What's more effective... "active" recovery or full rest?

Hey everyone!

I’ve been using TR for only a short time but seeing some good results so far. I tend to ride early in the morning, to get the ride out of the way and not be affected by anything that comes up later on.

One thing that I am sure many other users can relate to is having to sit behind a screen for many hours after riding and feeling the effects of the workout slowly build up in my legs. Naturally, I will try to get up and move every hour, but sometimes when you’re in the zone it’s hard to break the rhythm.

My question: is this actually a good way to rest/recover? Or should I be doing more “active” recovery at more regular intervals to help prevent muscles ceasing up and lactate building?

Thanks in advance, love the app and podcast, keep up the good work!

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Welcome to TR mate!

I don’t have any science or anything to back up my argument other than going old school, which is going with what my body tells me.

For me, active recovery works A LOT better. I’m a triathlete so I’m doing a lot of training but I really only have a full day off training once every 3 or 4 weeks. I find that my body responds a lot better to active recovery days. In your case of sitting down for long periods post-training, I know I would be making it a priority to get up and move every 30mins if possible, at least every 60mins. Literally even a 1min stretch of the quads, calves, groin, hips and hammys several times throughout a day makes a huge difference to me.


I don’t have any (publicly available) sources on hand either, but from observing VO2 & SmO2 data it seems like it depends (of course!.. it always depends :sweat_smile:)

After higher intensity, shorter duration anaerobic work intervals, recovery seems to be enhanced by immediate passive recovery, at least for the first minute or so. After that active recovery can further enhance recovery.

The theory is that after you’ve burned all your static metabolic resources in the muscle (PCr, oxymyoglobin, etc. that I’ll oversimplify as “anaerobic” resources) they have to be replenished via aerobic metabolism. Active recovery continues to impose an extra energy demand on the aerobic system, so aerobic energy production is divided between meeting continued power output, and recovering those anaerobic resources over the short term.

Anaerobic recovery is curvilinear and rate dependent on the continued power demand, so 0 power demand (passive) will allow the fastest recovery. That curvilinear recovery slows down the closer you get to “fully recovered”, so then active recovery can assist via enhancing blood flow, clearing lactate & metabolic byproducts, etc.

So the choice of passive or active recovery might depend on the work interval intensity and rest interval duration.

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Thank you so much, really great insight!

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