Prefer Active Recovery to Rest

After a period of hard stress, either sickness or overreaching training, prefer active recovery to complete rest

Active Recovery

Past burnout, fatigue, a sickness, or an athletic training, it’s tempting to stay in bed, watch TV, read a book or play a video game. That’s what most people think when doctors or mums recommend “rest”.

But it is better to follow an active recovery plan. You can improve blood circulation and increase oxygen brought to muscles and organs. You can decrease stress and get back in touch with friends. These shorten the number of days necessary to reach again your peak.

Here are a few active recovery ideas, from the lightest to more elaborate ones:

  • Light yoga. A mobile app like Daily Yogaoffers sessions sitting (in bed) or standing. Even a 10mn session makes a difference.
  • Getting a massage at home. If you don’t have someone who can do it for you, there are affordable shiatsu devices that can massage muscles.
  • I try deep breathing and meditation techniques to decrease stress. There are (free) mobile apps as well as youtube videos, depending on preferences.
  • Cooking a nice hot dish. Cooking involves seeing, smelling, touching, tasting as well as caring for our food, and we often do not notice the efforts involved in cooking. Especially good if I can cook for loved ones!
  • Gardening. If the weather is good, spend time in your garden and take care of plants. This can increase level of well-being. Just make sure to warm-up, avoid unbalanced activity be switching tools from right to left hand and avoid sudden or heavy load.
  • Having a walk to the local neighbourhood park or forest. I walk, sit on a bench, see and appreciate the sights, listen to the wind. Feel with your feet the soil and the grass.
  • For advanced athletes : self-myofascial release with a foam roller
  • Playing with kids, moderate swimming, cycling, hiking is possible. But I make sure that I do not go past 65% (Z1) of max heart rate. If you don’t have an activity tracker or a heart rate monitor, these activities can do more harm than good by extending the rest time.

If I feel much worse, such as breathing difficulties or recurring pain, I halt active recovery and get a few days of complete rest. I remind myself to listen actively what my body tells me.

Active recovery plans must also include good solid sleep.


  • S. Gupta, A. Goswami, A. K. Sadhukhan, D. N. Mathur. 1996. Comparative Study of Lactate Removal in Short Term Massage of Extremities, Active Recovery and a Passive Recovery Period After Supramaximal Exercise Sessions. International Journal of Sports Medecine
  • Burtin, Chris PT, MSc; Clerckx, Beatrix PT; Robbeets, Christophe PT; Ferdinande, Patrick MD, PhD; Langer, Daniel PT, MSc; Troosters, Thierry PT, PhD; Hermans, Greet MD; Decramer, Marc MD, PhD; Gosselink, Rik PT, PhD. Sept 2009. Exercise in critically ill patients enhances short-term functional recovery. Critical Care Medecine.
  • G Hilde, KB Hagen, G Jamtvedt, M Winnem. 2002. Advice to stay active as a single treatment for low-back pain and sciatica. Cochrane Library
  • Michael Kellmann. 2010, Preventing overtraining in athletes in high-intensity sports and stress/recovery monitoring. Scandinavian Journal of Medecine & Science in Sports

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