As you probably know by now – I tend to be a bit extreme about doing things.  Case in point my exercise regime.

Either I do nothing for weeks on end – or I work out three times a day 7 days a week.

There are a whole lot of reasons that is  BIG no-no!  But even though my head tells me it’s not a good idea I have kinda worked out just why I do it.

I’m afraid if I take a day off I’ll fall right back into those bad habits of not exercising.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

Recently I’ve been introduced to a concept called “Active Recovery”. This has provided me with the ability to be active everyday – and therefore keep up the habit – but still allowing my body to rest and recover.

Let me explain.

Active workouts and recovery seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum; either you are active and exercising or you are in recovery and not exercising (at least that was the advice from many experts in the past). But that has now changed.

However, what you do as a recovery workout should be directly tied to your fitness level. For example, for someone who struggles to walk two miles, their recovery workout will be different than for a person training for a marathon. The key is to work different muscle groups during your recovery workout, thus giving the worked muscles a well needed break so they can repair, rebuild and come back even stronger and bigger.

Active Recovery Workout Ideas

Regardless of your fitness level and active workout plan, here are 5 recovery workouts that should fit into your fitness schedule:

1 – Foam rolling. Also known as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR), massaging your muscles by rolling them over a foam cylinder can increase joint range of motion by breaking down fascia scar tissue that forms from muscle repair. My boot-camp instructor is crazy for this!

2. Light weight lifting. Regardless if you strength train regularly or not, lifting light weights as a recovery workout can take the soreness out of worked muscles.

3. Swimming. Not only is swimming a good cardio exercise itself , but it makes a great recovery workout, because of the absence of impact on your joints. It is especially a good workout if you normally walk or run, which puts a tremendous stress on lower body joints. I’m not a swimmer – it’s just not natural to put my head underwater and breathe out.  So instead of swimming I walk up and down the length of the pool.  I know – I’m strange!

active recovery swimming

4. Yoga. Yoga increases flexibility and range of motion of a joint by taking each joint through a static stretching process. But that is not all yoga does, it also provides two subliminal benefits by providing mind relaxation through controlled and focused breathing and meditation.  This is my favourite, because it gives me some much needed stretching – which like most of us I tend to skimp on following a hard core work out. I know, I know – I’m full of bad habits! But hey, if I can find ways around them and get fit, so you can you!

5. Cycling. If you don’t cycle as an active workout, cycling provides a different way of moving your muscles instead of always moving up and down; instead they can go more in a circle. I’m talking a nice leisurely ride along some cycle paths here – NOT a training session for the Tour De France.

Active Recovery Options

When talking about recovery, the question of when and how long it should happen usually comes up. In that regard, there are basically three options: day off per week, one week off per set number of weeks of training, or a combination of both.

Day off per week. Most personal trainers recommend taking at least one day off per week of training to give muscles time to repair themselves. This is good advice as muscles need this time out.

One week off per set number. Every 6 to 8 weeks of training, you should take at least one week off. During this week “off” incorporate one or more of the recovery workouts into your daily schedule. Because the body gets efficient at what is asked of it, many people switch to a different workout routine when they start up again.

Combination of both. With this option, you are both taking one day per week off and a full week off every 6 to 8 weeks of training. This is the best of both worlds as it gives your body the mot opportunity to rest and repair itself.

By selecting the proper active recovery method and option, you can give your body the periodic time it needs to repair and rebuild. Don’t make the mistake of not doing recovery as it will eventually catch up to you.