Rest day truly is the best day—you feel accomplished because you worked hard the day before, and you have an entire 24-hour window to chill out on the couch, right? Well, not quite. Maximizing rest days to best serve your workout routine and exercise goals involves active recovery.
What Is Active Recovery?
Rather than passive, movement-free rest days, active recovery takes rest days up a notch. Smaller exercise that still heats up your body but allows you to be gentle and not push your limits is what we mean.
Active recovery exercises come in many different forms. From yoga to swimming to going on a walk around the neighborhood, an active recovery day can be whatever increases your heart rate enough to get nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body, refreshing and revitalizing muscle soreness.
No, it’s not another intense workout like the one you did the day before. It is slow, intentional, and gentle. Yes, you can still sit back and spend some time relaxing on your couch, but studies have shown that active recovery training, as opposed to passive recovery (sitting doing nothing active all day), speeds up the recovery process. Bringing more oxygenated blood to your sore muscles creates more opportunity to clear out built-up toxins and energize faster.
Active Recovery Workout Ideas
We recommend spending at least 30 minutes on active recovery exercise on your rest day. An active recovery session can easily be done outside, at the gym, or even at home with minimal equipment.
Remember, active recovery should not be physically demanding. Working just enough to keep your heart rate about 25-35% higher than your baseline is perfect. You should be able to hold a conversation with someone while doing active recovery.
Here is a list of some of our favorite active recovery exercises:
Swimming is a great low-impact full-body active recovery workout. Especially with summertime right around the corner, catch a tan and swim those sore muscles away.
The great thing about yoga is its versatility. From relaxing yin to intense vinyasa flows, there are classes available both online and in-person for any skill level and intensity. If you’re holding down the fort at home, these five yoga poses are perfect for kids and your active recovery.
Call up a friend and take a stroll through your neighborhood, or go by yourself for both active recovery and meditation. Begin by using one of these three breathing techniques to tap into the present moment, and then head out on a faster-paced walk to get that heart-thumping—your heartbeat and breath could also make a great point of concentration for mindful practice.
If you’re a conditioned runner, jogging might be more your speed. Don’t push yourself too hard, take this time to tap into your body and give love and attention to your muscle recovery. Remember to stretch afterward, too.
This ancient Chinese practice involves slow, gentle, low-impact movements and stretches. Beyond active recovery, tai chi has a plethora of benefits including decreasing stress, lowering blood pressure, improved flexibility and balance, and increased mood.
Biking is an amazing active recovery exercise routine because it can take you places that you’d normally drive to. Pizza on your mind on rest day? Instead of ordering over the phone for delivery, bike 15 minutes to that pizza shop you always order from, pick up your rest-day four-cheese oven-fired pizza, bike 15 minutes back home, turn on your favorite movie, and call it a day… KIDDING (but also not).
Can’t get enough of the gym? Us either. Stop into your local Chuze and do your active recovery there. We have pools and hot tubs at these locations, which are both relaxing and active rest-day-centric.