Rest versus Active Recovery

Recently I wrote an article on What Is Active Recovery?, where I covered the fundamentals of it along with some active recovery workout ideas. In this feature I now cover passive rest versus active recovery, and why and how they’re each important to plan for and use.

Rest and recovery is vital to allow your body the chance to perform at its best when it needs to, and it can help avoiding overtraining dangers, which is something that many don’t see coming until it’s too late.

Rest vs. Active Recovery

Active Recovery

Active recovery stimulates the body through intentional low-intensity workouts, priming it for recovery and enhancing that process. While complete rest is pretty much doing no activity at all in a bid to give your body and mind a complete break.

Active recovery is a smart way to recover and it should be periodically planned and programmed into your regular training schedule. The same actually goes for rest, although rest is something most people would “plan” for in their regular schedule. The importance actually comes in the balance between the two and when each is actually best practiced.

Active recovery is also something that works well with athletes or active people who don’t handle complete days off well. It’s an individual thing, but some feel flat after a full day or two off. Another potential problem with active recovery is self-control – it’s human nature, especially for competitive types, or even if you’re feeling great on that day, to want to push yourself even when you’ve planned a low-intensity active recovery workout.

Passive Rest

Complete rest (or passive rest) is beneficial when you’re one of those types that can’t help but hit it hard at training, when it should be an essential low-intensity workout or activity for recovery purposes.

It’s easy to incorporate a passive rest into regular training schedules because most people don’t have time to train on weekends, or particularly on Sundays. This lends itself to allowing you to periodically count a day like Sunday as your complete rest day – also prepping you for the weeks of training to come.

A passive rest day also allows you to block off all things training, giving you a mental rest from the routine, and often it helps in allowing you a fresh start and a clear mind for when you return to training. This can be highly beneficial, especially if training fatigue affects you mentally.


For any day that you plan active recovery workouts, make sure it’s a feel-good workout that leaves you feeling good, not spent.

Active recovery is possibly more beneficial overall, however, if you can’t control your eagerness to go too hard on an active recovery workout or activity, plan a complete rest day instead.

The bottom line is that active recovery is massively beneficial and can aid in quicker recovery, etc., but allowing for a full passive rest day has its place in allowing your mind to escape the sometimes stressors of sport and training, and it can help you come back fresh and revived. Test both out and allow for a suitable mix of both during your regular training that sees the best result for you.

How much of active recovery or passive rest do you include in your training program?

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