About Active Recovery You Should Know

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When you're trying to take your fitness level to the next level, it's natural to think that you should go longer and harder. But what if you don't need it? According to fitness authorities like the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine, the key to achieving your goals isn't doing more. It's about balancing your training with a special kind of rest called active recovery.

What is active recovery and how does it work for you? That's all you need to know.

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What is active recovery?

Rest may be just what the coach asks for. But that doesn't mean lying on the couch doing crossword puzzles. According to recent research, the best way to recover sore muscles - to recover stronger and faster - is to keep moving, but at a low intensity. Why? "The key to recovery is blood flow, which delivers nutrients to muscles and joints for repair and removes waste from broken down muscle tissue," says Jonathan Ross, owner of Aion Fitness and author of Expose Your Abs. But muscles can only get blood flow during exercise."

Active recovery and passive recovery

That's not to say that curling up with a good book or relaxing in front of the TV doesn't work at all. "The body will still recover, but it may take longer than if you were actively exercising," says Alana Myers, CPT, ace Certified personal trainer and wellness coach.

This is because this more passive recovery causes blood to pool in the extremities without improving circulation. As a result, it is far less effective in providing nutrients than the glycogen and phosphocreatine needed by hungry and tired muscles for better energy, motivation and endurance. Also, it's not very effective at removing waste from exercise.

Find the right balance

If you're wondering what your goal is for active recovery, the answer will vary from person to person, depending on your fitness and the intensity of your training. For example, a person who is in excellent shape may only need one day off a week. But for most of us, a day's recovery after two or three days of intense exercise is a good goal. Myers says the best way to check is to focus on your sore muscles.

Five quick ways to Recover

One real advantage of active recovery is that it doesn't take much time. Ross, for example, likes to do two 10-minute quick workouts a day, targeting the most sore muscles (although you can do longer sessions if you like).

Which activities are best? "One person hiking for an hour for active recovery could be exercise for another person, so it really depends on your fitness level," Ross said.

If it sounds good, these activities can get you started.

Cross train. Changing your workout routine is a great way to give tired muscles a rest. If you run a lot, try a leisurely bike ride. Or vice versa. In terms of intensity, aim for 30 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Yoga or tai chi. "Moving back and forth through full motion helps blood flow in the tissues," Ross says. Bonus: They're also a great stress reliever.

Swim. "It's one of the few ways to get rid of gravity and de-stress the body. It's very effective in relieving pain and inflammation."

The bubbles tumble. Foam rolling 20 minutes after exercise can significantly relieve muscle pain and increase range of motion. Myers suggests starting farthest from your heart, then rolling toward your heart, pausing and focusing on a soft spot for 30 to 60 seconds.

Stretch. If it's short, Myers suggests trying a quick stretch, focusing on the most sore muscle groups for 30 to 90 seconds.

While light exercise helps with recovery, you don't even need to do that kind of fine exercise. Gardening, washing the car, walking the dog, and playing table tennis or basketball can also work. In the end, Rose says, the best recovery activity is the one you enjoy the most.

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During exercise, you can use the BP smartwatch to track and record your exercise and fitness data.