The Active Recovery Series: Part I

By Lara Foster

Optimized Rest and Recovery is a term I first came across taking the Flow Fundamentals course from the Flow Genome Project with Jamie Wheal and crew. In order to recover deeply, we need to understand the difference between Active Recovery and Passive Recovery.

Active Recovery Explanation

“Passive Recovery is literally what most of us do, most of the time. It is, ‘I am so burned out, tired, fatigued, that all I can picture is, doing nothing,’” Wheal says.

He goes on to say, “Passive Recovery is slow, inefficient, and carried to its extreme prolonged and pronounced. And Passive Recovery drawn out… that’s basically depression.”

The best analogy I’ve ever heard about Passive Recovery is Netflix and BINGE. During some of the height of my strength training days in 2011–2013 AND going through the woes of grief at the same time… I could make it to work in the mornings but all I could do energy wise by the afternoon was lay flat, watch tv and eat a meal (more like lots of snacks).

As a trainer and coach I see how our active age of constant going and moving is deteriorating our psyche’s, well-beings, and physicality. This continually shows up throughout people’s lives as burnout, injuries, overwhelm, a lack of drive, focus, motivation…

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s kind of a rage word right now, ‘BURN OUT’. It’s probably all over your Instagram or Facebook feed. If you feel inclined to place yourself in this category of overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and quite possibly just a slight under tick of range when it comes to managing high/peak performance states and then grounding and coming back to center again… You’re Not Alone!

What will set you apart is how you manage the current stress, because remember stress is not bad, and your ability to train your way through to other ways of dealing and handling it can be trained. Our best attempt to not get drawn down into this space of a Passive Recovery Lifestyle is to manage our energy output and interweaving recovery modalities. Not because we “need” them, that’s back in Passive Recovery land, but because they enhance how we live, move, feel and perform our best.

Active Recovery

enhances how we Live,


Feel and

Perform our Best.”

Interweaving recovery modalities in this way can be coined by the term Active Recovery. Think PRO-Active, you’re priming yourself, your restores, before the thing (whatever you might be training or working towards), before the plummet, or even before the summit.

Active Recovery is a Pro-Active process.

Getting yourself outside for a hike, a walk on the beach, enjoying a sunset and investing in relationships that “juice you” as Wheal says. Spending time on a hobby, learning a new skill, reading, writing, painting, singing, dancing, creating music! Even eating good food, cooking a good wholesome meal, drinking plenty of water can be considered Active Recovery.

Active Recovery will feel like a refueling, but not from a place of being empty. Kind of like just topping off the gas tank continually, to full and overflowing again.

The range between Passive Recovery and Active Recovery could look like this.

Passive, Micro, Active Recovery Spectrum

To really understand how Active Recovery might pair itself with exercise, health and fitness I utilized Crossfit’s ‘Sickness, Wellness, Health Continuum’ from the article “Fitness, Luck and Health” by Crossfit Inc. adapted from lectures by Greg Glassman.

Crossfit's Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum

The overlay of Passive, Micro, and Active Recoveries both point us toward Wellness, Health, Optimization and Fitness when we look at the spectrum in this way.

Considering these factors, and being a fitness and performance coach for 12 years to observe and interact with the territory, it really seems, case after case that there’s an optimized “Flow Channel” of health and well being between “Wellness” and “Fitness”, and also between Micro-Recoveries and Active Recovery.

Optimized Flow Channel


Now let’s pair both of these with the Flow Genome Project’s Flow Cycle.

Flow Genome Project

The cycle always starts with Struggle, then Release, then Flow, then Recovery. As you can see from the image, brain waves are also associated with these states. For recovery we can also say, most “activities” that promote or induce Delta brain waves for you will also contribute to your Active Recovery lifestyle. And these are paramount after being in Flow or having an ecstatic/peak state experience or even just being a high performer with lots of tasks in your day. Which at this point is just about everyone.

In Kelly Howell’s Meditation Masterclass she describes brain wave states as places we can train ourselves into.

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Kelly Howell’s Meditaiton Masterclass

Using biofeedback studies have been conducted on brain wave states and Theta is the ultimate brainwave Nirvana. If you look back at the Flow cycle, Theta is also the Flow State.

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Kelly Howell’s Meditation Masterclass

Understanding the differences between brain wave states becomes essential when beginning to train our Western Mind towards optimal living and lifestyles of connection, community, inspiration, growth, and healing.

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Kelly Howell’s Meditation Masterclass

Active Recovery is a part of the process when it comes to having flow in our lives, and even moreso when it comes to designing our lives to have more flow in them. Quite possibly more flow, could mean more struggle, but if you learn how to ride that wave, more struggle can turn into other and new opportunities for flow and life.

So, back to training ourselves with Active Recovery. Most lifting, strength training, and leadership programs gear towards “all the things we need to get done”. We look at a map, or a calendar and fill in all the spaces to train our way to a desired state or goal.

Active Recovery is kind of like the opposite. With Active Recovery we’re essentially training and creating space for all the things we’re not doing, the moments to sit in silence, the days to not be run around by a clock and demands, the bodywork through foam rolling and massages, the spontaneous turns down a side street and happening to run into an old friend… on and on it goes.

With Active Recovery the process may start looking like a “To Do” list.

  1. Breathwork/Box Breathing
  2. Meditate
  3. Mobilize
  4. Watch a Sunset
  5. Connect with Partner
  6. Read
  7. Gratitude
  8. Reach out to a friend
  9. Hang with family
  10. Contribute to community

“How do we get it all done!? And BE Present!?”

It is totally ok to start with a “to do list” when beginning the process of gearing your mind, life and nervous system towards a more intentional/fluid/flowing life. Where you can manage the range of your stress levels and become more resilient in the day to day. Kind of like the quote from Bruce Lee.

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

-Bruce Lee

Why would we even want to Active Recover or live a more intentional life? Good Question. And it might even be a private personal answer for each and every one of us. For me, I find that living more intentionally doesn’t necessarily make an ‘easy’ life happen, but it does certainly keep me very centered in the track of purpose, staying in alignment with my goals and broader goals, knowing what opportunities are a step forward on my path and knowing what might sound great but does not neccessarily add any value to what is important for me and my life right now.

Which is just So Important when when it comes to living with discernment amidst our digital age. There’s so much information around us, coming towards us, even being pulled from us, that your ability to know yourself, what you want/need, and being able to discern your best path is paramount.

Essentially, we’re talking about self agency and making all of these decisions for yourself sounds a lot like control. But self agency operates quite a bit more like a wider lense with depth added all at the same time. We are able to hold many perspectives and still ground ourselves in the moment. Kind of like catching up to reality, what’s really happening in the moment, instead of living our lives through old stories, memories, or the way we thought things were because that’s what everyone told us. Or perhaps because that’s the way that everyone else is living.

Pretty cool when it’s put this way. Having more self agency, living more intentionally, knowing our own routes of discernment brings us the capacity to really see, feel, smell, taste, touch and discern the present moment of now. And I don’t know about you, but any real connection I’ve ever had has always been centered in the present moment.

It’s not enough to just KNOW all of this information. We need to put it into practice in our daily lives.

Active Recovery Series: Part II, How do we apply Active Recovery to our Lives?



Crossfit Journal 2002: What is Fitness? (

Crossfit Journal: Fitness, Luck and Health (

Flow Genome Project: Flow Fundamentals – Jamie Wheal

Flow Genome Project: 1440 Immersion – 2019 Certification Course – Jamie Wheal

Kelly Howell’s Meditation Masterclass 2019 – Coaching Certification – Kelly Howell (Brain Sync)




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