Most people will never reach their full athletic or strength potential in the gym, because they forgo recovery workouts and rest days. Your muscles need time to grow stronger and heal from small micro-tears caused by lifting. Athletes who do not make recovery part of their routine basically plateau in their lifts and often become injured.
Rest means taking a day off from almost all physical activity. This can be very beneficial. But if it's tough for you to give up doing something physical every day, recovery workouts are the way to go. You remain active by doing activities or performing exercises that help your muscles recover quicker.
Here are a few recovery workout ideas aimed at helping you continue to make gains in the weight room and avoid injuries.
Recovery Workout Ideas
Swimming allows your whole body to move and work with light resistance and low impact. It also gives the bones and joints a break from the forces of lifting weights. You can also run, jump, do Jumping Jacks in the pool. Remember, this is a recovery workout, so less is more. Do not plan to swim across the English Channel as a recovery day. A good rule of thumb would be about 30 minutes in the pool.
Give this a try! Yoga works your muscles differently than does regular lifting. Most yoga poses are an isometric muscle contraction, something athletes tend to neglect. Deep stretching, relaxation and increasing your range of motion are among the benefits. Start by talking with an instructor and taking classes for beginners or those designed for recovery. If you end up in a class for experienced "yogis," your recovery workout can quickly become an intense day of agony.
A cheaper version of a neuro-muscular massage, or sports massage, foam rolling can relieve stiffness and tightness in muscles while increasing range of motion. Spend about one minute foam rolling each major muscle group. When you find a tender spot, apply a little more pressure and work a smaller rolling pattern over that area. Foam rolling with some frequency will help with myofascial release, which can improve one's regular strength-training program.
Enjoy the great outdoors and get your recovery workout in at the same time. Hiking allows you to elevate your heart rate without extremely intense training. Being outside in the fresh air improves your attitude and is a great way to recharge mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Bring plenty of water and let someone know before you leave where you will be hiking.
There are many other good recovery workouts out there. The goal is to move and be active without overdoing it. Remember, heavy lifting micro-tears the muscle, and you need to allow time for your muscles to recover before you break them down again with another intense workout.
Adding one or two recovery workouts a week into your regular strength and conditioning program will help you continue to make great gains while avoiding injuries and plateauing.