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Active Recovery for Runners: An oxymoron or something more?

active recovery

 

Believe it or not, research shows that active recovery is the best way to keep your maintain your fitness on days off.  Active recovery, or cross training, is taking a break from your normal training regimen by doing another activity.  For instance, a football player may swim laps on his off day.  Working out instead of remaining completely sedentary has been shown to aid in recovery by increasing blood flow to damaged tissues and reducing the amount of atrophy that occurs to muscles even 24 hours post workout.

 

If you are training 5-6 days per week consider incorporating one of these workouts into your schedule.

 

1. Riding a Bike

Biking is a great way to actively recover without exhausting your body.  There’s less impact on your joints when biking as compared to running and depending upon the terrain you can increase the difficulty of the exercise.   If biking isn’t necessarily an activity you enjoy invite some friends to ride with you on a Saturday morning and make it a social event.  The miles will fly by and you’ll hardly notice the time.

 

active recovery

2. Running on the AlterG

The AlterG is a state of the art treadmill that uses NASA technology to decrease your body weight up to 20%.  For active recovery purposes, it’s best to set your body weight percentage at 85-90%.  Even this small decrease in weight relieves pressure on your ankles, knees, and hips while still allowing your body to go through the normal running motion.  Running on the AlterG even once a week can increase your speed and add to your mileage.

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3. Swimming

People tend to disregard swimming even though it’s fantastic whole body cardio exercise because it involves a little more preparation.   However, throwing a swimsuit and towel into your gym bag pales in comparison to the benefits of a 30-minute swim.  Swimming laps at an even pace adds to your oxygen capacity and is a resistance exercise for your upper body, which may get neglected during training.

 

So whether you’re training for your first 5k or your 20th marathon, remember to stay active on those off days!