What Is Active Recovery?

Taking a day off from the gym is not something most of us want to do, but it is definitely something we all should do. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a day to eat 4 large pizzas, and down a 30 pack. So now the big question: if I’m not going to the gym, and I’m not drinking beer and eating pizza, what am I doing? Allow me to introduce active recovery.

What is active recovery?

I’m sure there is some super scientific description out there, but here’s your super simple answer. Active recovery is anything that gets the heart rate in the 60%-70% of max range. Yeah, we get sweaty or breathe a little heavy, but we don’t end up on the floor wishing we were dead.

Active recovery shouldn’t make you super sore. It shouldn’t be anything that is a sprint. It doesn’t even need to be seen as “fitness”. But it does mean getting around and moving.

What are some examples of active recovery?

Active recovery that isn’t “fitness-y”

  • Yard work. Mowing your lawns or doing some general home maintenance will be a surprising workout, and feels so satisfying.
  • Cold water/hot water (showering from cool/cold water to warm/hot water, switching back and forth every 20-30 seconds)
  • Breathing exercises
  • Sauna or sunbathing
  • Playing around – such as climbing a tree; playing with your dog; jumping in the pool and climbing out a bunch of times; taking your kids to the park and playing on the jungle gym with them
  • Yard games – such as volleyball; bocce; frisbee; etc

Active recovery that is “fitness-y”

  • Walking – you can go with your family and friends, or just by yourself
  • Row/bike for 20-40 minutes at a pace you can hold a conversation at
  • Hiking – check out some cool spots in your area
  • Body weight get ups. This literally is just getting up off the floor. There are tons of ways to do this. If you do them a few times, you’ll learn a surprising amount about your body
  • Backwards walk. Get ready to look weird. Go for a walk but make it a rule you can’t walk forwards. You can walk backwards, side steps, crossovers, butt kickers, etc. Use your imagination
  • Try a new sport. Go rock climbing, play basketball with some friends, wiffle ball batting practice etc

How often to do it

If you are a gym goer 3/4 days a week, schedule your active recovery for 2 days of that week. If you are a 5/6 day a week person, give yourself a day of active recovery. I think 1 day of good solid rest, where you are fully letting your body and mind recover is needed for most people.  But that’s not a rule! If you feel like going and doing something active and fun, get out and do it!

Possibilities for active recovery are endless! The only rule is to have fun. Doing something you enjoy it will help you feel better and help you relax in ways you didn’t even know you needed.