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Consider These Four Types of Recovery Days

Stew smith

Consider These Four Types of Recovery Days

In the world of physical and athletic training, SLEEP, EAT, and RECOVERY are the big three elements to successful preparation for competition events, performance tests, and spec ops selections.  Not only do you need to get it right on your journey into these events (when you can control the stimulus / recovery), but you also have to get the recovery right in order to endure and be ready for the next day of training. 

It is no secret that a majority of your recovery depends solely on what you eat / drink and how you sleep.  See recovery article / podcasts related to the importance of this big two components of recovery. 

Ranking the Types of Recovery Days


1) - The Classic Day Off This means no running, lifting, calisthenics, or other higher intensity activity. Relax, unwind, maybe go for a walk, focus on your breathing (deep / controlled), eat / drink well, and stretch.  Basically, it means do very little compared to your normal work day - maybe yard work at the most.  The one thing you do want to avoid is ruining a recovery day by excess drinking of alcohol as it ruins the upcoming sleep process that you will need for recovery from previous harder workout days. I typically will only take 1 of these a week,but some weeks during high volume cycles, I will add a 2nd day off along with the following recovery day options below:  50-50 Recovery Day, Mobility Day, Cardio Day, or Yoga Day. 

Consider this Tactical Fitness Report podcast on the topic of ruining recovery days:  


2) 50-50 Recovery Day - I have been experimenting with this over the past year or so and they are impromptu recovery days done when my body is talking to me (not my head).  There is a difference between your head being lazy and your body having under-recovered aches / pains in joints and lower back or general energy levels are low even after eating something. Try this:

Do 5 minutes of your normal workout routine - but then take a 5 minute break by doing some easy cardio or stretching, before you continue with the workout. For instance, this was a Wednesday workout after hitting some high miles and reps on Monday and Tuesday the days before: 

For this particular Wednesday, here is what I did.  All I do is a series of 5 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute cycle of easy cardio or stretching.  This cuts the volume of the workout down close to 50%, but you feel like to still did something that day with the added focus on flexibility and mobility.
Wednesday Workout
Warmup with Pullup / Pushup Pyramid 1-10 warmup with 25m jog in between sets (stop at 10) – takes about 5 minutes.  Every 5 minutes of activity – stop and stretch.

Run PT section: 

Repeat 5 times
800m run at goal pace for timed runs
Pullups 10+
Pushups max 1 min
My changes to the above circuit: – My goal here was to run for 3 minutes but have two minutes left to do pullups and pushups for my five minutes of activity. Then 5 minutes of stretching again though I did do a few 5 minute easy runs as my activity of that set.  Instead of doing the above 5 sets, I got a total of 15 minutes of running and stretching as well as three sets of pullups and pushups instead of 2.5 miles of fast running and five sets of pullups and pushups.
More Run / PT / Lift Section: 

Repeat 4 times
Run 400m at goal pace (Timed runs)
Dips max
Heavy rows 5 or TRX rows 10
For this circuit, I rode the bike for 2 minutes followed by 2 minutes of stretching for 4 sets. I did do two sets of dips and rows however.
Cooldown jog or bike 10 min / stretch
This was perfect as I continued riding the bike for 10 minutes and stretched for 10 minutes after the bike ride.


3) Mobility Day - Once again, if you have never listened to anything I have written or said, add this to your life ONCE a week. It is life changing.  This is similar to the 50-50 recovery day, but you only do an easy cardio option for 5 minutes followed by 5 min of stretching, foam rolling, or massage tools. 

Thursday is Mobility Day and a life changing workout.  If you have not tried it yet, you should, especially if you get after it several times a week. It does help with being fully recovered and ready for the following Friday and weekend workouts. Easy Day done as written below:

Repeat 5 times
5 min cardio (non-impact recommended - bike, swim, elliptical, row, etc)
5 min stretch, foam roll, or massage tool

3a) Water Recovery - Mobility Day - If you have a pool, add this to the mobility day or after any workout for 10-15 minutes even: 

10 min swim
10 min tread
5 min dynamic stretches in chest deep water

3b)  Yoga Day 

There is nothing wrong with taking a yoga day.  Whether that is a class with a teacher or watching a yoga class on youtube try it someday and you will realize just how not flexible you are.  Give it a shot in place of a hard workout day when you are just not feeling it or in place of a day off.  


Easy Cardio Only Days - After a challenging few days especially if high intensity, speed / power, or heavy lifts, an easy cardio day is helpful with engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (rest - digest / slow down side of the central nervous system).  This can be non-impact cardio for 20-30 minutes, and easy jog or walk for the same time, but all should be focusing on your breathing. Big inhales / exhales with a recommended pace so you can do the entire event with controlled deep breathing.  It is an easy day.  I often place these as a day 3 in between a tough and heavy upper body and lower body day combo for Day 1 and Day 2.  Then on Day 4 do another upperbody lift, and Day 5 is a lower body day. You can continue the 2 on / 1 off by replacing the off with any one of the above RECOVERY days above. 

Sometimes less is more so get your recovery days in each week depending on how you feel.  If you are seeing negative gains or stagnant growth, consider adding one of these options into your training week for a few weeks and see what happens.  The elements of recovery that will make the most difference in your training routine and performance in the end will come down to your nutrition, hydration, and your sleep. But these perfectly timed recovery day options can add to your recovery when needed. 

Tactical Mobility – A Book from Stew Smith, Gwen Lawrence, and Nick Benas.  Together, we created the third book in the Tactical Fitness Series.

In case you don't know, Tactical Mobility makes it easy to maximize your results in the most effective, efficient way possible. Tactical Mobility shows you how to break through personal barriers and reach your absolute physical peak!

Tactical Mobility was created by Stew Smith, Gwen Lawrence, and Nick Benas and is available at  Navy SEAL Veteran Stew Smith, CSCS, helps struggling Military, Special Ops, Law Enforcement, and Firefighter candidates get TO and THROUGH intense tactical assessment and selection programs. Using specific training books, ebooks and online coaching, you will qualify for service and crush fitness tests and selection in the tactical professions.

Where to Find More Home Gym Workouts?

This is just a few of the many benefits people without gym access gain when it comes to using calisthenics and seeing performance improvements. Why risk stop training because you don’t have a gym when you can avoid wasted effort and money? Take the time to educate yourself on the proper methods to adding calisthenics into your training program. In the future, when you start lifting again, you can always add it to your training again whenever you feel like you need a cycle of lighter weights and more cardio. We do this every Spring / Summer using my Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

Check out the Stew Smith Fitness Store for more information on what we have available.

Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people with manual labor jobs as well as those focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

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More for the Athlete Over 40 (or not)

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