Rest and Active Recovery: What’s the Difference?

When exercising it is always important to take days off or take light days to make sure that your body can rest and recover. Whether you’re doing strength training, cardio training, or cross training, your body needs both active recovery and rest.

First of all, what’s the difference? Rest means that there is a day of complete rest or in other words no exercising at all. This will give your muscles, joints, and ligaments time to heal and recover. On the other hand, active recovery means that there is still some exercising being done but not nearly as much as on the high intensity days.

Between days of high intensity running or training of any kind it is very important to slow down a little and take part in active recovery. By doing this you’re helping your muscles and other parts of your body recover.

Things like cycling, rowing, swimming, or some strength training are great ways to make sure your body goes through active recovery while still training at the same time. Keep in mind though, if the exercise is too strenuous then it will not count as active recovery.

For beginner runners it is important to remember to start out slowly as too much exercising will cause burn out and fatigue. Start doing light cross training ‘ active recovery’, once or twice a week, then build from there. On the other hand if running is your active recovery then try not to run to far and don’t go faster than a jogging pace.

This all really depends on the body type, fitness level, and experience level of each runner. A more experienced runner who runs 5 or 6 times per week can do 3 or more cross training active recovery exercises per week; just make sure your body can keep up.

I do recommend there be at least 1 day per week where you rest and do nothing. If you are just starting out it may be wise to take 2 or even 3 days off to rest and let your body recover.


Photo by David Baird



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