Active rest: See improved recovery and performance

Active rest is a technique that can be used on your non-workout days to help your body recover faster from workouts and help with progression in your training activity. 

It is meant to be a light or easy day where you’re still moving, but not at the intensity you normally move. It can include physical activities such as foam rolling, stretching, jogging, walking, swimming or your typical workout routine but at a much lower intensity (no more than 60-70 percent of your maximum effort).

It might seem hard to do at first since you will essentially feel like you are just going through the motions, but it is important that you not ramp up the intensity of what you are doing as this will not produce the results you are seeking from an active rest day.  

Active rest, where you do not push yourself, will allow you to progress and recover faster from previous workouts. By keeping your body moving, you will increase blood flow to the areas affected by your workout.

This brings the necessary nutrients needed for muscle and tissue recovery, helping to flush out waste products contributing to muscle damage and fatigue that build up during exercise.

Active rest will help reduce the stiffness and soreness associated with delayed onset muscle soreness. You’ll feel stronger and faster when back in workout mode.  

A great way to incorporate active rest into your workout regime is by creating a self-care routine of steady state jogging, walking or cycling coupled with foam rolling and static stretching. By doing an activity like steady state jogging at a lower intensity you will increase blood flow and circulation.

Following this with foam rolling to target your lower body (IT bands, glutes, piriformis, quads, and hamstrings) and upper body (pecs, lats, biceps, and triceps) will release adhesions in your connective tissue surrounding the muscles and bones, much like a massage. 

Wrapping this up with static stretching will help increase the range-of-motion in your joints and increase the elasticity in your muscles to reduce stiffness. 


Ryan Haughey B.S. CPT – ACE, SASTM is the fitness manager and personal trainer at the University Club of Michigan State University. Call him at (517) 353.5113.

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