October 7, 2017
Last Updated:
April 30, 2019

Active Recovery Days: The Powerful Training Tool Most People Neglect

As one of the core pieces to the wellness puzzle, regular exercise can improve your health, weight management, and stress levels. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to finish that last rep of weights, wipe the sweat off your eyelids, and strut home—feeling like that rockstar you truly are.

Yet, while your muscles need to constantly be “shocked” through various moderate-to-high intensity workouts, they also need some well-deserved rest during the week in order to recover from those strenuous sessions and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

How can muscle loss happen? If you don’t give your body rest and repair, as well as a protein-packed post-workout snack, muscles will continue to break down. These tears will only get deeper, leading to chronic soreness, fatigue, and higher risk of injury.

To avoid these overtraining symptoms, it’s a good idea to get that day of low-impact cardio to break up those HIIT training sessions. And, Katie Dunlop, creator of Love Sweat Fitness, can back us up here.

“If you’re serious about getting fit and creating change in your body, active rest days are key. Yes, our bodies need rest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean curling up on the couch watching Netflix all day,” she says. Instead, you can do a few exercises that are less intense, but can still get your heart rate up and burn calories.

So, what does a good active recovery workout look like? “The focus is on increasing mobility, flexibility and circulation to send fresh blood to those sore muscles and help them recover faster,” says Dunlop.

Here, these active rest workouts help get you ready for your next training day without putting stress on your joints or overworking your muscles. And, you’ll still burn some serious calories, which can be between 200 and 600 calories a person, depending on body size, weight, and other factors.

This means you don’t have to take a day off working toward your #goals, but you’ll also get time to rest and recover so you are ready to get after it again tomorrow, she says.

A Long Walk

Here’s a great excuse to get those steps in. By taking a long walk, you’re staying active for a long period of time, keeping your heart rate at a slightly higher, steady pace, than if you were seated, she says.

You’re free to take this walk on the treadmill (where you can manipulate with incline, but avoid over-exerting yourself), or you can head outdoors, for some fresh air and natural beauty.

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Better yet? Grab a buddy. Walking with someone else will help the time pass, and it’ll make you more motivated to travel the distance.

A Light Hike

While this doesn’t mean climbing super steep mountains or doing fancy interval work, going for a light hike could provide less impact on joints and keep you active, with a higher heart rate, on a rest day, she says.

So, pack a great DIY trail mix (one that’s high in healthy fats and protein, as well as complex carbs) and hit the trails. A trail mix tip? Include one or two nuts, one or two seeds, and a sugary item, such as dried fruit, shredded coconut, or dark chocolate chips. This will help keep portion size down, with the heath factor up. And, to bulk up the mix, you can add popcorn or Chex cereal—the volume will let you eat a bit more for fewer calories.

Yoga & Pilates

Another great exercise for an “off day,” yoga and Pilates can help open you up and ease tension. “If you are feeling super sore, try a yoga or Pilates class that will spend more time stretching you out,” she says. As there are several poses that include flexibility and muscle relief work, such as pigeon pose or downward dog, this type of workout can help you overcome the joint soreness and stiffness.

What’s more, you can also use these stretches for everyday cool downs after those HIIT classes. By actively stretching on a consistent basis, you’ll help prevent injury and overuse, so while you’ll still be taking those recovery days, your body won’t “need it” as much.

What are your favorite ways to get your heart rate up at a lower intensity on rest days? Please share with us below!


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