By Collin Mahler.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone tell you to take a Rest day or an Active Recovery day, it might have even been your coach. But if you were asked what the difference is between the two or if there is a difference how would you respond? I’m sure everyone would agree that an Active Recovery is different from a Rest day. But what is the difference or what changes, is where there’s a lot of confusion. I hope by the end of this post to clear up some of the confusion about the two.
So, what is the main difference between the two? Let’s start by explaining both of them separately, starting with an Active Recovery day. An Active Recovery is exactly what it sounds like, it’s active, but it’s focused on recovery. This already makes it different from a regular training day because on a regular training day you are trying to stress your body. You are trying to get out of breath and push your limits, whether it is muscular or cardiovascular, you are actively trying to tire yourself out. Whereas on an Active Recovery day you’re not. You are trying to RECOVER, hence the name. During an Active Recovery day, you might go for a long walk, a slow bike or you might come into the gym and do some slow rowing. You might even do a very slow and controlled workout, stretch, maybe some mobility or flexibility work. For all of this, the goal is to do things slowly and controlled and just move around a bit, get the blood flowing, not to the point where you are hitting your limit or getting tired, but enough where you are moving your muscles and working out some soreness. That is the intent of an Active Recovery day, to do some light low intensity moving around to feel better.
For a Rest day, it is nearly the opposite, your goal is to move around and stress yourself as little as possible. This means you are not at the gym, you are not going on a bike ride, you are not swimming, at most a short walk. Physically you should be trying to give your body as much of that day as you can to recover while you do nothing. Now, not only physically are you trying to limit stress, but also mentally. This means if you don’t have to work that day, don’t. If you don’t have to go shopping don’t. A Rest day is meant not only to give you a physical break, but a mental one as well. On a Rest day you should try to limit yourself to only the necessities, and once those are done, just enjoy your day off. Watch a movie, watch TV, play a game, play a board game, read a book, take a nap, spend time on your hobbies, spend time with friends or family, just take this day to recover as much as you can both physically and mentally, that is the goal of a Rest day.
The main difference between the two is intent. The intent of Active Recovery is to move and make yourself feel better, the intent of a Rest day is to take a break from all stressors in your life both mental and physical.