Training can take a toll on your body. It totally leaves you beat up some weeks where you feel like all your effort is to just lift your arms up. You have a session planned for the day but the thought of that session just makes you cringe. What should you do? Should you take the day off or should to you something light to get your body moving? It's obvious your body needs some time to recover and allowing yourself to rest is good for muscle recovery.
First off many people don't even know there is a difference between rest days and recovery days. Do you know the difference? Both are critical for performance yet they are used in different ways. Rest is generally categorized as sleep and time spent not training or exercising. Recovery, on the other hand, refers to techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. Recovery involves chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair, mental state and more. There are different factors such as sleep, diet and hydration that can all be beneficial, but one of the most effective methods of helping the body (and mind) recover is through active recovery.
Active recovery focuses on completing an exercise,normally bodyweight or cardio at a low intensity, but high enough to increase blood flow and enhance the clearance of enzymes responsible for muscle damage and residual fatigue. Therefore active recovery plays a huge role in minimizing the symptoms of DOMS also know as delayed onset muscle soreness.
When you train hard, your body produces latic acid. The molecules in lactic acid break apart in the blood and produce hydrogen ions, which decrease the pH of the blood leading to the pain you feel during exercise and that sore feeling you get one to two days later. Also, doing a proper cool down can help decrease the soreness you feel the next few days.
Here is a question I get often: So what do i do for active recovery? This is the time you’re spending away from training, whether that is bodybuilding, powerlifting or CrossFit. Choose something that you enjoy and that can be swimming, cycling, kayaking, basketball, hiking, running, etc., make sure you are doing the activity at 60-70% effort—an easy, restorative pace. Once you are done with that, take some time to work on mobility and maintenance to make sure you have completely flushed out all the nasty lactate acid to put yourself in the best physical condition for your return to training the next day.
I also like to use my active recovery days for things that I might not be as good at or to do "fun" training with different weighted objects that I don't get to use in normal training. This can be sandbags, sleds, and tires. Your body and your mind could use a break from being in the gym ! Its totally normal ! Too much of anything is not a good thing. Get outside and play with your fitness!