Rest Versus Active Recovery

Let’s talk about the difference between “rest” and “active recovery…”

Some may think that a day off of running during a regular week of training means not doing anything at all. This is often referred to as a “rest day,” or “total rest day.” While it’s good practice to do this every now and then, the majority of days that aren’t spent running during a training program should include “active recovery.” But what does that mean?

When we exercise, we’re basically doing microscopic damage to our bodies. However, when things get rebuilt they’re rebuilt stronger and we become stronger, faster runners. (The human body is an amazing machine!) Blood flow is key to the rebuilding process. Blood carries the things our bodies need to do the rebuilding to the places that need rebuilt. “Active recovery” means doing some light exercise meant to increase blood flow, in turn helping speed up the recovery process. This is the reason that muscle injuries heal more quickly than tendon or ligament injuries. Muscles get lots of blood flow, while tendons and ligaments don’t get much at all.

The real trick to determining the right kind of recovery is being very in tune with your body. It can take years of practice to really get to know when to back off the miles, take it easy on the intensity, work on active recovery, or take a rest day entirely. This is one reason why keeping a detailed running log or journal is important. Looking back at old notes about the way you were feeling after certain stretches of training can help you figure out how to best schedule workouts and properly recover going forward. If you have the means, you might also consider investing in a wearable like “Whoop,” which is advertised as a device that will help you fine tune your recovery practices. By doing so, you can hit your more intense workouts fresh, and get the most gains from them.

So, if your legs are sore from a day or two of harder running, consider doing things like going for an easy bike ride, taking the dogs for a nice walk, or doing some yoga. This will increase the blood flow to your legs, help things get put back together, and you’ll feel better sooner!!

If you’d like more ideas about what to do on days between runs, reach out and we can talk about it!

Happy Trails,

Eric

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