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Active Recovery Vs. Passive Recovery: Which Is the Best Choice for You?


Active Recovery Vs. Passive Recovery: Which Is the Best Choice for You?
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The post-workout recovery is as important as the workout itself. Your body must heal before progressing to the next day’s training. Not recovering can often result in overtraining and burnout. However, to ensure that you recover completely after an intense workout session, you must understand the difference between active and passive recovery.

Passive recovery is complete rest. It is compared to a good night’s sleep. You may avoid anything strenuous during these days, such as heavy yard work, cleaning the house, or going on a long walk. On the other hand, active recovery is similar to taking a quick nap. This recovery period involves engaging in moderate to easy-intensity activities like walking, cross-training yoga, hiking, and other activities that get your blood pumping but aren’t too challenging.

To get the best out of your training, it is a good idea to include both active and passive recovery in your rest days. However, the difference between the two exercises may be discovered by looking at the routines that they both incorporate. 

Passive Recovery 

Passive recovery, as mentioned above, is a total rest day. There’s no exercise at all. A certified personal trainer Corey Phelps states that “passive recovery is a must if you are injured, sick, or when your body tells you to.” If you have been working hard for five days straight and suffer from major muscle soreness, you may need to take a break. She further says that “a true rest day is important in avoiding burnout and reducing the risk of overtraining.”

You can either go about your daily activities while you take the day off or get a massage to help increase blood flow and relax your muscles. According to Matt Pippin, a certified strength and conditioning coach, “the best time for passive recovery is often immediately after an intensive workout or the next day.”

Passive recovery methods focus on inactivity and stillness. These are the five main types of passive recovery:

1. Stress Management

Stress management should be a major focus of rest days. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) that controls the body includes the parasympathetic and the sympathetic.

The parasympathetic mode is called “rest and digest,” while the sympathetic mode is “fight or flight.” Both operate in opposite directions. When one of them is activated, the other is suppressed. 

To maximize recovery, you must be in a parasympathetic condition on rest days. However, most people spend too much time in a sympathetic mode. The long-term effects of being in a sympathetic condition include reducing our ability to gain strength and build lean muscle.

Modern life is full of stressors. While some of these stresses may seem minor, they can create chronically high-stress levels when combined.

Stress has many negative consequences for your health. There are many ways to manage stress. You must find the one that works best for you. Calming breathing techniques are the best for most people.

A sign that you are in a sympathetic state is shallow breathing. This can limit your body’s capacity to recover by preventing the normal oxygenation of cells. To calm your body, it can be as simple as taking a deep, long, steady breath through your nose and holding it for a few moments before exhaling through the mouth. 

You can incorporate breathing techniques right after a workout to speed up your recovery. This will allow you to shift from the “fight or flee” mode required for hard training into the therapeutic mode of “rest and digest.” This strategy can instantly lower stress levels and promote oxygenation, speeding up recovery. It will help you relax and fall asleep if you train in the evening.

You can take a proactive approach to breathing as stress management. We recommend that you do it every day. Although post workout is great for recovery, it’s also a good idea to use breathing techniques on rest days.

2. Meditation

Meditation is an old-school method for some people, but it is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve brain health. It also promotes recovery after hard training.

Simply being away from the daily hustle and bustle and taking 5-10 minutes each day to calm your mind can positively impact your recovery process. You can also practice mindfulness by sitting in silence, focusing on your breathing, chillaxing, or simply being quiet.

The point is just to sit still and concentrate for a few minutes. You may find that “Belly breathing,” which involves deep, slow inhalations through the nose and slow exhalations through the mouth, works wonders.

Guided meditations are a strategic way to incorporate meditation into your daily life. There are various online apps available. Try some guided meditations that last 5-10 minutes, and they will chill you out. You will notice a considerable boost in your ability to manage stress.

3. Hydration

Hydration is an essential factor in your training and recovery. According to research, hydration is vital for your health, fitness, workout performance, and post-workout recovery. You may be well aware that hydration is essential, and you would also know the importance of hydrating during your workouts. But it is also possible that you are less aware of it during the rest of the day, especially during recovery days.

Your recovery status can be affected by your awareness of your hydration status. This is true for the rest of the 23 hours of training days and rest days. The human body contains 60% water, so it should be no surprise that keeping hydrated is crucial.

All of our bodily functions are supported by water. Proper hydration levels enable efficient digestion and oxygen delivery in body cells. They also allow for temperature regulation, hormone production, lower strain on the heart, and better nutrient uptake. All these factors play an important role in training and recovering.

A simple way to check your hydration status is your pee color. Your pee should be clear and pale straw-colored. This indicates that you are well hydrated. The darker your pee, the less hydrated you are. 

The goal is 0.04 liters per kg (2.20 lb) of body weight. This is equivalent to 4 liters per day for a 100kg (220 lb) person (100 x 0.04 = 4) 4 litres equals 135 fluid ounces. Other factors such as activity level, perspiration rate, and ambient temperature will affect your exact needs. Start with 0.04 liters/kg and adjust as necessary.

4. Sleep

Proper sleep is crucial for your mental and physical recovery; therefore, it is important to improve your sleep quality. You can increase your recovery by taking naps to supplement your nighttime sleep.

While napping may be a great way to get quality sleep and improve recovery, it shouldn’t replace regular sleep. Try to get a good night’s sleep as your number one priority. 

Although napping is a great option to maximize recovery, you should not take a nap too close to bedtime as your night sleep will be compromised. Naps in the late morning or early evening are good options for improving recovery. However, excessive naps can lead to sleep insomnia. So, keep your naps short. Napping for 20-30 minutes can increase mental cognition and recovery. 

5. Massage

Although some scientific studies support massage’s physiological benefits, the true benefits seem psychological. Relaxation is an important part of managing stress and can help you recover and adapt.

Deep tissue massage is not the best option because massage’s relaxation effects are the strongest. Deep tissue massages can be uncomfortable and not relaxing for anyone who has ever had one. This can negate the main benefit of massage. However, a gentle approach might be better for your recovery.

Active Recovery

While rest days are charming, active recovery seems to be the better option. Active recovery means that you are still moving but at a lower level. According to the fitness trainer Phelps, “active recovery can include light, low-intensity activities like biking, jogging or gentle yoga.”

It could also include running in the pool, or light, slow strength training to increase your heart rate without causing any trauma to your body.

These workouts can be very beneficial to your body. Phelps says, “they can reduce inflammation, stiffness, blood flow and help clear your body of lactic acid buildup.” 

Following are some examples of exercises you can do on your active recovery days. These workouts will keep your blood flowing well, help you repair muscles, and even burn calories.

1. Light Strength Training

You can still strength-train during active recovery days but at a lower level of intensity. Light-weight training, also known as deloading allows the joints to recover from heavy loads. It also prepares you to handle higher stresses later on. 

Deloading is a great option for those who lift weights regularly. It is easy to learn and very simple to do. Adding sled drags and pulls are the best way to do it. You can walk forward or backward with a sled to increase your recovery time and distance. The key to moving well is not to put too much weight on your legs.

Post Workout Powder

Post-workout powders provide essential nutrients that the body needs after a tough exercise session or recover from an injury.

2. Restorative Yoga

After a HIIT or long run, you can hop into a gentle yoga class or perform some restorative poses by yourself. Some of the great options are Yin, Hatha, and restorative yoga. 

Yoga promotes flexibility and muscle activation in an easy-to-use way. It allows the muscle to remain engaged without being overused. You should aim for a minimum of 30 mins, but if time is available, you can go for 60-90 minutes to get the best results.

3. Swimming

Swimming can be a great activity for recovery since there is no pressure on your joints. Swimming allows muscles to move freely when tired and sore because of the lack of stress and water impact.

This improves circulation, which stimulates healing. Swim at a slow pace for between 25 and 45 minutes to reap the full benefits. Experts suggest that breaststroke and freestyle are simple and the best strokes for active recovery. Don’t try to do the demanding butterfly drills!

4. Cycling

Make a trip outside and then hop on a bicycle to enjoy the views and fresh air. A bike ride is a great way to get active, provided you don’t climb large hills or mountains.

If you keep the intensity low, you can go for 30 minutes to 2 hours at a leisurely pace. Bike riding is an alternative form of transportation, and you can go to work commuting on your bike. 

5. Walking

Walking is a great way to keep active during recovery. Walking, especially if it’s brisk, helps keep blood flowing to your muscles. You’ll be able to get those 10,000 steps in or at least close. Want to gain even better? Take a friend along and go for a walk to meet up. You won’t even notice how far you are!

6. Foam rolling

Get a foam roller or massager to get rid of those tight spots. Foam Rolling reduces muscle pain and fatigue by increasing blood flow to the tissue and oxygen. Studies suggest that foam rolling is a type of myofascial relaxation that helps reduce tension and decrease the risk of injury and overuse.

Set aside 15 to 20 minutes for sitting down and relaxing with foam rolling. You can take it slow and work on the sore or tense areas. Foam rolling is a great way to make your body flexible and relaxed. However, this will not be a quick fix, and overdoing it could lead to backfires. 

Foam Roller For Back & Yoga Exercises

Foam roller gives you a similar feeling to a therapist's hand in the comfort of your home. It is ideal for fitness enthusiasts, gym-goers, Pilates, and yoga practitioners.

You can also use post workout supplements to activate your recovery. Supplements offer basic micronutrients which are essential for your recovery. 

The post workout powder by DMoose contains L-Glutamine, which speeds up muscle recovery. This formula can promote anabolic states by increasing muscle breakdown and ensuring a positive nitrogen balance. If you train at high intensity, the amino acids in this formula can help reduce muscle soreness.


You are responsible for listening to your body and prioritizing rest and recovery to ensure you perform at your best. Both active and passive recovery are important, so you should incorporate these into your training routine. It is easy to see the difference between active and passive recovery by looking at how much you sleep. While taking breaks and proper sleep is important, excessive sleep and rest will make you lazy and reduce your workout abilities. So, maintaining a healthy balance between the rest and training days is crucial for staying active and consistent.

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