When you see the word “rest day” or “recovery” referenced in training plans I think you have 2 choices as an athlete:
- do nothing (passive recovery) – here you take the word “rest” literally and do nothing.
- do something to help your body recover (active recovery) – here you recognise that there are some things you can do to help your body recover faster than doing nothing.
I am a huge advocate of strategy number 2! I don’t enjoy sitting and doing nothing – I want to help my body recover and be in its best condition ahead of my next training session.
Is there a downside to active recovery? Almost certainly. The two obvious dangers to me are over-doing your recovery (so it becomes another physical training session) and not giving your mind the opportunity to switch off. Training and racing both use up brainpower and emotional resources so you do need to just switch off for time to time, either a regular slot during the week or a period of time in your training plan.
So as long as you on top of those things, here are some ideas for active recovery. I’ve mapped them on a chart to show the relationship between my enjoyment of them and the benefit I think I get from them. This will be personal to each of us, but if you haven’t tried some of these and you find it takes you a long time to recover from a session it’s worth giving them a go. Have fun!
I should say I’ve excluded nutrition from this analysis. That deserves a standalone version.
Cryochamber – highlighted as I’ve never tried it so this is an estimated analysis. I expect the experience to be like have an ice bath but more effective. For the cost, it ought to be!
Deep tissue massage vs dry needling – if you’ve never had dry needling check out this website. I’d describe it as shoving-a-needle-into-a-muscle-knot-until-it-can’t-take-any-more-and-admits-defeat. I find it HUGELY effective for most muscle groups with the exception of abs (ow) and calves (ow ow). When the needle hits the spot your muscle spasms and shakes the knot out – quite a strange feeling but you do get used to it. It’s the “nuclear” option when a deep tissue massage just isn’t going to work.
Compression kit – personally I don’t enjoy exercising in compression wear as I find it too tight and restrictive, and often overheat, so I save it for the coldest days out. However, I am a big fan of wearing calf sleeves after a long to support blood circulation.