What is Active Recovery and Why Should You Do It?

When it comes to fitness, less can sometimes be more. While it seems logical to believe that if you work out every single day you will get in the best shape, this isn’t the case. The reality is that when you work out, your muscles are torn, and it takes 24-48 hours for them to grow back stronger than before (this is what causes the soreness after a workout). So, not only is it useless to work out when your muscles are already torn, but it actually does more harm than good.

Rest days are essential for your body to develop muscle. It’s recommended that 3-4 days of the week are designated rest days, depending on your workout schedule and intensity. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that rest days do not equal cheat days. What’s more, rest days do not mean days you are not active.

What is Active Recovery?

Just because your muscles are repairing themselves doesn’t mean you should sit around eating chips and watching TV. There are ways for you to provide your muscles with the rest that they need, while still working to ensure your body remains healthy. This is what we refer to as active recovery.

Active recovery consists of deliberate lifestyle choices made on your rest days to help your body become more fit. The first step to incorporating active recovery in your weekly fitness regime is to shift your mindset. Stop thinking of the days you are not doing strengthening workouts as “off days.” Having this mindset goes a long way in changing your attitude towards how you should spend this critical time.

The second step is to have a plan, because when you don’t have a plan it becomes so much easier to slack off. Your plan should consist of healthy meals and snacks to consume that benefit your body’s overall health. Foods rich in protein, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals are your best friend. Make sure that you not only have healthy foods on hand, but that you know what you will make, or better yet, have those meals prepped and ready to go. 

Your plan should also include some type of movement. It’s important to continue some sort of routine so that you don’t lose momentum. It becomes so much harder to work out three days a week, for example, when you do absolutely nothing the other four. There are, in fact, exercises you can do that benefit the recovery process. The key is to move in a way that gets the blood flowing to your muscles without putting too much strain on them. Here are some examples of good active recovery workouts that you can incorporate into your planning:<

The Best Workouts for Active Recovery

Flexibility and Mobility Training

After intense workouts,  your muscles often get tense. Flexibility and mobility training is a phenomenal way to loosen them up again without adding unnecessary stress.

This sort of training incorporates various stretches or loose, fluid movements. BodyRock Trainer, Michael Levine, has designed an entire series dedicated to mobility and stretching, aptly titled BR Stretch & Mobility. 


Try this class now, for free! You can also sign up for a free month of BR+ after and continue rocking your active rest days. 

Fun Activities

The definition of fun varies from person to person, but the fact remains that doing something active that brings you joy is a great way to spend your active recovery days. Whether it’s playing a sport (with your family or in a league), swimming in your pool, going for a bike ride, or kayaking, incorporating some fun movement is an excellent way to spend your active recovery days. 

Interval Training

This option is for those of you who are interested in extra calorie burning (don’t forget weight loss is mostly dependent on your diet!). You can do interval training by alternating jogging, walking, and sprinting. Or you can practise a few sprints to get your heart pumping. Or you can simply take a good, long walk. All of these options keep the calories burning and your body recuperating. 


Yoga is another great way to increase mobility in a gentle way. This exercise loosens and lengthens your muscles helping you to build them easier, all the while practising mindfulness and concentration. This is a great mental and physical practice for active recovery days.

Sign up to try BR Yoga! The first month is free. 

As amazing as these types of exercises are, you don’t need to practice them on every active recovery day. There are other, less strenuous activities that are just as constructive.

Other Active Recovery Day Activities

Meal Prep

We briefly touched on this earlier, but it cannot be stressed enough how important nutrition is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. An active recovery day can simply consist of you planning nutritious meals and preparing them for the week ahead. This is a productive, yet modest task that has you putting your overall wellbeing first. 

Mental Workout

Fitness isn’t just about improving your body, it’s about improving your brain too. When it comes to brain-training, there is a multitude of options to choose from. Maybe you want to learn an instrument, do a puzzle, read an academic article on a topic you’re passionate about, watch a documentary, play a game of chess, or something totally different. It’s all up to you. As long as you continually stimulate your brain, you’ll have a healthier body in the long run. 

Having Fun 

Incorporating fun into your day to day life is just as important as staying active. If you enjoy reading, watching movies, playing video games, or chatting with friends, you should never let fitness totally replace these activities. Keeping yourself entertained and happy helps you approach fitness with a more positive mindset.

So, there you have it! You know what an active recovery day is and how to spend it to the benefit of your mind and body.

Don’t forget: there’s a free month trial of BR+ with your name on it. Get access to mobility training and stretching, yoga as well as meal prep tips and recipe to make the most of your active recovery. Sign up for your free trial now!

How do you like to spend your active recovery days? Share in the comments.

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