In short, an active rest day is a remedy to over training and involves light exercise that will stimulate and speed up your recovery process. An active rest day is something I have truly learned the meaning of recently. I overworked, burned out and injured myself. Not good! However, I see it as a learning curve and feel that I have really found the value in doing something a little lighter with my body. Not taking the time to rest is so common, even amongst beginners. Some of my clients have come to me with negative experiences of exercise and the reason for their bad experience is because they didn’t take time to rest and therefore burned out.
When considering what activity you might want to adopt as part of your active rest day, you have to take your current fitness level into consideration. Mainly because this exercise should be much less intense than the exercise you do as part of your regular fitness program. For instance, if you were a long distance runner and your body needed time to rest and recover, you could go for a walk instead. It’s going to be different for everyone.
Here are a few ideas of what you could do.
Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
SMR is self-massage with foam roller, tennis ball or a lacrosse ball. After feeling so tight in my upper body from intense pole training, I swear by them now. It’s like getting a deep sports massage. The foam roller is appropriate for larger muscle groups such as the quads, hamstrings and lats, whilst the small lacrosse ball is really great at targeting the difficult to reach areas between the shoulder blades. It is fairly uncomfortable at the time, but the goal is that you feel benefit afterwards. You might find this video useful.
Walking is as a great way to allow your muscles to recover. I like to listen to a motivational podcast or music whilst walking outside in the park. It’s a really positive way to boost overall wellbeing too. Of course, again, this depends on your fitness level. If walking is part of your fitness program already, you might want to lower the intensity of the walk on the days that you utilise walking for active rest.
I’m a true fan of yoga. I love it because it releases my body when it is sore from dancing. However, dependant on the program, it can be very physically challenging. Look for a light yoga class if you aim to use it as a recovery rather than an actual workout. YouTube is a great place to start – I have several, free yoga tutorials that you can follow along with.
During my recent holiday, I swam for the first time in about 3 years, so it’s safe to say that I am out of practice. Therefore, my body probably wouldn’t benefit from swimming as an aid to recovery. However, if I were to consider a really low intensity session then I might benefit from the cardiovascular aspects of the activity, as well as the low impact is has on joints and bones.
Overall, it is important to allow yourself time to recuperate. You are human and your body is with you for the long haul, so look after it.