“Time heals all wounds.” You’ve probably heard this phrase dozens of times. It’s generally spoken by a well-intentioned soul who wants to offer hope in a time of crisis. But if you’re like me, as well-intentioned as the words are, they do little in terms of helping. It’s unrealistic to think that if we just set our hurtful life experiences on the shelf that they’ll slowly heal.
We know there are very few problems or pains that solve themselves simply by the passing of time. And even if it were true, who wants to spend a decade or more slowly allowing our emotional pain to ease, when it could be understood and healed if we apply a little intentionality? Who wants to slog through the years when we could process what’s happened, adopt healthy practices, and move forward in life?
Similarly, one of the greatest misnomers in exercise is that the best recovery is time off. It’s a popular thought, and one I blindly followed when I began to work-out more seriously. After all, it’s not uncommon to feel muscle soreness in the days following a good workout—all that strain on our muscles causes small muscle tears that leave us achy. But as is often the case, what’s true for our hearts and minds is just as true for our bodies.
When I first began weight training I would spend the days after a workout laying low. My muscles were really sore, so I would go out of my way to take it easy. I rested more. I would schedule a day or two break from the gym after each workout. I really believed that the best way for my muscles to recover was by babying them—giving them time.
You’ve probably been here before, too. Working out a few days a week, spending the other days in downtime, creaking down stairways, painfully easing in and out of your desk chair.
The problem is that all that waiting around only results in two things: prolonging our muscle soreness, and preventing us from reaching our fitness goals as efficiently. We end up frustrated by the gaps between workouts. Looking at our weekly calendar all we see is wasted time. We know we could be making better progress if we weren’t spending half of the week in recovery.
But there’s good news for all of us out there who like to make the most of our days—for those of us who thrive on setting goals and seeing them through: there is another way. Muscle soreness doesn’t have to require days spent on the couch. Our fitness program doesn’t need to consist of one step back for every two steps forward. There is a proactive approach to recovery that not only speeds the process, but keeps us moving toward our fitness goals at the same time.
Active recovery means choosing habits that help muscles heal faster, repairing the micro-tears, and making us even stronger. Contrary to popular thought, a low intensity workout actually speeds recovery, enabling you to get back at it sooner, and maintain momentum in between major workouts. I’ve adjusted my workout schedule to include yoga on the days between weight training and have found that it eases the soreness, and I am ready to get back to lifting sooner.
Another practice I’ve adopted is supplementing my diet with a boost of CBD after a workout. CBD reduces inflammation, preventing joint injury and alleviating pain due to swelling—and there’s evidence that it may speed up recovery time, improving the recovery of all those muscles that were broken down. And as a bonus, CBD reduces stress and anxiety, adding to the focused energy we all love after a good workout.
Sure, it can be mentally challenging to push through the fatigue while holding a twisted chair pose, or going for a jog on tired legs, but not only does active recovery strengthen our bodies—rebuilding and repairing—it strengthens our minds, too, reinforcing our confidence that we can do hard things, we can push past discomfort to do what’s best for our bodies, we can achieve our goals.
Let’s brush off outdated views of fitness, and pick up habits that excel recovery, maximize our efforts, and set us on the path to optimal health.