Recovery = gains? We can’t believe it either.
Let's explain what we mean here. Active recovery. It’s vital for your fitness success. And here’s the science behind it.
It’s a misconception that the body gets fitter, faster, and stronger while you’re training. But that is not the case at all. The magic actually happens when you’re recovering in between sessions. Implementing recovery practices between each session could be the make or break to your body transformation, and could very well see you getting on the gains train like never before.
There are four main pillars of recovery — nutrition, sleep, hydration, and active recovery. And while we will be focusing on active recovery and how it can benefit you, the other three can’t be neglected either!
What is active recovery and how is it beneficial?
We should probably make it clear that active recovery isn’t sitting on the couch and doing nothing. The ACTIVE part ain’t a lie, meaning you will be moving your body in one way or another.
There are numerous types of active recovery, each with their respective benefits. Trial and error can be frustrating when all you want to see are results , but active recovery is one of the cases where it applies. Not all gains are the same (haha) but below is a list of the most common forms of active recovery that we suggest experimenting with to find what best works for you.
- Foam Rolling:
A quick fix if you’re super sore to alleviate symptoms of pain associated with delayed onset
muscle soreness (DOMS). It may also improve range of motion in some areas if done consistently enough over 3-4+ week time period. Foam rolling additionally has the potential to reduce loss of performance measures associated with post session fatigue.
When using a foam roller, aim for 10-15 slow rolls on the desired muscle group - the heavier and deeper you get, the better. Try and do this daily if possible and experiment with adding it to your warmups to see if you feel any difference.
- Static Stretching:
This is where you stretch in a stationary position and hold for a period of time. Sure, you might prefer to use this time to get a few more sets in, but trust us, this might be more beneficial for you. So static stretching, it has the ability for flexibility improvement, and mobility to aid in future performance. They also tackle the good old DOMS too, and really, there aren't many better feelings than stretching your quads the day after an intense leg sesh.
Static stretching also has the ability to decrease loss of performance measures associated with post session fatigue. You’ll be looking at 20-40 seconds per muscle group for ultimate results. Considering how long you train for, that’s not a crazy amount of time to add on for stretching. Make sure to really actively stretch your muscles as far as you can without pain. No stretch, no gain. You don’t want that.
Here are some examples of our favourite static stretches. Never heard of some of these before? There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to guide you through:
- Cat Cow
- Half Moon
- Overhead Tricep Stretch
- Downward Dog
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Squat Stretch
- Pigeon Stretch
- LISS (Low Intensity Steady State):
Slow and steady wins the gains race. But seriously, LISS is perfect for getting the muscles moving. It may increase blood flow to damaged muscles, and in turn, causes faster healing due to the inflammatory markers present within the blood.
Swimming is an ideal option for this. You’re off your feet and submerged while moving, providing light resistance without high impact. But we get it, swimming, especially in the cold, isn't ideal. And well, you need access to a swimming pool too.
So if swimming isn’t your thing, other forms of LISS can include bike riding, rowing, a brisk walk or very light jog. Any form of LISS should be performed at a low/very low intensity for 10-20 minutes. However this is not a workout, and the intensity should be low. No gains should be attempted to be made during this time.
- Active Cool Down
This is super important. After every training session, make it mandatory for yourself to do an active cool down. It has the potential to alleviate toxin build up within the active muscles and promote the removal of lactic acid. As soon as your workout stops, you should set your mind on going into recovery mode, which will start the moment your last rep has been completed in your workout.
A typical active cool down would look like 10-15 mins of LISS (walking, bike riding) and/or static stretching. This does not mean stopping and sitting down! But cooling down straight away will not only help on a physiological level, but also it may aid in putting you into the right mind set mentally to ensure you’re focused on recovering properly before your next session. Good mindset = good gains.
So when should I do all this?
1-2 days post workout, but technically your cool down is active recovery so that should be done at the end of each session. However this is totally up to you, every body is different and will respond better to different times.
All in all, if all goes to plan and you find the best modalities that work for you, along with getting your nutrition, hydration and sleep in good order, then you may feel less DOMS, and less reduced performance. But it doesn’t stop there, active recovery will encourage less recovery time required between sessions, less chance of injury, a higher chance of performance improvements and ‘gains’. Overall you’ll have better energy meaning you’ll be ready to go for your next hardcore sesh.
So really, what’s not to like about active recovery?