Rest days are highly important. These are the days that follow your intense workouts and are the time when real muscle repair and growth take place. Anyone who is serious about building stronger muscles will understand that these are the days that the magic happens.
Building an active recovery schedule into your routine will keep you engaged in your activities and can help speed up the recovery process.
What is active recovery?
Active recovery can take place immediately after a high-intensity workout or the following day. Active recovery following a workout is often referred to as a cool-down session and tends to be relative to the exercise performed. A longer workout tends to require a longer period of cooling down and may even be a replication of the workout but at a much lower intensity (50-60%).
An active recovery day is about maintaining your active lifestyle while complimenting your recovery during rest days. Active recovery workouts tend to be lower intensity with a focus on promoting blood flow and oxygen intake. A few examples of active recovery workouts include:
Why include active recovery days?
One of the main reasons people like active recovery during rest days is the ability to maintain an active routine. People who exercise tend to be active and energetic and do not necessarily like to sit and “rest”.
Active recovery on rest days also promotes blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the muscles and helping the body to remove the metabolites that accumulate during recovery from exercise.
Alongside an active recovery day, there are a number of things you can do to promote faster recovery from high-intensity workouts:
Sleep is the only time that your body can create new cells and repair them so it is vital you get enough time asleep to recover. Sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on your goals so a good 7-9 hours of sleep each night should be a priority.
Muscle growth requires energy, so eating enough of the right foods is important. Protein is the building block of our muscles, so aim to eat between 1.4g-1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. We also need to include whole grains, oily fish, and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Massage, cryotherapy, and cold-water immersion therapy are all proven to speed up the recovery of delayed onset muscle soreness that can keep us from returning to the gym. Massage helps to increase blood flow, helping to bring increased oxygen to the muscles and tissues and removing waste products that occur during recovery. Coldwater immersion therapy and cryotherapy are thought to help reduce inflammation and swelling among other possible mechanisms of action that are currently being explored.