Friday, April 11, 2008

Active Rest

The term “active rest” is a bit of an oxymoron, but a term I’ve referred to for many years. Active rest is when you partake in an endeavor that is not exactly what you deem as the normal scheduled activity, but put forth a solid effort nonetheless. It’s basically a situation in which you are somewhere between your normal level of effort and just sitting around on your gluteus maximus doing nothing.

Allow me to explain with more detail. Personally, I have a difficult time taking off from training. I never cycle my workouts, I don’t plan layoffs and I very, very rarely miss a workout. If I vacation, I try to find a place to train or I’ll improvise and incorporate some “active rest”. An active rest approach will allow those who feel the need to train a way of down shifting a bit, physically, as well as mentally, yet still achieve a level of satisfaction from their efforts.

Let’s take for example a way of incorporating active rest for someone who strictly weight trains. Take a day that you would normally lift weights at the gym and but choose to go to the local park or high school and do some pushups and chin-ups and run the bleachers or sprint up hills. The goal isn’t to go to complete exhaustion or set any new world records, it is just to throw in a different activity to relieve some of the physical and mental stress that can build up from constant weight training. How about those of you who have dedicated cardiovascular training days? Your normal approach may be walking on the treadmill, riding a stationary bike or using a stair climber for instance. You constantly beat away at those pedals and pads, trying to beat your previous best distance or time and feel as though you really could use a little change from the same old, same old. Why not deviate and go play a few games of basketball, take a hike in the woods or go for a hard bike ride along the ocean.

Some people would say, “Hey, what you just recommended is just called variety”, and I would agree, but there are times when you physically and mentally just can’t rise to the occasion for your normally scheduled workout but still feel the need to do something and just want to do something off beat, yet still productive. Trust me, I know what I’m saying here is nothing new, nor am I trying to make “active rest” a new catch phrase, that is not my intent at all. I’m just trying to offer you a way of making you think about your alternatives when you may not be able to mentally or physically gear up for your regular workouts or when you really need a break from training but don’t want to sit around all week on your duff wishing you were working out.

I have found that this approach is quite effective with my clients. It keeps things fresh mentally and physically by keeping them off guard a bit. Most of my clients will stay with a program for a while to master their technique and allow us to monitor progress and before they get bored, BANG! we through in some “active rest” to jolt their body and enthusiasm for continued progress.

Give active rest a try some time and you’ll be looking for more productive ways to keep your training new and exciting.