Written by Andrew Carigiet (Head Coach)
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
This subject often doesn’t get as much coverage as it should, as rest days, or correctly performed active recovery sessions can be equally as important as your training days. Similar to the difference between “training” vs “competing” (possibly a whole other blog post!), the purpose of the recovery session is often misunderstood.
We often see people jump into “a quick little recovery wod” or “a rest day partner workout” which by nature quickly results in an increase of intensity, usually due to the competitive spirit of the athlete(s). The addictive nature of exerting yourself can also contribute to this but can go against the purpose of the session without guidance and understanding of the intention of the session.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE A REST / ACTIVE RECOVERY DAY?
There is no strict rule on how frequently you should take a day off; however, the general CrossFit prescription is 3 days on / 1 day off. For me personally, I will generally follow 3 on / 1 off, 2 on 1 off; and some people prefer 5 on / 2 off.
Listen to your body. After a period of intense training, or maybe a couple of tough training sessions, your body may become fatigued or tired, you may be more sore than usual, or your movement may become sluggish. These are all signs that you may be due a rest day, or an active recovery day.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE ACTIVE RECOVERY AND REST?
A complete day of physical rest, with limited stress on the mind and the body. Time for the body to repair and grow. You may have heard the phrase, “a rest day is as good as a training day”.
Try to take this time away from the gym, catch up with friends, go for a coffee.
This is a low intensity training day; at 50-70% of your usual intensity. This should be limited in terms of load bearing, should be at a conversational pace, and heart rate should remain reasonably low. This type of session is ideal if you are still looking to get some movement and some fresh blood flow to the muscles to help reduce fatigue.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
It can be good for the mind to take these sessions out of the gym, get some fresh air and enjoy a long walk or hike, go for a relaxed bike ride, or try a new and fun activity such as rock climbing.
Active recovery days can also be an opportunity to work on your mobility, movement positions, and flexibility, which may (but shouldn’t) often get overlooked by the excitement of your regular training sessions.
A good example of an active recovery day in the gym may look something like the below:
- Spend or accumulate 3-5 minutes at the bottom of the squat – working to maintain your lumbar curve, along with appropriate squat depth.
- 3 sets of 20-30 seconds hanging from a bar. Practice overhand and underhand grips.
- Accumulate 2-3 mins in handstand.
- 2-3 mins of a few select upper and lower body stretches
- Lower: – Couch stretch & Pigeon Stretch
- Upper: – Thoracic Mobility (Use a foam roller) & banded shoulder distraction
- 20-30 minutes steady state row, jog or similar – at a conversational pace.
If you are short of time, you could combine a few of them into a something like:
30 minutes of rowing – Every 3 minutes, alternate between a 60 second squat hold, and 30-60 seconds Handstand hold. Be careful not to push the intensity.
*the row should be at a steady pace that you could hold for an hour if required.