There is something inside of me which makes it hard to sit still for too long. Maybe its all in my head but I literally feel a physical sensation that tells me I need to move. I think I have always had this sensation for as long as I can remember. In my case, it works to my advantage. After many days of strenuous active or heavy workouts, it's important to allow your body time to recover from the damaged you have done to your muscles. In some cases, its important to let yourself put your feet up and sit back. For most days though, the better option would be to add some light activity that puts limited strain on the body. Stretching, a nice walk, or a gentle swim are all good ways to keep the body moving without adding much undue strain on your recovering muscle fibers. I want to share some of the key things I use for active recovery on my days off from the gym.
I will admit that swimming comes pretty natural to me. I feel at home in the water. It wasn't until 2017 when I took on the challenge of getting in a daily swim for the year that I saw the practical benefits come to fruition. I swam every day, rain or shine, and it was always outdoors in a river, lake or the Atlantic. Several months of the year the water felt just above freezing. It was tough to get started but once I embraced the fear of the cold and got on with it I loved it. Sometimes it could be five minutes in the water or an hour. The key was consistency. After a week of doing it I was feeling amazing. At the end of the year I realized just how much my sense of inner peace had improved. It was life changing.
Key Benefits of Swimming
It reduced mental stress.
It help improve balance, dexterity and coordination.
It help with flexibility.
It offered low-impact therapy for some lingering injuries I had and reduced swelling of my joints.
Hiking or Steady State Walking
I could tell you that hiking helps boost bone density, lowers risk of heart disease and helps improve your blood pressure but it would not be the real reason why I love it so much. It's actually the amazing feeling I get from the fresh air and sense of adventure that connecting with nature brings. The key for me is just pacing my hike and pointing in the right direction. These days I tend to carry a back pack for a little extra weight to up the challenge. It can also never hurt to bring a friend along but sometimes I will go alone. I just let someone know where I am going and for how long. We have some easily deceptive trails here in Ireland and I have learned that the hard way a few times.
Will you find me wanting to cycle 50 Km in a day? No, it's not my thing to be honest. I have done it and I have much respect for anyone who takes up long distance cycling. For me, cycling is something I do when I take it at a leisurely pace or ride to the gym or even town. I connect with the care free moments I found when riding my bike as a child and I can instantly feel the strains of every day life melt away. It's a great way to keep the blood flowing in my core and legs for sure. I just don't ever feel a strain on my joints which can be a huge relief. I love cycling when I visit a new country or take a short break away. I find a reason to make my down time active but not straining.
The list of activities I do for active recovery are numerous to be fair. I tend to prefer something I can do in the outdoors though. What matters is that you are doing a physical activity that is no more than 70% of the strain of your normal workout. Ideally, the activity reduces stress and allows you to catch your breathe so to speak. I think the hardest part is not finding something to do but rather sticking with it. What activities do you do as part of your own active recovery programme? I would love to hear from you.