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Recovery: how long should I rest between workouts?

Though it falls outside of the “no pain, no gain” mindset, recovery between workouts is really when the magic happens. Skipping recovery can lead to exercise-induced injuries, decreased performance, poor sleep quality, elevated blood pressure, and weakened immunity. In other words, working out too much and too often can cost you in all the wrong ways, reversing your efforts to be fit and healthy.

Man practicing qigong for mobility training and recovery

Only equating fitness with pushing yourself to the limit, sweating buckets, and living in perpetual soreness is a harmful misconception. Here’s why you can toss those myths to the side, and how to make active recovery integral to your routine.

Understanding recovery

Every time you tackle a hard workout, you disrupt your body’s sense of balance (homeostasis). In one single intense workout, alongside all the benefits, it also goes through physiological stress. While your body is more than capable of adapting positively to this stress, if recovery is neglected or incomplete, your body won’t have what it needs to make the positive changes you’re working so hard to create.

When your body recovers, blood pressure stabilizes, hormones balance, immune function rises, and muscle fibres rebuild and grow stronger. How, and how often one needs to recover varies from person to person. Recovery needs can be influenced by your fitness, age, workout frequency and intensity, lifestyle, and how much personal or professional stress you’re facing.

Generally speaking, research suggests a recovery period of 24 to 72 hours between sessions. However, recovery doesn’t mean kicking back on your couch for 2-3 days. In fact, unless you’re recovering from an injury or feeling fatigued, devoting 1-2 days to active recovery simultaneously promotes recovery while improving your form and technique.  

Why mobility should be a fitness goal during active recovery

Low impact and low intensity, mobility training is ideal for active recovery days. While high-intensity workouts challenge our endurance, power, and strength, mobility training challenges us to slow down, move with intention, and refine our neuromuscular control and precision.

Mobility training also allows you to improve areas that may be weak, unstable, or restricted. Activating multiple muscle groups through diverse multi-planar movements, mobility training can also help you improve your balance, coordination, and overall strength – all of which are essential for preventing injuries and boosting long-term health and fitness.   

Qigong: where mindfulness meets active recovery

woman practicing qigong at sunset for recovery

An equal blend of mindfulness and mobility training, Qigong is ideal if you want to get the most out of their active recovery days. While its mindfulness techniques help you relax and tune in with your body’s needs, Qigong’s intentional movements promote physiological recovery and functional mobility. In other words, Qigong is a comprehensive movement system that can help you recover physically and mentally, while supporting your long-term capacity to move and perform at your best.

Many Qigong exercises give you the opportunity to break out of habitual movement patterns and develop neuromuscular control in diverse ranges of motion. Leopard Qigong is one of White Tiger Qigong’s simple yet effective full-body mobility exercises that can be easily added to your active recovery regimen. In addition to creating a calming effect through full, measured breaths, Leopard Qigong promotes mobility of the ankles, hips, shoulders, spine, and neck.

How to Practice Leopard Qigong:

  1. Stand comfortably, with your feet approximately shoulder-width distance apart.
  2. Place your hands as though you were holding a basketball in front of your abdomen, with your left hand on top (palm down) and right hand below (palm up).
  3. Slowly step your right foot into a lateral lunge, right knee bent and left knee extended.woman lunges while turning torso on grass
  4. As though you were throwing a frisbee, rotate your pelvis, torso and head to the right as you extend your right arm behind you (palm up), toward your left foot.
  5. Keep your right arm extended as you rotate your pelvis, torso, and head back to the center.
  6. Sink into a horse stance, spine vertical, toes turned out to 45 degrees, and knees comfortably bent toward the toes.
  7. Laterally bend your torso to the left as you reach your right arm to the left, alongside your right ear.  
  8. Raise your left hand to your right armpit (palm up).
  9. Keep your neck neutral as you turn your eyes to gaze up at your right hand.
  10. Hold the form for three to nine seconds, as you breathe fully and keep your eyes wide and focused on your right hand.woman in white fitness clothes practicing leopard qigong on grass
  11. Slowly lower your right arm as you draw your torso back to center, above your hips.
  12. Simultaneously step your right foot back into the opening stance (feet-shoulder width distance) and circle your hands to “hold the ball”, this time with your right hand on top (palm down) and left hand below (palm up).  
  13. Repeat steps 3-12 on your left side to complete one round of Leopard Qigong.
  14. Complete three rounds total for a full set.
  15. Once complete, stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart as you bring your arms by your sides (palms forward)
  16. As you inhale, circle your arms out to the side and up overhead.
  17. As you exhale, face your palms to the ground, fingertips toward each other, as you press your hands down the the centreline of your body.
  18. Bring our arms by your sides, slightly away from your sides (palms forward).
  19. Softly focus your eyes on one spot in front of you and breathe slowly and deeply, allowing your ribcage to inflate and deflate three-dimensionally.
  20. Repeat for a total of eight intentional breaths, savouring how it feels to breathe well while noticing how you feel in your mind and body.    

Man practicing crane exercise on grass

Recovery is all about giving your body what it needs to repair, adapt, and make the positive changes you’re working so hard for. To support your long-term health and fitness, tuning in and responding to your body’s signals and needs is a must. To learn more strategies to support your fitness goals, mobility, and recovery, visit our blog or explore our collection of e-books and online courses.

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