Shelby Spears by Shelby Spears

No pain, no gain.

If it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not sweating, you’re not really exercising.

You have probably heard statements like these before, but they leave the wrong impression about exercise. Fortunately, more people are beginning to recognize that the key to making progress is less about pushing through pain and more about participating in daily movement and exercising to feel good and be able to do the things you love.

Optimal health and fitness, the kind all of us need, come from constantly moving your body in ways that keep you available, keep you in the game. Because no matter how hard you can push, if you’re injured or sick, you’re on the bench.

If this has you sweating, because you love sweating, don’t fret. The more you recover, the more you can push when you do tougher workouts. Active recovery, which is low impact and low- to moderate-intensity movement, increases blood flow to muscle tissue. This is a necessary part of the repair process, but it won’t happen if you keep pounding the pavement or hitting the gym hard during every exercise session. Light movement designed to keep you feeling good speeds up your recovery so the next time you do push, you can push harder.

Feeling sore? Active recovery also decreases pain, according to a 2018 study.

Professional athletes like NBA great LeBron James and 44-year-old multiple Super Bowl champion Tom Brady know this as well. It’s not the push that gets them ahead. It’s how they recover. It’s the work they do in between games: the ice baths, the massages, the active and focused “easy” movements.

You only get stronger when you recover. Your muscles need time to repair and rebuild after a bout of physical exertion. The greater the intensity, training volume, or duration of the activity performed the more consideration is needed for the frequency, intensity, time, and type of recovery performed. But proper recovery doesn’t just mean massages and foam rolling. It really means getting eight hours of sleep per night, maintaining an adequate state of hydration, and staying on top of your nutrition. It’s also about managing your stress and taking time to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, every day.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, a majority of Americans reported feeling more stressed and more worried than they have been in the past decade, according to a 2018 Gallup survey. Stress can be destructive and result in weight gain, fatigue, a lack of motivation and other hurdles to health and fitness. Fortunately, deep breathing has been shown to be an effective way to help manage chronic stress levels. Not only will it calm you down, but it may also help improve your athletic performance.


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