(Active) Rest For The Wicked – Still Crushing it While Recovering 

Recovering from training doesn’t always mean sauna, ice baths, or soft tissue massage (although those are all great). If you have been working overtime preparing for summer, or maybe you’re just starting your fitness journey, you might be more sore than usual. 

It’s times like these that the couch is oh-so tempting, especially the day (or two) after training. But as great as it may feel to just crash, you’ll likely feel even better if you opt for some movement. AKA, active recovery. 

What is Active Recovery?

Recovering from intense training via activity instead of total (passive) rest. The exercise or movements are low-impact, but you can get creative with what your recovery day will look like.

The Benefits

There are alot of benefits that come with a recovery routine including, improved blood flow, reduced muscle soreness, and injury prevention. Overall, a recovery routine is good for the body and the rebuilding process, but it also creates consistency of movement. 

Improves Blood Flow and Muscle Recovery 

When we train hard, muscles break down and create metabolic waste, like lactic acid for example. Low intensity exercise, like a light jog can help to flush this out by circulating it through the lymphatic system. This helps to alleviate soreness and keeps things moving. 


Prevents Injury

Regularly programming rest days gives your body a break and reduces the risk of overtraining, which can lead to serious injury. But instead of just resting sore muscles let’s take it a step further by taking the time for a little bit of mobility and TLC. 

For example, if you have been having trouble with your squat form, take the rest day to improve this problem area. Did a friend or movement professional spot some shifting? Feeling some pinchy hips? Let’s get after it. 

Small irritants like a pinching hip, tend to spill over into other aspects of our training and movement overtime. We can avoid this by regularly checking in and addressing any limitations. 

Creates Movement Consistency

“The best exercise program is the one that you will do” – A wise gym dude 

Nothing will keep you in better health than to move, and move often. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what you do, just as long as you do it! But we can’t be a go-hard 24/7. 

Plotting rest days into your training program will prevent that all-or-nothing mentality and get you off the couch on the days you are not in the gym. It also provides an opportunity to do something different. 

Ok, So What Does A Recovery Day Look Like?


The best way to answer that is to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are feeling really sore, and just getting your butt to the chair is like Bambi on ice, then some low impact cardio like a casual walk or the bike may be the way to go. 

Feeling a little stiff? Or you noticed a limitation in your movement? Bust out the mobility bands and Tune Up balls to break the mold. 

Maybe you just want to do something different, or you’re dealing with some stress? Clear your head and move your feet by taking a casual walk, or hitting a trail. Your active rest should serve as both a mental and physical recovery. 

Cardio Based Recovery Protocol

As I mentioned before, getting the blood pumping helps to flush out your system. The bike, stationary bike, rower, swimming are all great low impact exercises that will get your heart rate up and the blood circulating. 

Set a timer for 15-30 minutes and work up to 60-80% intensity. 

Mobility, Corrective Exercise, and Accessory Work

Taking time to make sure that your mobility and movement is sound will keep you in the gym, performing at a high level. 

When we are working on mobility, we want to have a goal in mind for what we are trying to improve. In other words, instead of jumping on a foam roller and rolling around with 0 intention, aim to optimize a specific shape or movement. 

For example, if you have trouble with overhead movements or presses then let’s work to specifically improve the overhead shape and mechanics. 

Each mobilization is performed for 2-3 minutes or until change is made. Followed by an exercise that will chase any new range of motion in order to control and maintain it. 

Overhead Mobility Protocol Example

Lat Smash – 2-3 minutes

T-Spine Extension – 2-3 minutes 

T-Spine Windmill – 8x each direction 

Serratus Wall Slide – 15x

Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press – 2×10 

Squat/Lunge Mobility Protocol Example

Hip Mobility – 2-3 minutes

Posterior Hip Stretch – 15x

Hip Windmill – 15x

Zercher Squat – 2×10 

Full Body Calisthenics

If you’re really beat up this isn’t the one for you. But if you feel that you have been recovering well from other training days, keep it moving. 

Except, instead of loading up the barbell, get a full body weight training day in. 

2-3 Sets:

  • Pushups x25
  • Bicycle crunches x40
  • Bridges x20 
  • Lateral lunge squats – x30
  • Inch worm walk up – x4 
  • Squats x15

The key is to avoid a lot of heavy or eccentric training. For this reason, another great full body example would be Sled Pushes and/or  Turkish Get Ups. 


We can take our recovery way beyond the couch and get some major benefits from low-impact training. But the real message I’m trying to get across is two-fold. Listen to your body and keep it moving. 

Have you been dealing with a nagging pain that even active rest isn’t helping? To set up a free 15-minute consult, call us at 516-421-6353 or you can email me directly at [email protected]


Paul Menzies, Craig Menzies, Laura McIntyre, Paul Paterson, John Wilson & Ole J. Kemi (2010) Blood lactate clearance during active recovery after an intense running bout depends on the intensity of the active recovery, Journal of Sports Sciences, 28:9, 975-982, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2010.481721

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