Swimming allows you to take advantage of the hydrostatic properties of water. Fluid becoming trapped inside tissues is the main cause of inflammation after training. Because the pressure exerted on the body when submerged in water (hydrostatic pressure), fluid is pulled from deep tissues and forced outward towards the skin. Several studies have shown swimming to be one the most optimal ways for optimal recovery from both an anatomical and physiological perspective.
An intense foam rolling session is a fantastic way to perform active recovery as well as maintain the integrity of your soft tissue. Must people who are consistently training, whether for sport or health, will have some “problem areas” throughout his or her body. Digging deep into tissues and trigger points is the only way to rid your muscles of those knots and digging into a foam roller is usually a bit more practical than a weekly deep tissue massage. Foam rolling also increases heart rate and metabolic activity, benefits you don’t reap as much from a massage.
Although these two are not always inclusive, I like to group them together when speaking in terms of recovery because the end goal is ultimately the same: restore the body and prepare for another training session. By performing a moderately intense stretch or yoga routine as active recovery you are also performing an easy to follow injury prevention workout. By contracting and relaxing muscles, as you do in yoga or in an active stretching routine, you encourage all the things we are looking for in an active recovery workout. Increasing the intensity is fairly simple for both stretching and yoga; simply choose harder poses or positions, increase time spent in each movement, or even adjust the temperature (hot yoga).
To quickly review, strategically scheduling active recovery workouts throughout your training plan is critical for maintaining your body’s integrity and avoiding things like fatigue, over-use injuries, and decreased performance. By using any of the methods presented above you will help ensure appropriate repair to both your body’s anatomy and physiology, and readiness for upcoming training sessions and/or competition.