Categories: Chiropractic

Active or Passive Recovery: Which is Better?

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Training doesn’t make us fitter – recovery from training does. So, how do we recover? An easy jog or spin, or a lazy day on the sofa, asks Beate Stindt, chartered physiotherapist at Six Physio.

Recovery can be either active or passive. Passive recovery is just that; total rest. A passive recovery day should not include any training. On these days you should rest and recover, which means no spring cleaning and no walking around the shops for the whole day.

An active recovery session usually involves your usual sport, be it running, swimming, cycling, or yoga, but at an easy to moderate intensity. Active recovery has been likened to a short nap – the aim is to feel better at the end of your workout than you did at the beginning. Training for an event places a huge amount of stress on your body, and hard sessions result in the hormone cortisol being released. Cortisol is a natural anti-inflammatory but, left to hang around in the blood for too long, can negatively interfere with muscle regeneration.

Active vs. Passive Recovery

One aim of active recovery is to clear the metabolic waste resulting from exercise and provide a higher level of blood flow to muscles in need of nutrients, allowing them to repair themselves.

While there is not yet conclusive evidence showing whether or not this really does result in quicker recovery, if you are going to try it, it must be done correctly to not contribute to fatigue. Many athletes will use an active recovery session as a technical workout and focus on form and technique, something they might not do during sessions with a higher intensity where technique work can be drowned out.

Some athletes will have a recovery workout between two hard workouts, while others may include a recovery week in their training program. A general rule of thumb for a recovery week/session would be to reduce your training volume by approximately 30 percent. If you train according to heart rate, make sure you complete your session at less than 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you need a break from all technology, you should make sure you can continue a conversation as a general rule. You should be able to speak in full sentences and not only the odd word or grunt.

Another way to ensure that you are not working too hard is to make sure you are comfortable breathing through your nose (make sure all nasal passages are clear!).

So which is best? The jury is still out. Like so many things in training, everyone has their own personal preference, and it is important to find your own and do it correctly. If you’re going to include active recovery sessions as a part of your training, resign yourself to the fact that you might not get admiring looks from passers-by or that you might be overtaken by your elderly neighbor on her bicycle with a fully laden basket. But remember: that’s okay!


An Olympic Athletes Journey

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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Active or Passive Recovery: Which is Better?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*

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