Active Recovery: Keep Yourself Moving
Whether you are injured and cannot exercise as much, or you are a regular exerciser, active recovery is recommended for all.
Active recovery has many benefits, depending on which method of active recovery you use. The largest benefits include:
- Decreased DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness)
- Increased muscle length
- Increased muscle and joint range of motion
- Increased blood flow to the worked muscles to promote healing
- Reduced risk of injury (strains, joint damage ect.)
- Decreased risk of overtraining in muscles
- Improved energy levels with reduced fatigue
- Improved mood and relaxation
The main 3 categories of active recovery are:
- Stretching- Is great for increasing range of motion in muscles, preventing injury, relaxing muscles, and helps recovery (post workout). This should be done after every workout to optimize recovery and prevent muscles from seizing up.
- Self myofascial release (SMR)- SMR is a form of soft tissue release used to relieve pain and muscle tightness by adding pressure to the muscles, the fascia that covers them, and the ligaments. The pressure acts to relax contracted muscles, which increases circulation and promotes flexibility. This usually comes in either the form of foam rolling or massage balls (single or peanut style). Any form of SMR has great benefits to the muscles, including injury prevention, decreased DOMS, improved movement quality and enhanced performance.
- Lower intensity exercise- Often the best way to recover from an intense workout is to workout the same muscle groups at a lower intensity. For example, in the case of a runner, activities such as a walk can help to circulate blood and waste products such as lactic acid from your worked muscles. This will help to release muscle tension and improve the pain of DOMS. Other forms of lower intensity exercises such as light weights, or resistance bands are beneficial after strength based workouts.
How often to Use Active Recovery?
The frequency of active recovery sessions you’ll need to do will depend on the intensity of your workouts, and the type of active recovery you’re doing. Many athletes are now using active recovery tools post exercise to help improve their recovery time. Anyone moderately active can also benefit from the use of active recovery tools. As well, depending on the activity type and intensity, many people are using active recovery as a method to take a rest day but still keep muscles active
There is no set amount of active recovery required. Stretching should be done after every workout. SMR can be done after every workout, and is recommended after high intensity workouts. Lower intensity exercise can be used during rest days, especially to alleviate DOMS after a higher intensity session.
Trust your body to help figure out which forms of active recovery work best for you. Even just 10 minutes of some form of active recovery daily can help improve performance and overall function.
While rest days provide passive recovery, active recovery can help improve your body’s response to high intensity physical exertion, and reduce the stresses placed on the muscles and joints to improve recovery time and increase overall strength.
For more information about effectively using massage balls, check out our article Benefits of Massage Balls: Releasing Tension, Knots and Myofascial Release
Check back soon for our future articles on foam rolling, stretching, and more!