Burn with Kearns: How and why you should be engaging in active recovery – Kevin Kearns

by Kevin Kearns, contributing writer on fitness and exercise

Many years ago, it feels like forever at age 53, we just worked out on a formula of 3 days on, 1 day off, or 2 on, 1 off. No one really discussed active recovery. Years ago I read an article on the great bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger who never really did any cardio before a competition. He would go hang out with the locals the week or so before, and go dancing with them. it would help him drop some more weight before the show.

In the world of MMA fitness, the great Randy Couture said he would not take more than 4 days off in a row from training. When asked why, he replied, “it hurts too much to come back ”. I know for myself at 52 this year, what is moderation at 42 is different than at 52. What’s moderation at 42 is different than at 32. and so on.

Fast forward to today and the term active recovery is now on everyone’s mind. I myself have noticed that if I’m really sore after performing a hard workout, the next day I’m better off doing something lighter or different. The question you might ask is why is that so. Everyone has stress in the body.

There is distress and eustress. Distress is unhealthy and can cause many diseases. These diseases can include cardiovascular, to some forms of cancer, to the common cold. Eustress is positive for the body. This is mostly caused by exercise. However, exercise stress does come with a double edged sword. There are many bi-products of exercise that are not healthy for the body, or don’t really feel good. One of which is lactic acid. Lactic acid is a bi-product of intense exercise. With aerobic type exercise the lactic acid can be converted into pyruvic acid, and used as energy. Unfortunately, with strength training or HITT type of training, it is not. What you have the next day are sore muscles and possibly stiffness. As well, some toxins can be trapped in the muscles as well. Free radicals and blood impurities are all basically stuck in the muscles and cells.

You might have had a great workout the day before but now you feel like a bus hit you. This is very common and often can be discouraging when starting an exercise program, or getting older (as I like to call it, leveling up) as we continue to exercise. I, myself, when I switch my workouts up, will be sore for a number of days after the new program. It takes my body a few weeks to get adjusted to the program. As well, forget about it if I take a week off. That’s like hell combing back.

So what is a 40 plus guy to do? The answer is simple. Exercise the next day. I know that must sound so totally the opposite of how you feel the next day, but it truly works. The key is not to train at the same intensity as the previous day. One of my mentors used to call it an “unloading day”. The concept is sound and works well. The challenge for most people is they will think it’s not enough of a workout, or they are too sore. We will explore some “active recovery” modalities and the benefits of them.

Most people over look the power of water. Swimming and aqua therapy have been used for centuries to improve:

overall wellness
stimulate hormone balance
works your entire body
feels good because we came from water
low impact
zero cost
brings you back to nature
freedom of movement
turns back the clock with your blood chemistry
anyone can do it
You’ll use muscles you did not know you had.

I myself have been doing yoga for 10 years now. My one regret is that I did not start it in my 20’s. So what it’s good for:
Stress relief
Increase joint mobility
isometric strength
Stimulates multiple hormones and organs
it’s a workout from the inside out
burns a lot of calories
anyone can do it
low cost
can actually change your metabolism
reduces arthritis
low impact
It’s over 25,000 year old
feels good on the whole body
It has a “rinsing effect“ on your organs

Get back to nature
great cardio
change of scenery
low impact
anyone can do it
Hiking outdoors has plenty of perks: nice views, fresh air, and the sounds and smells of nature.
It’s good for you, too. Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can:
• Lower your risk of heart disease
• Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
• Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise
• Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs
• Strengthen your core
• Improve balance
• Help control your weight
• Boost your mood. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” (Web MD)

Foam rolling and active release stretching
Before people discovered foam rolling and active release stretching we all went to a massage therapist. Now with the advent of foam rolling and all the other little toys, people can now alleviate muscle soreness and get rid of toxins trapped in their muscles. What would have cost you 100s of dollars at the massage therapist is now available at home and anytime.

What Is Myofascial Release?
You might wonder what myofascial release means. Fascia is sort of like plastic wrap that covers pretty much every part of your body, comprised of collagen fibers that surrounds and penetrates your muscles, organs and nerves. (1) Fascia essentially holds us together.
Of course, sometimes holding everything together can take its toll on your body. It’s no different for our fascia. Through overtraining, it can become sore and restricted. Because of little tears that sometimes don’t heal properly, adhesions develop. If the connective tissue surrounding your muscle becomes restricted, you’ll notice your muscles will also become restricted in their movement.
Myofascial release describes what happens when you apply pressure to the affected areas to eliminate adhesions and release tension, ultimately improving movement and restoring the body back to its natural state. Foam rolling, myofascial release encompasses a wide range of modalities including Rolfing, massage and the Graston technique.

While there are many reasons to incorporate foam rolling into your fitness routine, let’s briefly look at 5.

  1. Improved flexibility and increased joint range of motion
    For years, stretching was the standard method to decrease muscle tightness and improve flexibility prior to either working out or performing a sport. Newer research, however, shows foam roller exercises before an activity can lead to an increase in flexibility. (2)
  2. Better circulation
    Because blood carries oxygen throughout the body, good circulation becomes crucial to overall health. Among other reasons, a decrease in our circulation can lead to a whole host of problems like numbness in our limbs, impaired cognitive ability (the ability to think clearly!) and a weak immune system. Myofascial release can help improve circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may become restricted.
  3. Stress reduction
    Foam roller exercises can help reduce stress post-workout. One study found myofascial release can lower cortisol, your stress hormone that you want to seriously dial down after a strenuous workout. (3)
  4. Reduce exercise-related soreness
    Whether you are an experienced athlete or a weekend warrior, you’ve probably experienced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (4) Simply put, DOMS is the pain and stiffness in your muscles that can typically set in anywhere from 24–48 hours after an intense workout.
    However, research finds foam rolling can substantially reduce the chances of that soreness creeping in so that you don’t spend the day after your first cycling class stuck on the couch wondering why your legs hate you so much. (5)
  5. Prevent injury
    Treating an injury becomes much easier when you avoid it in the first place. Oftentimes a consistent routine of proper stretching techniques combined with foam roller exercises can prevent many injuries associated with tightness and overuse, such as iliotibial band syndrome and other common running injuries.
    The iliotibial band runs from the top of the leg by your hip to just below your knee. It tends to be particularly susceptible to injury, especially in runners. One caveat: If not done properly, you can do more harm than good. (6) Rolling on an already inflamed area can actually increase inflammation, thereby giving you the exact opposite effect you are trying to achieve.

Pilates, dance, and Tai chi
Long time exercise modalities like the above have been somewhat frowned on for years. I personally know pilates is quite tough, I perform Chi Qigong on a regular basis and I have been known to rip up a dance floor at least 1 to 2 x a month)
Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger would go out and dance with the locals during a competition week. He said it would help him cut weight.
The point being is this it’s not necessary to kill it every day. As they say in yoga, there is a time for being rigorous and a time for rest.

See you at the top!
Coach Kevin Kearns


Coach Kearns – Direct: 508 404 8503

Both of Coach Kearns’ books may be purchased on For more information about Coach Kevin Kearns, including scheduling speaking engagements and classes (both online and in person), please contact him at 508-404-8503 or

Author of “There’s Light In The Tunnel” How to Survive and Thrive with Depression  – “Always Picked Last“ A guide to navigating bullies on Amazon and Audible

Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. 

Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist

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