Thursday, December 1, 2016

What is Active Recovery?

Overload is crucial for improvement in performance, it is the threshold prescription to cause a desired outcome.  A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its customary intensity.  A load must be progressively increased in order to further adaptive responses as training develops, and the training stimulus is gradually raised 1.  I will discuss more about this in the next blog, but you need to have a basic understanding of overload for this article.  So in order to increase performance, there needs to be constant progression in training.
However, with a constant progressive increase in work, the likelihood of overtraining and injury goes up.  A way to help prevent problems before they happen is through recovery.  The…purpose of recovery is to allow the muscle to repair itself and to engage muscles that are tired or sore 2. As I have stated in a previous blog, recovery can be more than just rest.
Active recovery uses a workout that has a lower level of intensity.  Typically, this will be more aerobic work than an actual workout.  These workouts are just enough to get the blood moving around in the body and help to  reduce any lasting fatigue in the muscles 2.
Examples of active recovery are endless.  Here is a short list to name a few:
·      Cycling – an exercise that is very low impact on the body, this is generally every athlete’s first choice as it involves light activity and also sitting down.
·      Swimming – a great way to get the blood flowing, this is a full-body workout that is extremely gentle on the body.  Sometimes the joints need active recovery as well if your sport is high impact such as running.
·      Rowing – considered by many the triathletes ‘secret weapon’, rowing is low impact but is another great full body exercise that gives the muscles a great recovery.
·      Rock Climbing – not the first go-to for most athletes, this activity uses your full body and can give the mind a bit of a workout as well.

1Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
2 Read, A. (n.d.). Overtraining Can Kill You: The 3 Stages of Overtraining, Part 1. Retrieved November 07, 2016, from


  1. I like this look on active recovery. Great read, and easy to understand for some that may overthink active recovery. I'm going to use some of these things when I'm sore instead of the basic bed rest that I usually end up doing. Much more beneficial!

  2. Very informative and thought provoking. As I was reading this article it caused me to think of ways to incorporate active recovery into my workouts. What I came up with is I will incorporate a pre-workout active recovery period, which focuses on the body part(s) I worked the previous day, prior to every workout. For example, if I do legs on Monday and chest on Tuesday, I will start my Tuesday workout with with a 20 minute stationary cycle ride resulting in an active recovery of my leg muscles.