The Importance of Active Recovery

Active Rest Day – A Worthy Way

As athletes, we want to be the best we can be. The ultimate goal is to lead the healthiest life possible, and to become the strongest possible version of yourself. As CrossFitter’s, we get a healthy dose of intense interval training, training that is highly anaerobic, such as our 21-15-9 WOD’s, our Tabata’s, and variations of our AMRAP WOD’s in order to achieve our ultimate goal. All of which will provide outstanding benefits and are an excellent recipe for attaining health and fitness. But, let’s not overlook an important ingredient of fitness that, as daily CrossFit athletes, is sometimes ignored.

That often missing key ingredient in the fitness recipe is partaking in an active rest day, otherwise known as our Thursday’s here at CrossFit Worthy. Key word: Active!

Active rest days can include long duration biking, walking, running, rowing, lunging, pushing or pulling a sled, or carrying something. Longer duration exercise is a form of aerobic training.

So, what’s so great or necessary about doing long(er) duration exercise? As stated above, we already get a substantial volume of anaerobic training in CrossFit. Let’s take our hearts in to consideration with regards to anaerobic vs aerobic training.

Since anaerobic and aerobic are two different types of training, our heart, a muscle, responds differently, sort of like our quads respond differently to hypertrophy training versus strength training. Different stress = Different adaptation.

  • Anaerobic training adaptations: the walls of our heart increase in size, allowing our heart to become stronger and pump blood easier through ventricles during muscular contractions, which is important during Fran when our legs are constantly contracting to push through those thrusters. We need a strong heart to be able to pump blood throughout our body when under stress.
  • Aerobic (Threshold) training adaptations: the left ventricle of our heart increases in size, allowing for more blood to be pumped out to the body with each beat. This results in lower resting heart rate, lower working heart rate, and an increase of oxygen transport to working muscles, which is SUPER important during Fran when we’re completely out of breath and we can’t feel our legs because of all those thrusters.
  • To achieve this type of aerobic training, a minimum of 20 minutes of constant work is recommended. The time changes with athletic goals. Some athletes go for 90 minutes plus. For our daily life of health and fitness, 20-30 minutes with a heart rate of 130-150 is an excellent place to be.

By adding a day of aerobic threshold training, paired with our higher intensity days, we can become even better-rounded athletes. Aerobic threshold is the foundation to success in higher intensity workouts.

Alright, let’s review the main point:

Thursday’s are one of the most important, yet underutilized days of the week. Our active recovery days will help aid in muscle recovery, keep our blood flowing, increase our aerobic threshold/capacity, and allow us to get our muscles warmed up for effective stretching – also a crucial part of fitness and recovery.

Keep in mind, we don’t necessarily have to be in the gym to achieve aerobic training. You can get an awesome recovery day by just going on a walk or bike ride outside. In fact, doing activities out of the gym can help keep your fitness fresh in your mind.

Continue to work hard, find your strength, and stay relentless in the pursuit of health and fitness.

Written by Jared “Bones” Bradford

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