Active Recovery and How it Benefits You

By: Kristin Knight

I’ll be honest; normally after I do cardio, I grab a yoga mat to “do abs,” but really I just lay there, scrolling through Instagram, telling myself I deserve a break after all the hard work I did. While it’s important not to overdo it, there are more effective ways to recover than just laying on your yoga mat. Active recovery is a great option.

What is active recovery?

Going full speed with your workouts every single day can negatively affect your performance and overall health. Rather than binge watching Netflix from bed, light exercise can be a healthy way to get your muscles moving.

You actually recover more from low to moderate exercise than total relaxation because light movement increases blood flow to your muscles. This is important because the added blood flow drives nutrients to your muscles, helping repair them faster. Active recovery also helps flush out lactic acid, a contributor to muscle fatigue.

How to incorporate active recovery

In general, active recovery should be about 60 to 70 percent of your maxamine effort. That means you could do your normal workout at a slower pace or with lighter weights. However, active recovery is also a great way to try something new and develop a new skill set. Here are some different options to consider:

  • Yoga: This is one of the most classic forms of active recovery. Stretching out your sore muscles feels great, increases your flexibility, and improves your athletic performance, all while working to speed up your recovery time. Check out the Wellbeing Center’s group fitness schedule to find a class that fits your schedule or read our blog post, How to Add Yoga to Your Daily Routine, to learn more about the benefits of yoga.
  • Swimming: This is a great option as well because it provides a low-impact workout for the entire body. Check out the Aquatics calendar to find an open swim time that fits your schedule. Lounging in the whirlpool is also an enjoyable way to relax after your workout.
  • Core Work: Your core is the powerhouse to your entire body, so focusing on strengthening it will help you in your other workouts as well. The Wellbeing Center offers Pilates and CXWORX classes that focus on the core. Check out the group fitness schedule to see when they’re offered.
  • Cycling: Another great way to recover is through this low-impact exercise. Cycling, either on a stationary bike or on a trail outdoors, improves circulation in the lower body without being too intense and pounding on your joints. If you don’t have a bike on campus, check out the ReCycle Bike Share Program.
  • Hiking: Getting fresh air in your lungs is so restorative, so heading to Pilot Mountain or Hanging Rock is a great option if you have time. Furthermore, walking over uneven terrain works a larger range of muscles than just walking on flat ground. If you’re looking for something closer to campus, the Reynolda Trails are a great place to spend some time.

Hopefully some of these active recovery options are appealing to you! However, if you’re feeling super sore or fatigued, it’s probably better to just take the day off all together rather than risk injuring yourself. Everyone’s body is different and it’s important to respect what your body needs at any given time.

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