One of the things I love most about being an owner of LuaVìve, is that on the one hand we constantly push our community to set new goals, work hard to accomplish these goals and move onto the next goal. On the other hand, we stress the importance of keeping your body healthy. For most of us, we put a lot of effort into the first part of the equation but fail at the second part. While we think by continuing to train, we will push through the plateau, we actually may be inhibiting our progress. Using the underutilized tool of Active Recovery can simultaneously help your body recover and improve your training capacity. There are two types of Active Recovery. Active Recovery during training and Active Recovery on those pesky rest days.
Active Recovery During Training
Active Recovery during training is the theory that during your "rest" breaks between sets, you should in fact not be resting. I know this may come as a shock to some of your, especially our beloved CrossFitters, but it may not be the best formula to workout really hard then flop on the ground until you feel ready to go again. As when it comes time to get back to work, your muscles may not be fully prepared for the wear and tear you are about to give them. Plus gradually decreasing your heart rate is proven to be the healthier option. This is where active recovery comes in.
There is a large community that believes you can make your workouts more productive and increase your strength and stamina while decreasing joint pain and stiffness. This can be achieved through enabling active recovery/rest periods. Therefore, instead of sitting or lying between sets (or supersets), you are either: (1) stretching, (2) engaging in light aerobic exercise, or (3) hydrating.
Light Aerobic Exercise – There are countless pitfalls when there is an excess buildup of lactic acid in the body. However, new studies have shown that lactic acid in the blood stream can be lowered by the presence of oxygen, suggesting aerobic exercise can assist with building muscle. The studies proved that light aerobic activity, such as easy stationary cycling, can increase performance when used between squats. One athlete increased his rep range by 5 reps per set by simply riding on a stationary bike for 30 seconds. If you don't have a bike, consider doing some knee touches or some other low intensity activity.
Stretching – Simply by stretching between strength training, an athlete can get in 10-20 minutes of stretching, without any additional time. Make sure you are stretching the muscles you are targeting. This will help the muscles recover. Therefore is you are doing bench press, right after stretch your chest. A stretched muscle can be 10-20% stronger than a tight muscle and it will help decrease soreness the next day. Obviously, there are downsides of over stretching tight muscles. No one is saying to overstretch but getting a 30 second interval stretch is good for the body!
Hydrating – Most studies recommend drinking 1/2 to 1 cup of water per 15-20 minutes of exercise. Many people forget to consume additional water during their workouts. So as to not forget, every rest break, take a chug of water so that your body is hydrated and able to recover more quickly.
Active Recovery Rest Days
After beating your body up all week, it deserves a proper rest day. Some of us however, are not equipped to take a full rest day, therefore consider replacing a rest day with an Active Recovery day.
Active Recovery days are aimed at engaging in activities that can maximize your body's ability to repair. Thus, on Active Recovery days, one should still workout, but at a low intensity that is just high enough to get the blood moving. Working out at a low intensity will increase blood flow and help your body rid the enzymes that are causing muscle damage. As stated above, Active Recovery helps clear out lactic acid which minimizes soreness and allows you to get back to training faster.
Active Recovery should be something you enjoy doing, therefore pick a new form of exercise, swimming, cycling, rock climbing, jogging, hiking, etc. It matters less the type of activity you are engaging in and more that you are keeping the activity at 60-70% your effort. You should be able to easily talk while doing this activity. Practice breathing techniques during your activity so as to also help relax the mind. Then once you are done, engaging in a little stretching and enjoy some nice cold ReFuel to continue the recovery throughout the rest of your day.