Ian Sharman has been racing around the world in all styles of event since 2005 and coaching since 2010, having run around 200 ultras and marathons (PR: 2:21) in every type of weather and on all terrain. Ian has won around 50 multi-day races, road marathons, trail ultras and adventure races with experience of running in many mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies and European Alps. He is also owner to Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching and has worked with many athletes over the course of his career. To see this type of longevity requires discipline and proper training technique. I was fortunate enough to sit with Ian and discuss his tips on active recovery and how you can use it to increase the effectiveness of your workout.


What is active recovery? 

Ian: Active recovery is getting the body moving in a way that isn’t stressing it out, getting the blood pumping in a low intensity, low heart rate, and low impact way so that you get better recovery from harder sessions. If you are doing a difficult session on any given day, you aren’t more fit at the end of that session but have provided a stimulus to the body and broken down the muscles, Over the next few days during the repair phase your body builds back that muscle stronger than it was prior to the stimulus.


What activities are considered active recovery?

Ian: Doing things like walking or hiking and non impact exercises. Very light running could be considered active recovery, low stress body movements is the goal.


When is the best time to know you should be engaging in active recovery? 

Ian: This should be an ongoing thing all the time. Every day of the week it is important to walk whenever you can, take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you are going out to get a pint of milk walk to the store instead of drive, having that mentality of always trying to get your body moving when you can. If you are working in an office purposely get up if you can once an hour to stretch for a few seconds or grab some water. It is not something you do only when exhausted but athletes should be doing this type of thing at all times. Active recovery is just as important as doing the hard sessions and actually a much larger portion of your time.


What are some common mistakes in active recovery?

Ian: Well the thing is a lot of people tend to do their exercise on a medium intensity more often, so rather than having harder sessions that provide a good stimulus and then recovery from those hard sessions people are doing more medium effort everyday which doesn’t quite provide enough of a stimulus for improvement and then equally they don’t get as much recovery from that so the quality of any harder efforts is lower. In particular some people never allow themselves to have those easy days and rest days and can dig themselves into a hole of over training.


What is the biggest beginner tip you have when it comes to active recovery? 

Ian: People just getting into the sport they tend to train more often. Many runners are a type A personality so they are committed and they want to stick to it and hit targets and have a plan and that kind of thing. Too many times at that stage people think that taking a day off or an easy day is a wasted effort or time and that surely by doing a harder session they will see a greater increase in performance and that just isn’t the truth. You actually begin to get worse in that type of regiment, the body stops responding to the training when you don’t allow adequate time to adapt.


Active recovery is a crucial part of any athletic training cycle, being that your gains depend on proper training to rest ratio it is critical to be mindful of your schedule and make adequate time for both. What are some of your best active recovery tips or workouts?