Here are Fitness Options for After a Hard Workout Day or Stressful Week

My group has recently been in a high-mileage run and high-rep calisthenics cycle (for Spring and Summer). As we are coming to the end of this period, we are definitely feeling the effects of those reps and miles.

That feeling is a strong indicator that burnout or an injury could soon follow. Taking a deload week to test your previous cycle’s focus points and change things up is your first course of action. After deload and testing, replace running with more non-impact cardio options (up to 50% of your total) and reduce high-rep calisthenics by adding weights to the same movements.

Listen to Shakira: Even though you might dismiss the small joint aches from running or calisthenics exercises as a common side effect of these cycles, you still need to listen to the body because “the hips don’t lie.”

It never fails. Stiffness in the hips, knees and elbows or a pain in the shins and feet are aches that many of us are trying to find ways to work around. Sometimes you can address the situation with some non-impact activity, sometimes you need a day off or need to find some other kinds of recovery days.

Here is a list of options for you when you are pushing this envelope and need to back off before you hurt yourself:

The Classic Day Off

This means no running, lifting, calisthenics or other higher-intensity activity. Relax, unwind, go for a walk, focus on your deep and controlled breathing, stretch and eat and drink well. Do very little compared to your normal workday – maybe some yard work at the most.

You can ruin a recovery day by excess drinking of alcohol. Alcohol interferes with the upcoming sleep process needed for recovery from previous harder workout days.

When you take a recovery day, work on hydrating, eating good food and resting. I typically only take one of these a week, but I will add a second day off during some weeks during high volume cycles. You can add to that second recovery day by choosing one of the following options: Mobility Day, Cardio Day or Yoga Day.

Mobility Day

Once again, if you never listen to anything else I have ever written or said, add a mobility day to your life once a week. It will be life changing. Do an easy cardio option for five minutes followed by five minutes of stretching, foam rolling or massage tools. Repeat until you reach 30-60 minutes total.

I’ve made Thursday my mobility day to help with being fully recovered and ready for the following Friday and weekend workouts.

This Easy Day is done as written below:

Repeat 5 times

5 minutes cardio (non-impact recommended with bike, swim, elliptical, row, etc.)
5 minutes stretch, foam roll, or massage tool

Water Recovery Mobility Day

If you have a pool, add this to the mobility day or after any workout for 15-30 minutes:

5-10 minutes swim

5-10 minutes tread

5-10 minutes dynamic stretches in chest deep water

Yoga Day

Consider taking a yoga day even if you have never done yoga. Whether you go to a class with a teacher or watch a yoga class on YouTube, try it and you will realize just how much work you have to do on your flexibility. Give yoga a shot in place of a hard workout day when you are just not feeling it or try the practice in place of a day off. It will be well worth your time investment.

Easy Cardio-Only Days

After a few challenging, high-intensity days focused on speed and power or heavy lifts, an easy cardio day can help engage the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the rest, digest and slow down the central nervous system.

This day can be non-impact cardio for 20-30 minutes coupled with an easy jog or walk for the same amount of time. Spend the entire workout focused on your breathing. Do big inhales and exhales at a pace that will allow you to do the entire event with controlled deep breathing.

This is definitely an easy day. I often place these cardio-only days as day three in between a tough and heavy upper body and lower body day combo for day one and day two. On day four, do another upper body lift and make day five a lower body day. You can continue the two on and one off cycle by replacing the off with any one of the above recovery days listed above.

Sometimes less is more, so get your recovery days in each week depending on how you feel. If you are seeing negative gains or stagnant growth, consider adding one of these options into your training week for a few weeks and see if things improve.

The recovery elements that will make the most difference in your performance will always be nutrition, hydration and sleep. Use these perfectly timed recovery day options to add to your recovery when needed.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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