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Active Recovery: What is it and why do it?

Updated: Feb 15

Sometimes called active rest, active recovery is crucial for athletic performance. Whenever endurance athletes are asked to take a few days off of training, panic sets in and a feeling of dread of losing fitness sets in. It is important to change that mindset to in order to implement a solid strategy for athletic performance. Active recovery should be an integral piece of any training program strategy.

What is it? In a nutshell, you should be doing activities and moving your body in a leisurely way, not in a structured training program, and especially away from your competitive sport.

Why? By taking these breaks, athletes will have physical, mental, and physiological benefits which would allow them to recharge their batteries, avoid burnout, and improve athletic performance. These periods of active rest are good for the muscles to repair themselves and the body to heal any nicks and niggles to repair along the way. Additionally, they are crucial to avoid mental burn-out.

What to do: remember, the rule is to stay away from any structured workouts in your respective sport. For example, a runner should not do any running drills, a triathlete should not do any swim, bike, run or structured trainings, a cyclist should not do any cycling drills , etc. The idea is to avoid following any training plan for a specific amount of time. For my athletes, I suggest one week every four months for active recovery.

Active recovery activities:

-Yoga: my top selection. Yoga is good in so many ways: it’s great for mental focus, flexibility, restoration of mobility and great for core strength.

- Hiking: it’s fantastic because you get to do activities that are outside of the range of your training norms and it connects us to nature and the outdoors.. It doesn't involve gadgets, a HR monitor or specificity. It is fun because you could do it with friends, with your dog, or just on your own.

- Jogging: jogging is great, if you get to do it in a leisurely fashion and it's awesome to find joy in running again for those who lost it. Again, you can do this with friends, family members, your dog, or on your own.

- Cruiser biking: this is fun if you get to do it with family members, friends, or just a short ride in your neighborhood.

- Zumba or Step classes: absolutely some of my favorites at my local gym. Step outside of your comfort zone and do a Zumba class! You will never regret it.

- Joyful swims: Go out for a swim without looking at your smart watch . The idea is to find joy in swimming and to be one with nature if you are outdoors. If indoors, I would avoid any gadgets and would not swim in sets. Just swim.

- Walking: we have forgotten the most basic active recovery activity! Walking is good for the soul, it’s good for the metabolic system, and it’s good for the mind. Go out for a good walk. You would be surprised how wonderful walking is during this period.

In conclusion, the idea is to avoid any vigorous and structured activities during this period, to keep your body moving and your blood flowing while your body is healing and repairing itself while getting enough rest for the next training block .

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