Every week, you’ve maintained a strict training regimen. For 5 or 6 days, you’re at the gym hitting all the compound lifts. Squats, deadlifts, bench press: all of these exercises tremble in the presence of your hard work. So, what do you accomplish on the 7th day? If you’re anything like me, you may be itching to do something fun that won’t over exhaust you. Why not use that rest day to go for a rewarding swim?
As a Fitness Professional, I agree that most fitness trainers would recommend turning your rest day into an active recovery day to stretch out the muscles, preparing you for the next week’s routine. Swimming in combination with other active practices will ensure that you maximize the progress of your goals.
Most active people relish when their rest day arrives. Often, they mix in a cheat meal or 3 to reward their diligent efforts. But it’s pretty detrimental to stay completely sedentary on these days. By embracing the couch potato mentality, the muscles will stiffen, making it difficult for them to relax and recover from the previous week. Let’s explore why you should embrace an active recovery day and why swimming is one of the best activities to pick up on these days.
Active Recovery Days: A Prerequisite for Better Results
For those who take an active stance on their health and physique, who can blame you for embracing a lazy rest day. Lounging on your couch for the entire day, only getting up to use the restroom and to grab more Oreos. Your body indeed experiences the most growth outside of the gym. But this is no excuse to completely pig out for the entire day.
As muscle growth occurs outside the gym, you must ensure that you receive the most out of your rest day. An active recovery day will help increase your rate of recovery by increasing blood flow to your muscles and tissue; providing nutrients while eliminating toxic waste. This will ensure that your body stays nice and limber for the next training session.
There are many things that we can accomplish during an active recovery day;
- Easy Swimming Session
- Light Jog
- Moderate Hike
- Light Yoga/Foam Roller (ESSENTIAL)
- Playing Activities with Friends
As long as you didn’t completely burn yourself out from the previous week, you can afford to take an active recovery day. Just don’t exert the same intensity as your regular training sessions. Remember, rest equals results. With that in mind, let’s explore why we believe you should pick up swimming for your active recovery session.
Is Swimming a Good Active Recovery?
With any form of strenuous exercise, the accumulated stress induces micro-tears in your muscle tissue. As a response, your body’s immune system begins to repair the damages. After the recovery, the tissues are slightly stronger. This is the basic principle for muscle growth. That’s why many trainers preach for healthy practices outside of the gym. You’ll make minimal progress if your diet and recovery practices are not up to par.
This brings us to the topic of swimming as being one of the best practices for your active recovery days. In comparison to other recovery practices, swimming avoids many of the pounding and impact stress associated with running and hiking. Over time, running will accumulate pressure in your joints, especially for those around the knees. Swimming, on the other hand, negates these damages. As you practice in the pool, the environment ensures that your body goes through a controlled range of motion without the risk of ligament strain.
Swimming continues to make great strides as one of the top-tier cardiovascular exercises. Running will mostly focus on working out the muscles of your lower body. In comparison, swimming targets every muscle group when proper technique is followed. With your entire body working in unison, you’ll be effectively training all your muscle groups.
On top of that, swimming is a massive calorie burner in comparison to running. A 10-minute mile will burn approximately 100 calories. Swimming with a butterfly stroke will present you with a net loss of 150 calories. This will help burn off any excess fat, presenting you with a leaner physique. This is not to say that you should be swimming 50 to 100 laps during your session. Remember, we stated that you should be working up a slight sweat, not overexerting yourself that you need someone to rescue you. A leisurely paced 30-minute session should suffice.
Other Active Recovery Practices to Combine with Swimming
While you have started to take the initiative when it comes to swimming, why should you stop there? There are many accessory habits that you can not only mix in with your swimming session but also your daily routine as well. The following accessory steps are all for the sake of keeping your body running at full efficiency. Most, if not all, would argue that in the case of health; more is definitely better.
The first of these accessory habits is finetuning your diet with the calories burned. With all the calories burned during swimming, you want to feed your body with the appropriate nutrients to promote recovery. Your 30-minute session doesn’t constitute a large pizza. For the machine to run properly, it needs the right fuel to make up for the damages. A healthy balance of protein, complex carbs, and unsaturated fats will ensure that your body reflects the progress. A lean six-pack is made in the kitchen after all.
To correspond with that, you should also spend some time stretching your entire body out. Whenever you work out, the body produces lactic acid, which is stored in your muscle tissue. This causes a feeling of fatigue and soreness after a workout. A quick stretching session or causal yoga will eliminate the acid build-up, relaxing the muscles, and puts your entire body at ease when it comes to sleep.
On the notion of sleep, always aim to get around 7-8 hours of sleep a night. We’ve seen many people argue that they can run on less. While impressive, this habit is not sustainable for a healthy lifestyle. As you sleep, your body produces hormones such as HGH that helps promote muscle growth. In other instances, blood will flow directly into the body, performing the responsibilities that we mentioned earlier. If you skimp out on adequate sleep, you run the risk of decreasing total muscle growth.
Before you decide to binge the day away with Netflix and a gallon of ice cream, you should be thinking strategically about how to optimize your rest day. You want to maximize the effort you’ve put in the gym. Stagnation will make it that much harder to refocus your efforts on the next training session.
By swapping a standard rest day for an active recovery day, you’ll be providing your muscles the adequate means to maximize this recovery period. Swimming, in combination with other healthy habits, is one of the most optimal approaches for active recovery. Just be sure that the sessions are not too strenuous, you don’t want to continually damage these muscle fibers.
You may refuse to take a rest day or use the time to fully embrace the couch potato lifestyle. It’s pretty easy to fall on either end of the spectrum. For optimal progress in our physique, we need to find the “sweet spot” when it comes to recovery. An active recovery day consisting of swimming will not only keep us feeling great but allows us to do something fun and interesting with our routine. There will always come a time to embrace the couch and ice cream. But if your body is willing to give a little extra on it’s off day, the only appropriate response is to engage it.