Love HIIT? Here's Exactly What Your Active Recovery Routine Should Look Like

mbg Contributor By Brent Frayser
mbg Contributor
Brent Frayser is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. He has a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Mississippi, and writes for a variety of health blogs.


There's no question that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has increased in popularity in the last few years. But despite the success of HIIT for fitness and weight-loss goals, most individuals put this work to waste with poor recovery habits. As a result, even the biggest fitness enthusiasts find themselves sore and tired for longer periods.

Active recovery is a technique that allows for a more gradual transition from exercise to rest, with low-intensity exercise replacing or supplementing the traditional approach of passive recovery. But in order to get the most out of your active recovery, you must set up a schedule based on your fitness goals. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Switch it up.

Because active recovery reduces the buildup of lactate at a greater rate than passive recovery, your body is able to work harder on progressive sets during the same workout. But does this mean you should throw passive recovery out entirely? Not quite.

Ultimately, switching between active and passive recovery depending on your body’s needs will result in more effective training. For example, you can implement active recovery between sets, but passive recovery might be the best bet after completion.

Article continues below

2. Vary your recovery schedule.

Another way to shake things up is to have a cardiovascular workout schedule that incorporates a variety of active and passive techniques. Here's a schedule I like to stick with:

  • Monday: Tempo runs.
  • Tuesday: Active recovery with light exercise (walking, cycling, yoga, etc.).
  • Wednesday: HIIT exercise with active recovery.
  • Thursday: More active recovery.
  • Friday: Run for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Saturday: Sports or other recreational activities (skating, cycling, Frisbee, etc.).
  • Sunday: Passive recovery.

While your body might know what to expect with each day, you’ll also be rewarded with optimal gain with the variety of your workouts. Plus, any of these workouts can be altered since you’re not committed to one type of workout. All that matters is that your schedule consists of some form of active recovery. Have fun with it!

Article continues below

3. Break it into groups.

Jonathon Lomax, founder of Lomax Gym in London, recommends breaking up active recovery sessions into anatomical groups, much like you would with regular exercises. While these activities can be worked into your regular training sessions, Lomax emphasizes that it is best done on "rest" days, since it is essentially a form of rehabilitation for stressed muscles. In this way, you’ll have worked on all the muscle groups by the end of the week. And for HIIT enthusiasts, this will free up more time for your intensive workouts.

4. Structure smart.

It might seem obvious, but the way in which you structure your workout sessions relies on your goals and no one else’s. But many who are new to the HIIT scene try to match the levels of intensity that professionals are capable of and end up injuring themselves. Or one person’s goal is weight loss, but the person they’re modeling it after is an endurance trainer, so they see little change in the scale.

Whatever issues you might run into, it’s likely because you haven’t tailored your routine to your goals. Let’s say you do want to increase your endurance—you’ll have to keep recovery time short and active in order to prevent full-recovery mode from setting in. However you decide to time it, keep your recovery interval between 50 and 100 percent of your active interval’s duration. Now, you’re targeting your aerobic energy and getting the most out of your cardio. Nice work!

Are you a HIIT fan? Here's a game-changing 20-minute workout you need to know about.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

More On This Topic

Popular Stories

Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Sites We Love

Your article and new folder have been saved!