Getting the most out of training often depends on how you feel physically and mentally. You may even be able to predict how well your session is going to go before you have even start, simply by your mood. As a result we are constantly searching for the best forms of recovery and how/when to use them to best effect. I have previously talked about foam rolling and its benefits both pre and post exercise – Read Here – Below is a look at active recovery and how you can use it to improve your sports performance.
What Is It?
If you take a look into “Recovery For Performance” by Hausswirth & Mujika you will find the following description. ‘Active recovery consists of maintaining sub-maximal work after fatiguing exercise, with the aim of preserving performance between events’. Essentially, continuing to move, rather than becoming still or passive between work periods.
You can plan active recovery as part of your session, between working sets. However, you can also be build it into the cool down, generally before any static stretching. As well as this, you can incorporate active recovery into the days following an intense or heavy training session.
Why Does it Work?
The body is constantly trying to return to a state of homeostasis (stable equilibrium of the body). It has been shown that active recovery can speed up your return to homeostasis and reduce any Oxygen debt that may have accumulated. As well as this, there is a quicker uptake and utilisation of Oxygen during recovery while active.
Active recovery can help promote recovery from muscle damage. By incorporating it into your ‘rest days’ you will increase local blood flow, This helps clear the build up of any muscle-cell debris. In addition improved local blood flow will increase the transport of nutrients to the muscles.
Okay, So When Should I Do It?
Short sprints of <6 seconds have shown that active recovery does not improve performance maintenance any more than passive recovery. However, when sprints last >20 seconds, active recovery reduced accumulated Oxygen debt significantly more than passive recovery. Finally, when a training session lasts less than 30 Minutes, Active Recovery recovery significantly accelerates return time to homeostasis.
Essentially, when completing mid length intervals or periods of work, active recovery can significantly improve performance. However, this is only relevant if the training session has a time limit. If you have all the time in the world to train, simply increase the passive recovery time between sets.
I use active recovery all the time when Personal Training in Twickenham check out any of my sessions in Bushy Park and you will see steady state performance maintenance in action. I personally feel it is a great tool for getting the most out of people in the short time we get together.