Active recovery is a phrase that can mean something simple, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or playing with your pets. These small aspects allow you to essentially keep mobility and help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) instead of lying in bed postponing the recuperation process.
My recommendation, though? A more passive form of recovery, in the form of Russian and Turkish bathhouses. Also known as a "banya," which translates to a bathhouse or public bathhouse, these have perks far beyond the sweating out of toxins. It's probably one of the best forms of active rest. Sweating helps soften the skin to open up pores, flushing out contaminants that prevent cell regeneration by releasing excess water and salts. It is a well-known fact that the skin is the largest organ; it helps protect and defend our internal and external body.
The macro-benefits of sauna and cold immersions.
With active recovery, we look to help the body become healthy and efficient with activities that offer fewer stressors. Through resting in a heated wet or dry room, then hopping into a cold bath or ice room, our bodies can use banyas to help the body to circulate more blood throughout, creating more nutrition and faster recovery to your joints and muscles. Blood starts to actively circulate in vessels, enriching organs with oxygen and other nutritional substances.
Oxidative processes speed up, waste and other toxic substances are removed faster through lungs and skin. Cutaneous pores open in a warm environment, which helps to remove dirt, toxic substances, sweat, and dead cells from skin. Such a thermal bath normalizes sweat gland functioning, which, in turn, prevents the early rise of wrinkles.
Essentially, while in the heated sauna, your heart starts to beat faster with your heart rate reaching up to 120 beats per minute; blood flow increases; and vessels get a healthy load of cleaned blood with new nutrients. At that time, your blood pressure raises insignificantly as arteries and capillaries expand, becoming less resistant to blood circulation. As a result, one faster good and energetic.
When the body cools down via the ice bath or room, the blood vessels narrow and heart rate slows. Cold-water immersion induces significant physiological and biochemical changes in the body such as an increase in HR, BP, metabolism, and peripheral catecholamine concentration; and decrease in cerebral blood flow.
This alternates high and low temperatures, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and increases the elasticity of its elements. The latter decreases the likelihood of infarction. By increasing blood circulation, the banya helps to detoxify the body, particularly in difficult areas like the teeth, bones, and sinuses. The steam opens your pores and promotes cleansing for cleaner, healthier skin.
Nourishing your body for maximum efficiency.
Throughout the entire process, the flushing of your blood is much like running new oil through your car. You are a machine, and the more efficiency your body can recover and the more it can receive nutrients, the faster you can become active again.
Here are other known benefits of heat and cold immersion at banyas.
Oxygen is everything to us. Our body uses it for countless reasons, so taking care of your respiratory system is an added benefit. The steamed air aggravates your upper respiratory tract and mucus lining, resulting in your breathing becoming more frequent and deeper, your bronchial tubes and lung capability proliferate, which assists in fighting common colds, allergic reactions, sinusitis, laryngitis, and asthma.
The heat positively affects muscles, joints, and bones and helps to remove lactic acid and urea from the body. These substances form in muscles during physical activity, and ligaments and joints get more nutritional substances and oxygen, making them more flexible and elastic. Salts and other pathological substances gradually dissolve.
Long story short? If you haven't tried it yet, taking a steam and hopping into an ice bath on the regular will work wonders for your post-workout aches and pain.
Want more ideas for active recovery? Here's how you should recover if you love HIIT.