As much as we would all like to absolutely burn it down every single day and push our limits in the gym with every training session, that is not a reality. As much as I like to think my Viking blood makes me superhuman, that is not a reality. We all need to listen closely to our bodies more, and hear what it's saying. If you have heavy 360s planned but your triceps are still sore from your previous workout, then the best thing to do is not "suck it up and get to work!!" Keep in mind I am talking about fatigue and not just being lazy and avoiding a hard workout. I hope we have the body awareness to feel the difference when your mind tells you to stop but your body is actually primed and ready to roll. So, if it is fatigue and your body is tired, we need to slow things down a bit and hit an active recovery workout.
One of the worst things you can do when your body is exhausted from training is load up on pre workout and bang out an intense workout. Maybe you will get lucky and squeak out a good workout but what I have seen in my almost 14 years as a professional personal trainer is when people are redlining and they push hard, that is when we hurt our selves. This is when the form breaks down and the body heads to snap city. This is when we overload our adrenal glands and do some serious damage, as well as get adrenal fatigue. This can cause our training to suffer for weeks, months or years.
Thus, you do not have to skip the gym altogether, and I have a fun and beneficial solution in the form of an active recovery workout.
So, what exactly is active recovery?
An active recovery workout involves performing low-intensity exercises or movements. Things like light mace work, light kettlebell complexes, resistance band exercises, walking, yoga, soft tissue work (foam rolling, massage ball) or any other low-intensity movement that gets the body moving and blood pumping. Active recovery can actually reduce soreness and speed up the muscle rebuilding process. It increases the blood flow without putting a heavy strain on your muscles and joints.
As we get older active recovery becomes even more important because our body does not bounce back the way it once did when we were in our early 20’s. As we age the recovery process becomes just as important as the training and we need to program accordingly. It's not about going all out, it becomes about training smarter not harder (this should be at any age). This is how we get results at any age and active recovery plays a massive part along with proper nutrition.
These are our three pillars of success for getting results from training
All three need to go hand in hand to get proper results and if one starts to slack, it will be a lot harder to hit your personal goals.
A lot of people wonder what is better when they are sore or physically exhausted, active recovery or complete rest (aka passive recovery). The answer is simple, active recovery is best unless you are injured or in pain (not soreness, pain). For those dealing with an injury, passive recovery is necessary.
However, if you are not injured or in real pain, and you are just generally sore, then active recovery will be the most advantageous way to spend your "rest" day. You can do a 15-30 minute active recovery workout.
While an active recovery can be done with any kind of equipment, similar to a normal workout but a lighter load, our favorite tool for active recovery is the steel mace. Steel maces come in light weights, and the movements are multiplanar and compound, which is what you want for active recovery. Moreover, steel mace swings, and steel mace movement in general, are great for loosening up tight muscles. The mace is a fantastic tool for keeping mobility up to par.
So, for me, a typical active recovery workout would be to do a full warm up with whichever stretches/movements I need to focus on some soft tissue work then grab a 10lb set for set steel mace and get to work. So keep in mind a 10lb mace is very light for me and when I’m doing my actual training I use between 30-60lb maces regularly. So if you are just starting out and a 10 lb mace is heavy or challenging for you lets leave the mace work for your regular workouts or a lighter alternative. For myself, I like to do a lot of the same movements that I would do with a heavier steel mace but with 10lbs going through different complexes.
1) One Hand 360’s
Work- 60 sec (each side) x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 sec
2) One Hand 360/ Punch & Rotate
Work- 60 sec x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 Sec
3) One Hand 360’s / Half Swing/ Lateral punch
Work – 60 sec (each side) x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 Sec
4) One Hand 360/ Squat/ Reverse Lunge/ Lateral Lunge
Work – 60 Sec x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 Sec
5) Row Clean Press
Work – 60 Sec (each side) x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 Sec
6) High Plank Mace Drags
Work – 30 Sec (each side) x 3 Sets
Rest – 60 Sec
Scott uses a 10LB mace for this workout
Every single time after one of these steel mace active recovery workouts I always feel so much better than when I started the workout and that’s the point. So, with my body moving on my recovery day, getting some beneficial blood flow to help my body recover, I will now be ready to conquer my next intense programmed workouts, pushing my body and feeling great.
Overall, active recovery will help you recover faster after a difficult workout or week of training by:
While active recovery is typically done on rest days, it can also be done as a cool down after a workout and intra-workout between sets.
After a very intense workout, many people want to sit or lie down immediately. However, gradually cooling down after with light movements will always be more beneficial for recovery. So, essentially, a cool down after an intense training session is an active recovery workout.
If you participate in circuit training or various other kinds of block training, doing active recovery exercises between circuits or blocks is another great way to improve recovery response. This is a lot better than completely stopping for 3-5 minutes.
Then, of course, you have active recovery rest days. If you've completed a strenuous workout the day before and today is your rest day, you will see much better recovery results by doing an active workout or even just being more active throughout the day. The last thing you want to do after an intense workout is become a couch potato for the day. This will seriously prolong your recovery process.
Contact me with questions
If you have any questions on different recovery methods please reach out to me on Instagram at @viala_training or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you and hope you enjoy and add active recovery into your week of training.
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