Active recovery after exercise can maintain your healthy routine

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Many people who start a new workout routine feel pain the next day. Waking up tired with sore muscles can be discouraging, causing many to believe that they over did it. Some take a temporary break, but others just give up and completely abandon the whole routine.

“Doing too much, too fast is very common for people starting new exercise routines after taking an extended amount of time off,” says Tyler Waclawski, a certified exercise physiologist for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “It’s pretty normal to be excited and then overdo it.”

Fortunately, there are active recovery activities that you can do post-workout and between workout days that will help you maintain your exercise program.

How active recovery helps you

Tyler Waclawski: Any time that you start a new exercise routine, I recommend starting slow and gradually building from there. This includes anyone who’s returning to exercise after a long break, even if they exercised on a regular basis in the past. Don’t try to match where you were the last time you worked out. This gradual ramp-up gives your body time to adapt as you demand more from it.

Active recovery after the workout is a key part of this process.  And you’ll reap some benefits, too, including:

  • Quicker recovery time overall
  • Better endurance
  • Stronger muscles
  • Reduced stress

Plus, you’re more likely to avoid injuries. If it’s hard for you to regain the inspiration to start exercising again after an injury, that might just be the biggest incentive of all.

Strategies to try

Tyler Waclawski: You might try at least one—or even more—of these activities. If you stick with it, you can make active recovery a habit.

1. Walk it out

Light activity after a workout, like walking, can be just the ticket for incorporating active recovery into your routine. Plus, this post-workout activity doesn’t have to be time-consuming – you can benefit from just 5-10 minutes of a walking cool down. So grab a friend and chat while you walk, or listen to a few minutes of your favorite podcast. Start at a comfortable pace, then gradually slow your pace until it’s time to stop.

2. Stretch afterward

Just a few minutes of gentle dynamic stretching after a workout will allow your body’s muscles to cool down and readjust. To vary it up, you could try using resistance bands or even foam rollers.

3. Make the most of the time in between workouts

You don’t have to wait until you’re finished working out to incorporate some active recovery. For example, if you’re lifting weights or doing other strength-training activities, you could try a low-intensity activity like cycling or even slow jogging in between. If you’re running or doing some other type of cardio activity, you could break up the session with some low-intensity intervals.

4. Be active on your rest day

Rest days are important. But don’t lean too heavily on the word “rest.” On rest days, engage in some light exercise, but resist the temptation to do a full-on workout. Try to extend the amount of light activity you’re doing to 15 or even 30 minutes. You can choose whatever type of active recovery activity most appeals to you:

  • walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • stretching
  • yoga, etc.

Just remember to keep the intensity low and really treat it as a recovery exercise.

“Active recovery does a good job of helping your body actually recover during and after moderate-to-intense activities,” says Tyler. “It encourages blood flow to areas of the body that you’re working, and that can help reduce inflammation.”

More from Tyler Waclawski on WellTuned.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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