Taking Time for Active Recovery
It’s easy to get carried away by the feel-good sensations you can get from exercise.
I know, I’ve been there. But going full speed with your workouts every single day and never taking time to rest can backfire. Your body needs time to rest in between hard exercise sessions so that it can repair itself properly—and come back stronger. Plus, if all your body gets is physical stress without rest, you can reach the point of diminishing returns, or the point at which more exercise doesn’t result in any more progress.
“Think of it this way, if you don’t give your body time to adapt to the physical demands, it will never get a chance to ‘catch up’ and get stronger,” Lindsey Corak. But that doesn’t mean you need to avoid all activity on your rest days.
Planning an “active recovery” workout on rest days is a great way to give your body a break without being totally sedentary.
If you’re a go-hard-at-every-workout kind of person (like me), or you just hate the idea of taking a day completely off from exercise (also me), active recovery workouts let you get in some activity while giving your muscles and joints the rest they need to bounce back stronger than ever.
Here are a few of my go-tos:
Foam roller exercises are a form of massage that fitness-minded folks do either before exercise to loosen up sore muscles and tight joints, or after a workout, in an effort to aid muscle recovery. Rolling yourself out on a foam roller is an affordable alternative to massage therapy. These dense, round pieces of foam can deliver many benefits of therapeutic massage without the cost.
My Favorite Foam Roller Exercises:
- Hamstrings and Glutes
- Quadriceps (The Front Of Your Legs)
- Iliotibial (IT) Band
- Upper Back
As with most things, start slowly with your new foam rolling routine and gradually increase over time. Try incorporating either before or after a workout a couple of times a week and then go from there.
If you don’t currently have a workout routine, you can still reap all the benefits of foam rolling. Using one during commercial breaks of your favorite show becomes a great way to initiate foam rollers into your routine.
If you don’t have the needed floor space to use a foam roller the Tiger Tail is the next best thing. Shaped like a rolling pin, the Tail can be used to work your muscles like a loaf of bread, putting as much pressure as you can handle on your muscles without having to get down on the ground. I have even found the Tail can get into some crevices I couldn’t reach before – between the shoulder blades, for one – and I could put more pressure on my tight hamstrings, which are a bit hard to work with the traditional foam roller.
The Tiger Tail is also an excellent companion to bring on vacations (and even use on the plane), or bring it with you to the office for a quick roll, where sprawling on the ground to work sore muscles is sometimes frowned upon.
Mini Bands are another favorite because they can effectively be used to increase strength and stability but they also aid in recovery and mobility. I use a mini band at home prior to going to the gym to “wake” up my muscles. The exercises below are just a few that I use to warm up and get the blood flowing.
Perform these mini band exercises with the band around your wrists:
- Front Raises
Perform these mini band exercises with the band just above your knees:
Perform these mini band exercises with the band around your ankles:
- Lateral Walks
- Hip Abductors
The main complaint I have about foam rollers is that they don’t dig deep into the muscle belly like a masseuse applying trigger point therapy. However, the lacrosse ball can wiggle into those hard-to-reach spots, like where the muscle heads connect between your calves and hamstrings, and hamstrings and butt. And, unlike tennis balls, lacrosse balls are firm like a rubber baseball and don’t squish under pressure. Another perk is the while foam rollers go for $30 to $40, most lacrosse balls cost $5 or less. It’s a low-risk entry point for any curious skeptic, and the ball is essentially indestructible.