I got home Sunday afternoon from two days of Ragnar with the full intention of going ice skating at a local rink as my exercise for the day. My calves and hamstrings were pretty sore and I was super tired from the sleep deficit that comes from a 24 hour relay race. So I decided that today would be a great day for some active recovery. ”Active recovery can be loosely defined as a low-intensity activity (such as submaximal cycling or low-intensity weight training) used to enhance the recovery process between training sessions or competitions” (evidencebasedfitness.com). This is different than a rest day in that you’re still using your body, just at a super low intensity as a way to get the blood flowing and also helping speed muscle recovery.
Today I was somewhat of a zombie (mentally and physically) and decided that if I tried to go ice skating I might actually hurt myself with overuse. So far it’s been 14 days and I haven’t really taken a light day yet. So I chose to head to the Boston Common for a full hour of some yoga, stretching, and foam rolling. It was a beautiful day so I’m glad I got myself outside in the “fresh” Boston air and my muscles surely needed some attention. I feel like I don’t do enough of these types of days when I’m training. Every coach I’ve ever had has preached the glory of rest as a way to increase performance. For some reason I never listen even though I know it to be true. It’s tough to say, “I’m going to not exercise today”. I like exercising and I can generally alternate workouts so I’m not hitting the same muscles day in and day out. However, your heart-rate doesn’t need to be through the roof 7 days/week in order to be training well. This is where active recovery should come in. Instead of total inactivity after a race you tend to recover faster if you do some kind of low intensity cross-training exercise (less than 130bpm), massage, and/or stretching.
Here’s an example of an Active-Recovery Training Plan that I found on Men’sHealth.com which is intended to be used after a long race like a marathon or a century bike ride.