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In athletics, active recovery is defined as a low-intensity workout that follows a high-intensity workout. The idea is that by engaging in light exercise after a hard workout (rather than resting and doing nothing), the body’s muscles will recover at a quicker pace. The quicker your body repairs, the sooner you can engage in a high-intensity workout again.

In other words, active recovery allows you to do more workouts and improve your physical health more quickly than inactive recovery or rest.

So what does active recovery mean when it comes to mental performance?

The definition is quite comparable, with one fundamental difference.

From a mental performance perspective, active recovery is the act of engaging the brain in low-intensity activities (i.e. breathing exercises, meditation, gratitude or observation journaling) to accommodate the high-intensity activities and emotions we experience on a daily basis (i.e. work and demanding social interactions with others). Similar to physical fitness, engaging in active recovery speeds up our brain’s recovery from the high-intensity events that it experiences. It also allows us to navigate and withstand these high-intensity activities and emotions more frequently and successfully.

Here’s the difference:

When it comes to physical health, rest means rest. Your muscles can sit relatively idle, but your brain cannot. It is constantly working. This means if we don’t force our brain to engage in active recovery, it will stay engaged in the high-intensity activities and emotions until it burns out (my guess is that this is something that many of us have experienced).

Active recovery is vital to our mental performance, and it doesn’t happen without your conscious decision to engage in it. Our brain spends every day swimming in a sea of thoughts and emotions. We must routinely pull it to the surface and encourage it to breathe, or else it can easily fall victim to the tide.

Need help figuring out how to engage in active recovery, or have any questions about where to begin?

Book a consultation with one of our high-performance coaches at our website,

Your highest potential is our passion here at Team Elite, and we look forward to helping you along your high-performance journey!

-Coach MJ

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