Pilates reformer

How to Maximize Recovery Days

As an athlete, every minute matters. If you’re not training, you’re focused on nutrition, getting rest, or somehow connecting to your sport. To be the best, you can never be satisfied with your last performance. You have to do whatever you can to gain an edge because you have to continually improve to both get on top as well as stay there.

So when it comes to taking any kind of time off or reducing your training load, you might feel hesitant because it sounds counterintuitive to your goals to do less, instead of more. However, pushing your body to the limit isn’t something you can do every day. Your body has needs, and one of them is recovery. This post explains what recovery is and what makes it so important as well as how you can maximize your recovery by incorporating workouts on your Pilates reformer.

Pilates reformer

Understanding How Recovery Helps You Train Harder

Giving your body a rest from working out is an important part of the process if you want to get stronger, faster, and better. When you work out, you damage muscles, and they need time to repair. If you work out every day without giving your body a break, you risk not giving your muscles the time they need to give you the edge you want.

Additionally, if you don’t give your body the proper amount of recovery, you increase your risk of injury, which means increasing the chance you might take yourself out of training or competition. So recovery for an athlete allows you to get stronger and reduce your risk of injury, but does a recovery day mean you can’t work out at all?

The easiest way to understand recovery and how it benefits you is to consider what you do after a high-intensity workout. You don’t normally put in a grueling workout and then run five miles after you’ve finished. Instead, you take advantage of a short-term recovery. Maybe you eat and hydrate or just relax. Whatever it is you do, you do it to give your body a break and give it time to recover.

Recovery days can be thought of as long-term recovery days, where you do the same as you would in short-term recovery. You rest and relax, but how often you take a recovery day and how you work a recovery day depends on how you train. For most athletes, you probably use active recovery, also known as, active rest.

Passive recovery is all about taking a complete rest from all physical activity. You don’t work out, you don’t stretch, you don’t do anything. On the other hand, active recovery days allow your body the rest it needs but also give you an opportunity to work out, too.

When you work out on active recovery days, you may not be working out the same muscle groups or doing the same routine as you normally would, but you use this time to cross-train, work another muscle group, lift lightly, stretch, do some cardio, or incorporate a mix of it all.

Active recovery offers more benefits to athletes than passive recovery because it gives your body time to move. Active recovery keeps your blood pumping, giving your muscles the increased blood flow they need so that they receive the oxygen and nutrients necessary for muscle repair.

The benefits of active recovery for your muscles include:

  • Giving time for repairing and rebuilding: The all-important process of getting stronger means damaging your muscles and giving them time to rebuild even stronger than before.
  • Ridding them of toxins
  • Replenishing glycogen levels which helps reduce muscle fatigue
  • Reducing pain and soreness
  • Lowering their levels of lactic acid
  • Helping to keep them flexible
  • Increasing the amount of blood flow
  • Maintaining your workout routine

But the benefits of active recovery don’t stop at your muscles. Active recovery offers additional training and performance benefits, including offering you a mental break from your sport. Training is hard. From drills and hours in the weight room to competition outside of training, you push yourself mentally to focus and charge ahead in all you do, but athletes can’t be on all the time.

You can use active recovery to work your mental game in a different way, apart from your sport, which gives you a way to refresh your mind after intense training. Just like your muscles, you can still offer your brain a workout with a different focus by using a Pilates reformer for recovery days.

Pilates reformer

As an athlete, you’re used to pushing yourself, so you may not know when you need a recovery day. Because each person is different, unless you have a coach planning your workouts for you, it may be difficult to know if you’re taking the right amount of time to recover as well as planning your active recovery day properly. So if you notice any of the following, you need to incorporate a recovery day or adjust how you’re performing your active recovery:

  • You’re tired. Yes, athletes get tired, but as an athlete, you know your body. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmingly tired day after day, your body needs a break.
  • You’re constantly sore. Like being tired, you’re used to being sore. But if you maintain the same level of soreness in the same muscles, your routine needs some adjustments.
  • Your performance is consistently dropping. If you can’t do the same workouts, perform at the same speed or level, or lift the same weights as you’ve done in the past, this could be a sign that your muscles are not repairing and rebuilding as they should. Adjust your workouts and ensure you’re including enough recovery days at the proper level.

Planning an Active Recovery Day

As a high-performance athlete, active recovery allows you to continue to train while giving your body time to repair as it should. While recovery days need to focus on many aspects of your body’s conditioning, including nutrition, hydration, and sleep, active recovery targets how you move on your recovery day. Putting together a customized recovery day that meets your performance and training needs as well as your mental and physical needs is the key to successful active recovery.

The components of an active recovery day include:

  • Cardio: Cardio on your recovery day is your chance to ditch the drills and cardio sessions you do for your sport. You get the opportunity to pick a cardio activity you enjoy that can offer you some heart-pumping action. You don’t want a leisurely walk, but you don’t need to match the intensity of regular training days. You just need to get your blood pumping to send those essential nutrients and oxygen to your muscles that they need for recovery.
  • Movements designed for balance and mobility: Your body undergoes quite a bit of stress when you train intensively. If you want to continue intense training sessions, your body needs increased mobility. Mobility allows you to safely expand your range of motion when you train, and balance allows you to train efficiently. Good mobility and balance keep your body in alignment and help reduce your risk of injury.
  • Total body conditioning: On an active recovery day, you need to perform some low-impact, lower intensity conditioning. While you may assume that recovery means not lifting at all, you can still use your body weight or light weights to complete the kind of conditioning you need during recovery. This is what makes active recovery such a bonus for athletes. You can continue pushing your body, just at a lower intensity and level than you typically perform.
  • Moves for flexibility: Flexibility offers a foundation for mobility. If you’re working on mobility, you need to add in moves or stretching for flexibility as well. Flexibility also aids in reducing muscle tension, which helps reduce your risk of injury.
  • Mental break or meditation: Ending your active recovery workout with some meaningful meditation or just pushing yourself mentally in a different capacity can offer a mental break from your regular training.

Of course, incorporating so many elements into one active recovery day may sound like a tall order. You may think you’re going to do more in one day than you normally would on a single training day. However, you have options to create a more efficient structure for your recovery.

As an athlete, you want to maximize each minute to maximize the return on your workout investment. So when building out a recovery plan, you want to focus on making your day as efficient as possible so you can also incorporate time for nutrition, relaxation and rest, and even some well-deserved massage therapy. It’s easy to get excited about an additional day to work out and get closer to your goals, but you still need to emphasize recovery.

So if you can pull together several elements for an active recovery day into one exercise, that would help make the most of your time off from training. That’s where your Pilates reformer steps in. Using a Pilates reformer incorporates every element of active recovery, giving you a full-body conditioning workout that emphasizes flexibility and mobility, all while offering a tough mental challenge. Not only can you maximize your recovery day, but you can also elevate your workout regimen for better, stronger, faster performances in competition.

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