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Don’t Be a (Super)hero: Practice Active Recovery

Summer 2011 has been a geek’s wet dream. Captain America, X-Men, Thor and The Green Lantern have all saved the world for $10-15 bucks a pop. Audiences have marveled (pun intended) at the nerdtastic storylines and intense CGI. Guys into fitness and bodybuilding, however, have sat in awe of the chiseled features of its stars like Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern)and wondered “How do I get to look like that?”

Even superheroes need breaks

Watching seemingly ordinary men transform into super-soldiers and snap bad guys like a Slim-Jim is inspiring for the pasty overweight/underweight guys that typically look up to them. I’ve even started to notice some Incredible Hulk and Batman shirts pop up amidst the Tapout and Livestrong shirts at the gym. While it’s great to want to transform oneself, being overzealous and over-training can lead to injury and poor results. Unless you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider or chosen by a power ring, you’ve got to give your body some time to recover from all the action.

Take a cue from Batman, the closest thing to a “normal” guy in all of comics: a superhero without superpowers. Sure, he takes down Gotham City evildoers left and right, but is he on-call 24/7? No! The Dark Knight moonlights as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and serves caviar, not whoop ass, one or two nights a week. Does it cramp his fighting ability? Does the Batsuitnot have a six-pack carved into it?

In order to safely and effectively build muscle and get in shape, you’ve got to schedule in a day or two of recovery time into your workout routine. If your Bat Signal shines Monday through Wednesday, dim the light on Thursday and take a breather. This doesn’t mean sit on your ass all day and watch reruns of “Heroes.” Recovery days are active days, but with lowered intensity. If you run six miles one day, try some yoga the next. If you save the world from Magneto on Thursday, rescue a cat from a tree on Friday. Alternate your activities and intensity levels for maximum results.

Making active recovery a part of your workout routine doesn’t make you a wuss. Active recovery is for the guy with brains and brawn. If you follow the X-Men series, you’re familiar with Beast, the furry blue mutant with superhuman strength and superior intelligence. As a doctor and scientist highly-skilled at acrobatic combat, Beast would recommend active recovery as a means to physically and mentally prepare the body for future activity.

By incorporating active recovery into your workout, you’ll reduce the risks of over-training and injury. Taking one or two days “off” a week is a better alternative to having to take months off to recover from a pulled muscle. Imagine how fast Lex Luthor would take over if Superman pulled his groin by not giving himself time to recover.

An oft-quoted line from the Spider-Man universe is “With great power comes great responsibility.” While you might not be web-slinging around Manhattan stopping the Green Goblin in his tracks, you do need to remember to be responsible as you build your body into a supercharged machine. Don’t be a fitness hero and work out to the extreme every day. Over-training is Kryptonite to your body. Practice active recovery and you’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound tomorrow.

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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