If you’re a runner, Cross Fitter or you like to lift heavy you’ve most likely have had an injury before. A few days ago, in the afternoon I was doing deadlifts 3 sets of 4 315 pounds after a 10-mile run that morning. Currently I am training for 2 marathons in the spring and I always do a strength program that runs a long side my marathon training program. A 315-pound deadlift doesn’t seem like much but after ten miles it was a challenge. I’ve dropped over 20-pounds of weight after my bulking phase and my strength has suffered. I gave the 3 deadlift sets all I had and felt it all over the body. When I went out for a run the next day I felt my hamstring give out at mile 6 of my 10-mile run. Head held low I had to walk a half mile home.
At the time of the injury I felt like giving up on my marathon training. My goal is to Boston qualify in the spring and this hiccup might get in the way of that goal. I called my wife walking home explaining how pissed of I was that this might not happen because I may have pulled my hamstring. After I got home I found that I had full range of motion in my legs telling me that my hamstring was not pulled but it needed a break from running.
After my emotional breakdown about possibly losing all the fitness I’ve built up I started planning how to work around the pain to keep me in the game. I ordered a bike for my basement. I used a rower and bike at the gym for hour and half to mimic a ten-mile run. My goal is to maintain fitness while promoting recovery in the injured area.
Active recovery is becoming a recommended treatment for people that are suffering from injury. Here’s some benefits of doing active recovery.
Before we get into the benefits lets go over what active recovery is.
What is Active Recovery
Active recovery is doing an activity at a lower intensity than you normally do in training or in competition. If you’re injured, you might be using a completely different activity than you’re used to. Doing activity at a lower intensity will promote blood flow to clear out lactic acid and heal tears that might be in soft tissue. The idea behind active recovery is speed up healing to get you back to full speed faster without losing your fitness level.
Here are some benefits of active recovery
Speeds up healing
Blood flow to the injured area is one of the best ways to help the area heal. Years ago, the medical community kept people from moving after surgery but the times have changed. If you talk to anyone that has had a heart or hip surgery the staff gets them up and moving as soon as possible. The reason is that it promotes healing. Getting blood flowing lets the body heal faster than it would if you were laying around. If you are suffering an injury you should be using active recovery to get you back to your training program.
Keeps you Focused
If you’re training for an event and you become sidelined this may cause you to feel depressed. Instead of skipping workouts you should work around the injury. This will make sure that you stay focused while your body heals. The mind plays a huge role when it comes to running a race or hitting a power lifting personal record. Doing an active recovery program will keep your mind sharp so when you come back to a full load of training you’ll be ready.
When you’re injured you may not be able to improve fitness but you can maintain it. As I stated before I am currently training for a marathon. If my injury lasts for a few weeks I don’t want to lose all the fitness I’ve built before the race. When riding a bike or doing a rower it keeps my body in shape while I am healing. Because I am used to running long distance other forms of cardio seem easy and it shows on my heart rate monitor. Doing these low heart rate sessions aren’t improving my fitness but they are maintaining.
If you’re not injured but you feel burnt out, you might benefit from adding active recovery workouts into your program. If you crush a long run or a heavy lifting day you might want to program an active recovery workout the day after the high intensity workout. Doing a lower intensity workout can help lower soreness and give your nervous system a break from going hard the day before. Blood flow helps clear out any junk that remains from the day before. Set up your active recovery day after a hard workout for maximum benefit.
Being injury, over trained or having surgery is something that many us must deal with at some point in our life. Using active recovery as a tool to help the healing process is an important part of staying healthy. Active recovery speeds up healing, maintains fitness while injured, keeps you focused and prevents over training. Remember that training is exercise + rest not just exercise.
Check out our guide to program design