Rest Days vs. Active Recovery: What’s Better?

Hey. Hi. Hello!

It feels like forever since I’ve actually sat down and written one of these, so I apologize if I seem a little rusty. I’ve got so many different things that I’m out here juggling so I’m a little scatter-brained but I’m going to do my best.

Sometime last year, back when I decided to become an amateur fitness blogger, I wrote a post about rest days. It was more geared towards the fact that I didn’t take them and wanted to force myself to start implementing them into my workout routines. Then, sometime this year one of my friends asked me about the difference between a complete rest day and an active recovery day, and whether one was better than the other.

I think the obvious place to start is that, while some people may use rest days and active recovery days interchangeably, they’re actually quite different. A rest day refers to a day of no exercise. This may mean you don’t leave your bed all day, or that your only exercise is the daily walk you take with your dogs or to work.

Long story short it means you’re not waking up and going to the gym. You’re giving your body a break from any external stressors like the squat rack or a treadmill. A day to totally just chill out.

An active recovery day, on the other hand, involves exercise but at a totally moderate level. You’re not running sprints or hitting your normal circuit training. Rather, it could be a light jog or swimming laps in a pool. It’s still working out but not with the intention of overloading your body. You’re getting blood flowing to your muscles, but it shouldn’t be strenuous.

So, is one better than the other? Well no, not really. If you’re trying to decide whether you should take a rest day or try an active recovery day, consider these points:

  1. What is your typical workout routine? Are you in the gym five days a week doing HIIT circuits or doing a lot of heavy lifting? Or are you more content to ride the elliptical for 30 minutes and do a few light exercises?
  2. Are you training towards a specific goal? Do you have a marathon coming up or an Iron Man? Or are you a person who works out simply because you like the way you feel afterward or are just trying to stay in healthy shape?

If your workout routines are pretty rigorous, I’d say give it a rest. Taxing your body too much can seriously harm you in the long run, and I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to end up with piles of medical bills down the line because I lived a “no days off” attitude.

However, if you’re not as rigorous, or you’re training for a competition of some sort in the future, then an active recovery session paired with a full rest day in a week can aid you in your training goals. Active recovery sessions allow your body to build up a tolerance towards external sources while still being moderate enough that it has time to heal.

So, throw in a yoga class once a week with your barre and spin classes to really help you push towards your goals. Or just lay around all day watching TV, that’s completely fine, too.

Until Next Time!




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