It might seem like an oxymoron, but active recovery is a real thing. And it’s real important, at that. Understanding what active recovery is will help you to incorporate it into your week and improve your overall health goals.
There are actually two types of active recovery to utilize: One is a phase of cooling down after exerting a lot of energy in an exercise (think walking or stretching between sets of an HIIT workout with several intensive intervals), and the other is a less intense workout on what most people call their “rest” days (such as taking the dog for a 30-minute stroll around the park on a day off from the gym).
Whichever type of active recovery you start incorporating into your routine should require less than half of the effort of a typical exercise. For example, runners who practice active recovery might do 45 minutes of sprint intervals, with 4 minutes of sprints interspersed with 1 minute of active-recovery walking to lower the heart rate and catch breath. Or, they might be a distance runner who pushes themselves for a 12-mile run on a Saturday, and then takes it easy with a nice 2-mile walk on Sunday.
Both of these examples of active recovery provide several benefits, according to RunSociety. Here are four major incentives to work in some active recovery to your weekly workouts.
Increases the release of endorphins:
That feel-good energy you get after a workout? That can be maximized with active recovery! Changing from high-intensity movements to a low-effort exercise releases more endorphins and other neurotransmitters that enhance your overall mood and wellbeing.
Demanding workouts and intensive activity often leads to sore muscles, as we all know. But if you engage in active recovery after a trying workout, especially if you space out these lower impact exercises over the course of a few days, you can reduce sore muscles and increase your overall strength.
Because active recovery is lower impact and less physically demanding, you can focus more on form and technique of your movements. This will enable your performance to be at its best when you’re back to the heavy weights or exhausting intervals, decreasing risk of injury.
Lowers heart rate:
Rather than going into rest immediately after a particularly difficult exertion of energy, it’s best to do some form of active recovery, like walking, stretching, or foam rolling. The body is given a chance to restore itself to a resting state and the heart can return to its normal rate at an easier pace, increasing the body’s strength and endurance.
You’ve been cross-training for months and are just about ready for the big day of your race, only to twist your ankle and find yourself icing on the couch instead of at the starting line.
While some think injuries are a direct result of over-training, you might be surprised to find that injuries are often a sign of a nutritional imbalance. After all, your diet creates the foundation of your body structure, so proper nourishment is crucial.
Athletes who prioritize quality, whole foods are able to establish a strong defense against muscle strains and tears. We selected four easy eating tips you can incorporate into your diet that will aid in injury prevention.
Don’t Skimp Out on Fat
Fat has a bad reputation, but it’s vital to create healthy cell membranes that are resistant to damage during exercise. Select healthy fats like Omega-3s, to help your athletic joins and tissues stay nourished and happy. Try incorporating foods like fish and nuts to get your daily amount.
Water, water, and more water
Your body will not perform well during strenuous exercise if you are dehydrated. Not only will a lack of water make you feel thirsty or faint, but dehydrated joints and tissues are also more susceptible to tears and injury. Proper water consumption is vital, so be sure to hydrate proficiently before and after a workout.
Eat Enough Zinc
Zinc is a key mineral found in foods like red meat, brown rice, and lentils. This mineral plays an integral role in boosting your immune system. Additionally, if you do get injured, zinc is great for healing tissues and wounds.
Power Up on Protein
Amino acids are essential for muscle repair after a workout. Lean meats, eggs, and fish are all great foods to consume after a workout, as they help with inflammation. You can also try incorporating a high-quality protein like Weider Global’s Whey Ultimate protein powder for an easy to digest source that is absorbed quickly into your body.
Abs aren’t the easiest body part to target—especially the dreaded lower abs. Many experts say abs are made in the kitchen, and while we agree with that to an extent, there are a handful of belly-burning moves you can incorporate into your workout that also tone and tighten the lower abdomen.
According to Shape, exercisers who focus on activating their core while working out, especially during ab exercises, experience greater muscle gains than those who just go through the motions half-paying attention. Those who mentally focus on muscle activation experience greater muscle activity (that goes for all exercise—not just abs!).
Here are five core-crushing moves to work into your next gym session, and, best part, they only require a mat or towel and no other equipment—so, you could even do these at home before you start your day.
Full Plank Twist: Start in an extended-arm plank position, feet together and hands directly beneath your shoulders. Bend right knee and cross it underneath your body until your right foot lands next to your left knee (your hips will rotate to the left; keep shoulders squared to the ground). Slide right knee back to start position and do the same motion with the left leg. That’s one rep; do three sets of 10 reps. Tip! Be sure to pull your belly button toward your spine as you move your legs, ensuring core activation.
Crisscross Leg Lift: Lie on your back with arms flat by your sides. Lift legs toward the ceiling as you point your toes and cross right leg over the left. Continue lifting legs overhead; your hips and back should rise off the floor and your toes should be pointing toward the wall behind you. Pause for three seconds, engage core, and lower the legs to the ground, rolling through the spine to lower the hips and legs slowly. Switch legs, crossing the left over right and repeat lifting motion. That’s one rep; do three sets of eight reps.
Russian Twist: In a reclined seated position on the floor, lift your legs so that your shins are parallel to the ground. Clasp hands together and twist from right to left, touching the ground with your clasped hands on either side of your hips with each rotation. One right-left movement is one rep; do three sets of 20 reps. Tip! For added burn, extend your legs straight, so your body makes a V shape, and hold a 10-pound kettlebell.
Inching Elbow Plank: Begin in an elbow plank, feet together and hands pressed flat on the floor or mat. Tip-toe your feet toward your elbows, as far as you can go with a straight back (no hunching!), hold for three seconds, and tip-toe your feet back out to the start position. That’s one rep; do three sets of five reps.Frog Press: Lie on your back, shoulders pulled off the ground and hands floating next to your hips, palms facing down—your legs are bent and turned out, feet flexed, and heels pressing together (like frog legs). Extend legs until straight; feet should be one to two feet above the ground (the closer to the ground, the bigger the burn!). Inhale and bend knees back into start position. That’s one rep; do three sets of 10 reps. Tip! Increase the burn by pumping your arms up and down in a small, one-inch motion as you perform your reps.