How to do active rest?

Active rest days are the Achilles’ heel for many top athletes. Recovering from intense workouts isn’t just about ice baths and deep tissue massages, or taking care of your sleep. But it’s also about how we move when we’re not in the gym.

If you’re in pain after a weightlifting session, it’s tempting to stay on the couch until your next gym session. But getting up and moving around a little, or a lot, can help you get back into training much faster. We will recover faster and train our body and mind to be able to handle heavier loads when we get back on the platform.

What is?

Active recovery days are more or less what they seem: we are recovering from intense training through activity. Instead of resting completely, we are moving the body strategically in a low impact but effective way.

Active recovery days should be as much a part of the training program as regular lifting days. By making them a structured part of your routine, you’ll keep your body as safe as possible from overtraining. We will also be setting ourselves up for success by prioritizing mobility, flexibility, and short sessions of consistent cardio.

Active recovery is often considered more beneficial than inactivity, complete rest, or sitting. It can maintain blood flow and help muscles recover and rebuild after intense physical activity. However, we will avoid active rest if we are injured or in a lot of pain. A doctor may need to evaluate the symptoms of an injury.

During passive recovery , the body remains completely at rest. It can involve sitting or being inactive. Passive recovery is important and beneficial if you are injured or in pain. Passive recovery may also be needed if we are very tired, either mentally or physically, after exercising. If none of these circumstances apply to us and we only have general pain, active recovery is considered a better option.


Active rest workouts bring many benefits to the body. They can help us recover faster after a tough workout.

Improves blood flow

Performing low-intensity exercises on active rest days will improve blood flow throughout your body. Doing so will not only help you feel more alert and awake (although it probably will).

It will also help remove muscle waste products like metabolites or lactic acid, which build up when you train intensely. That’s why low-intensity exercise helps with muscle recovery: it gives the body a chance to restore balance.

Provides mental rest

Low-intensity “rest” daytime training offers athletes a recovery option and preparation for future higher-intensity sessions. In other words, you can temper your training anxiety a bit by training on days off.

Keeping the intensity low will serve as a reminder that taking it easy from time to time is not an escape, it is necessary. Overtraining or training in severe pain won’t make you a healthier athlete, but learning to take it easy will. Active recovery days can help a lot with that.

prevent injuries

Sometimes active recovery days feel like a long walk on the beach. That’s great for increasing blood flow and flushing toxins out of your system. But it can also include other aspects of active recovery days.

We can think of dynamic warm-ups, corrective and mobility circuits, or static training. All of this can help prepare your body for injury prevention by making you more resilient on the platform.

tipos de descanso activo

Types of active rest

Studies show that active recovery exercise can help remove blood lactate in the body. Blood lactate can build up during intense exercise and results in an increase in hydrogen ions in the body. This accumulation of ions can lead to muscle contraction and fatigue.

By participating in active recovery, this buildup decreases, helping your muscles feel less fatigued and keeping you active. We may also feel better the next time we exercise. There are a few different ways to participate in active recovery exercise.

Cool down after a workout

After a hard workout, we may want to stop and sit or lie down. But, if we keep moving, we can help the recovery a lot. We will try to cool down gradually. For example, if we go for a run, we will do a short, light jog or walk for 10 minutes.

If we’re lifting weights or doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), we’ll try the stationary bike at an easy pace for a few minutes. As an active cool down, we’ll make sure to train at no more than 50 percent of maximum effort. We will gradually reduce the effort from there.

During interval (circuit) training

If participating in interval or circuit training, it is also beneficial to perform a series of active recovery exercises between series.

One study found that athletes who ran or biked to the point of fatigue recovered faster while continuing at 50 percent of their maximum effort compared to stopping completely.

on rest days

One or two days after a strenuous workout, we can still engage in active rest. We will try to go for a walk or ride a bike. We can also try stretching, swimming or yoga.

Active recovery on rest days will help our muscles recover. This is especially important if we are in pain.

ejemplos de descanso activo

active rest exercises

An active recovery day should include something other than your usual gym workout. We should not be training at maximum effort. We must go slowly and not try too hard. Some examples of active recovery exercises are:

  • Swimming . Swimming is a low-impact exercise that does not damage the joints and muscles. One study found that among triathletes who followed a HIIT session with recovery in the pool had better exercise performance the next day. Researchers believe that water may help reduce inflammation.
  • Tai chi or yoga . Practicing tai chi or yoga can be beneficial for active recovery. Both help stretch sore muscles and increase flexibility. It can also reduce stress and inflammation.
  • Walk or jog . Walking is one of the best forms of active recovery. If we are runners, we can also do a slow jog. Walking or jogging at a leisurely pace can improve blood flow and help with recovery. Even a few minutes of movement the day after an intense workout is enough to promote circulation and help reduce stiffness and soreness.
  • Cycling . Cycling at a leisurely pace is a great way to achieve active recovery. It is low impact and does not put pressure on the joints. We can ride a stationary bike or bike outdoors.
  • Myofascial release with a foam roller . Active recovery doesn’t just include movement. We can also stretch and roll a foam roller over parts of the body and get many of the same benefits. If your muscles are sore, foam rolling can help relieve tension, reduce inflammation, and increase range of motion.


Active recovery exercises are generally considered safe. If we are in pain and suspect we have an injury, we will avoid active recovery. We will stop exercising until we see a doctor.

A doctor or physical therapist may recommend forms of active recovery including stretching, swimming, or cycling while we recover from an injury. During active rest, we’ll make sure we’re not working more than 50 percent of maximal effort. This will give the body the opportunity it needs to rest.