If you don’t feel well, you shouldn’t work out, right?
Well, yes and no. (Surprised?)
If you’re coughing up green lung butter, are on antibiotics, or your doctor told you not to work out, get your butt on the sofa, have some chicken soup and get well. If you’ve got an injury where it hurts to do that; for goodness sake stop doing that and recover!
Active recovery is for other situations. Lets say you have a bit of a cold and congestion and feel a little run down. That is not the time to do speed interval training or start trying for a personal best in the squat cage. It might be the time to do a much smaller workout.
As an example, I broke Rule One yesterday and lifted far, far too hard. There’s been a cold running around, and being stupid is bad for the immune system. I woke up with the beginning symptoms of a mild cold. Today’s cardio day for me. Did I go swim my mile? Nope.
But I was hurting from overlifting. One of the worst things you can do when you’re experiencing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is to sit in a chair for 12 hours writing. And what is Noël’s job, boys and girls? Heh, right.
Fortunately swimming is the King of active recovery exercises when done right. I walked (slowly!) to the gym, got in the pool and swam about half the distance I usually do in about three quarters of the time. This stretched out my muscles and got the blood flowing without taxing anything much.
That’s what active recovery is for — to prevent issues from lack of use.
I actually learned this back when I was recovering from ACL surgery. You heal better when you’re moving gently within your fitness level. Note what I said — within your fitness level. My active recovery workout today, that gentle light workout, was a hard-core badassed swim a little over a year ago. My hard-core badassed swim now might very will be a nice active recovery workout in another couple of years. Back when I was really sedentary, a good active recovery workout would have been some gentle stretching or a slow walk around the block. It’s all about perspective, and not breaking Rule One.
I’d say a good active recovery workout is about 40-60% of your usual workout and is pretty subjective. However, if you know you’re not entirely well, but start feeling great when you’re working out, you’re working too hard. That’s the endorphins talking, so slow that Mustang down, Sally.
And try not to break Rule One.