Are you in a groove at the gym but possibly overdoing it a bit?

Are you afraid to break from routine in fear of falling behind in your fitness goals?

Active recovery could be just what you need to ensure that you stay healthy and injury-free, not to mention lowering your risk of burnout. Too much of a good thing can lead to bad outcomes, especially if you progress too quickly in your quest to become fit.

Active recovery workouts are low-intensity activities that help you take care of yourself and move as freely as possible. They assist in bettering your everyday life and enhancing your workouts. This form of training differs from passive recovery days where you engage in little or no activity.

With Active recovery, you are using 60-70 percent of your maximum effort. Active recovery exercises include low-intensity workouts focusing on movement and self-care techniques. These activities and exercises could be foam rolling and stretching; Tai Chi, Yoga or swimming and bodyweight work to improve core, hip, back strength and mobility (such as Pilates and core training).  

So how do low intensity and recovery-type exercises help you recover from your harder training days? When you focus on exercises that help your joints move better and your muscles to relax and release tension/tightness and toxins, your body will move correctly, putting less stress on the joints and allowing your muscles to repair.

With improvements in movement, there will be improvements in circulation, which helps rid the body of waste products from training like lactic acid (which builds up from high-intensity training, causing fatigue, muscle soreness and tissue breakdown).

Try these active recovery options the next time that your body is telling you to take a break:

The obvious one. Yoga will improve your flexibility and breathing and help you get to know your body and move it better.

Hip and core training
You’ve got to take care of these two areas, as they are your center of power where all movement begins. Your hips and core, along with your back and abdominal muscles, are involved in all movements. Preparing them for intense workouts to come by engaging in glute bridges, planks and bird dogs will have them ready to tackle the big lifts and more powerful moves later.

Bodyweight resistance training
Using your body weight as resistance on your active recovery training days is beneficial as it will help you keep moving the way that your body moves throughout your day without the stress of heavier external load from weight training. Choose bodyweight movements such as push-ups, abdominal crunches, squats and lunges and planks and hip-bridges to make up a total body workout. Perform each move for 30-60 seconds, rest for 15-30 seconds between each exercise and repeat the circuit 2 times; then spend 10-20 minutes stretching.

Light cardio – walking, jogging (outside or on a treadmill), elliptical or cycling
Incorporate 10, 20 or 30 minutes of light cardio into your active recovery days as it will help keep your body moving to help you feel better. Putting 50% of your total effort into your cardio will help you maintain cardio health and energy and endurance up. Choose cardio activities that you like and remember that it is okay to pull back. If you like to run or ride hard, choose to jog or cycle for energy, endurance and feeling good. Your heart rate will go up and you will likely sweat, which is good for your body as well as your mind (and keeps those ‘feel-good’ endorphins flowing).

A great option for moving your body and reducing impact on your joints. Swimming helps your body move better, gets your heart pumping and improves circulation. It also trains the muscles that are naturally weak on land (it is a great cross-training workout to complement your regular training days).

Other options include Tai Chi, hiking and massaging yourself with a foam roller, ball or massage wand.

It is important to listen to your body. If your body is more fatigued than usual on one of your normal, more intense workout days, make it an active recovery day instead and move your intense workout day around. It will be better for your body and help you move better overall, thus reducing the risk of injury while helping you meet your goals faster.