What it means to recover after exercise and how to do it

Andy Wight/Discomfort Zone

More is better is not a good idea when it comes to exercise. That’s what my strength coach Andy Wight told me. He said it’s important to allow your body to recover from whatever activity you’re doing. If you don’t, you may actually impede the results you’re hoping to get.

What does Andy mean by recovery?

In exercise, it is your body’s ability to recover and repair damaged tissue from excessive exercise. Our bodies will make the best gains or improvements when proper rest and recovery is in place.

There are two kinds of recovery:

  • Passive recovery
    • Your body’s ability to recover while at rest.
  • Active recovery
    • Allowing your body to heal through low-intensity activities, such as walking or yoga.

What if you’re sore from exercising?

If you’re sore, you might think it’s better not to do anything — that’s considered passive recovery. What’s important to look at before you decide is the quality of your soreness.

Good sore versus bad sore

  • If your muscles are feeling kind of heavy and tired but you’re not in any pain and your movements aren’t limited, that’s generally a good sore. Get up and move around (active recovery) and you’ll likely feel better and less stiff.
  • If you have significant pain and can hardly move, you may have caused some damage — a bad sore. In this case, you may want to take it easy (passive recovery) and if it’s a severe injury, get it checked out.

Active recovery tips

For people experiencing a good sore, the key to recovery is light physical activity.

Simply walking or adding a stretching routine in between training sessions can help your body recover. Active recovery helps improve blood flow and circulation to sore areas and allows for better healing. If you improve your body’s ability to recover, it will help lessen the rest time you need in between training sessions and your body will become more efficient.

A bit of inspiration

If you haven’t been exercising at all and are looking for ways to add it to your life, we’ve got all kinds of inspiration here on Catching Health. You don’t have to run a marathon, just find something you enjoy doing and do it!

Don’t miss a thing! Sign up to receive an email when I post something new on Catching Health.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.