Sunday, July 22, 2012

Active's not just for recovery any more. It's for everyone!

I know that I've mentioned before how important it is to take recovery days to give muscles and other soft tissue the opportunity to flush out waste, to bring in new nutrients and to repair themselves.  Articles with titles like this one might lead you to think that you've finally found an excuse for being a couch potato or for skipping the gym or yoga studio 6 days out of the week.  But look more closely, and it's clear that it's about destressing yourself, and allowing recovery time, physically and mentally.  And, a simple google search for "sedentary muscle imbalance" yields all kinds of results, addressing issues from muscle pain, postural issues to sciatica.  So, perhaps being a couch potato isn't all that healthy.  (If you already exercise on a regular basis, this post has something to do with you, too, so don't stop reading now.)

Some of you are bound to have heard about the recently publicized study that prompted me to want to write this.  The study has concluded that a sedentary lifestyle might be just as dangerous as smoking (in terms of disease risk).  I know, shocking, right?  When I think about it, though, there really is something kind of shocking about it - it's that being sedentary could be that unhealthy, and we aren't fighting it with the same gusto that we go after smoking.

There's the usual list of excuses and complaints about being active or working out.  It can be hard and it can lead to some soreness.  But as a client of mine said today, it's like that old saying: "why do I keep hitting myself?  Because it feels so much better when I stop."  (I have no idea if that's really an old saying, but he said it was, so I'm going with it).

But nobody said that being active means working out really hard, or even "working out" at all.  Get up, move around your house.  Do some yoga to clear the mind and have some quiet time.  Do some gardening with your loved one, take a walk while you're on the phone with an old friend, kick a soccer ball with the kids, or throw the frisbee with a friend.  Make a point of socializing around a gentle activity, rather than around the boob tube or the cocktails.

And for those of you who already have an exercise regimen, and may be bad at taking recovery days, guess what?  Days with those kinds of activities instead of your rigorous workout count as recovery days...and are active days by definition.  We have a name for that: active recovery.  It's also a great opportunity to get together with and support a friend who is beginning their journey to physical activity and exercise.  It's not a wasted day in your training - it's every bit as valuable as your heavy and intense days.  Perhaps moreso, when you add the social value and the value your time and friendship has for your activity partners!

So, whichever end of this activity spectrum you are on, "active recovery" should be integral to your life.  Whether it's because you need some more activity in your life, or because you need a little more recovery, it's a mechanism to help you be healthy and/or repair tissues to avoid injury.  Schedule them into your week, schedule them with friends and family and stick to them!