Rest vs Active Recovery + An Introduction to Foam Rolling

Erin Bahadur Calcium and Bone Health Leave a Comment

It’s hard enough knowing how you should be working out — what types of movements, how long, how many times a week, etc. When you hear terms like “active recovery” and “dynamic stretching,” things can seem even more complicated.

Based on your individual goals and fitness level, the amount of exercise you do in a week will vary. One thing that shouldn’t vary, however, is scheduling time for your body to rest and recover. Both are important in allowing your muscles to rebuild and strengthen for the next time you use them.


One thing to keep in mind is that rest and active recovery are not the same thing. Rest involves completely resting the body and concentrating on adequate sleep to ensure time for muscle repair.

On the other hand, active recovery refers to more low-intensity workouts or movements that still allow the body to move, but do not put as much stress on it.

Some examples of active recovery include, but are not limited to:

  • Walking or light jogging
  • Yoga
  • Foam rolling
  • Dynamic stretching (stretches that involve movement instead of staying in a static position)
  • Swimming or cycling at a slower, more casual pace


Active recovery allows the muscles to move at a lower intensity, and as a benefit It helps to increase blood flow to the area and speed the recovery process. Your goal on an active recovery day is not to try and work on strength or speed, but rather to gently encourage your body to adapt and grow.


One of the most popular types of active recovery is foam rolling, or more technically referred to as “self-myofascial release.” It is a way for you to self-massage tender and tight areas in order to improve circulation, increase range of motion, and promote quicker recovery times.

There are several foam rolling options available. The most conventional involves a roller that resembles a log and comes in a variety of densities. For those people just starting out, you may need a less dense roller, but keep in mind that over time this type will often warp with the pressure of your body and may not be as effective.


There are many different ways to use a foam roller, so this post will aim to go over the basics. Check out the links below for more information and examples of how to use it.

The goal with foam rolling is to help flush water and toxins out of the muscles, which allows fresh water inside the body to enter. As you roll an area, do it slowly and pay attention to any areas that may feel tight or tender. Once you’ve located an area, pause on it with the pressure of your body and hold that spot for 20-30 seconds.

Think of a foam roller as a deep tissue massage, only you’re able to control the areas and the amount of pressure. You’re looking for those tight, tender areas, so don’t expect foam rolling to be a nice, relaxing exercise. You’ll likely feel some discomfort, but just remember you’re helping those muscles recover!

For more information on foam rolling and some do’s and don’ts, check out the following links:

Ultimately, remember that your body needs both rest and active recovery. Aim to get between 6-8 hours of sleep each night and schedule at least 1-2 days during the week for lighter activity.

Photo: Pilot Fitness