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Fit 4 Life | Active recovery boosts performance, mobility

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMMarvin Gordon/Contributor
Recovery is usually an afterthought – only considered when one finds himself struggling to get up the stairs in the days after a workout.

If you have ever trained, chances are you have had more than a few of those workouts. You know, the ones that make getting out of bed feel like hiking. Yes, those – the workouts that have killed many beginners’ desire for a six-pack. If your entry into the fitness world survived the initial soreness, you likely had questions. The first is usually how to prevent that soreness next time. The more pressing concern, however, was how to recover from it.

Recovery is usually an afterthought – only considered when one finds himself struggling to get up the stairs in the days after a workout. A quick Google search or asking around will lead to rest as the likely solution. However, that is but one aspect of recovery – passive recovery uses rest to allow your body to heal itself slowly. Another key component is active recovery.

Active recovery is the technique of using light activity to help get your body to normal levels function after a tough workout.

Active recovery works by improving blood flow to muscles and joints, thereby creating an internal environment that is more conducive to healing:

- Waste products are more easily removed.

- Valuable nutrients necessary for recovery are more readily available.

- Fatigue, stiffness, and soreness are reduced.

- Improves performance.

If you have ever been sore then you probably also noticed that moving around helps to reduce the soreness and improve mobility; that is active recovery at work. Still, a more structured approach than simply getting out of bed might be necessary.

Active recovery exercises should be:


The goal is simply to get moving and boost blood flow to the muscles and joints, not to work yourself into the ground. High-intensity exercises will leave you with more muscle damage and in a worse state than when you started.  


Recovery workouts should be short. No marathons. Think of recovery as you would a warm-up.  


The goal is to promote blood flow and mobility. The fewer isolation movements, the more effective your recovery workout will be.

The activities of active recovery depend on the type of training and fitness level. What might qualify as light-work for one person, might be a tough workout for another.

Common activities used include:

Machine cardio – stationary bike, elliptical, etc

• Light weight training

• Yoga

• Swimming

• Walking/jogging

• Foam rolling/massage.

The timing of active recovery is also important. There are two main times for active recovery: directly after a workout (cool down), or on the 'rest' days after strenuous activity. It is also important to ensure that both active and passive recovery have a place in your training plan.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email: marvin.gordon@physiqueandfunction.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com