Mark Homer |

Active recovery: What, why and how

‘Everyone trains hard, but not everyone recovers hard.’ How can active recovery help your rowing sessions? Dr Mark Homer explores the research

Active recovery is a widely used term in sport and exercise, and one that can have slightly different meanings depending on the context.

What is active recovery?

Within a training session, active recovery is what you do instead of sitting still, hunched over your blades, gasping for air between pieces. Paddling back to the start to do it all again, keeping the body moving, is a great example.

At the end of an intensity session or race preparation, an active recovery is otherwise known as the cool-down. It involves a gentle return to homeostasis (stability) rather than an abrupt end which results in you still panting and sweating after your shower while trying to get dressed.

A further use of the term comes into play on rest or easy training days. You may have heard: “Day off tomorrow but do some active recovery” as you leave the boathouse after a tough session. In this case, the coach is keen that you don’t spend the whole day horizontal and do something that loosens the joints and gets the blood flowing. Anecdotally, from my experience with elite rowers, a day off can often lead to some less than ideal training when athletes return 24 hours later. Doing something active can alleviate this effect.


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