Recovery Activities

See Part 1.

My exercise goals for the last couple months have been:

  • Prioritize recovery and stress reduction over building strength
  • Continue improving resilience (i.e., recover faster)
  • Learn what each workout zone and especially recovery feel like
  • If energy is good (judge by feel and HRV numbers), THEN alternate “long slow” and “strength/cardio” workouts. NO set frequency or schedule, to avoid overdoing it/guilt.
  • Work on posture and breathing to increase available energy

I take an HRV reading every morning and compare that with how I feel. I use a Polar 10 chest strap gadget and the Welltory, Elite HRV, and HRV4Training apps simultaneously (I know, I know…I’m comparing them…gimme a break) to determine my morning HRV.  If most signs point toward needing to take it easy, I rest or do a recovery activity in zone 1 (or low zone 2 since it’s often hard to stay in zone 1). If both are good, then I do exercise in zones 2-3. If I feel great, I aim for zones 3-4, but no more than 2x/week at this point.

I wear the Polar chest strap during my workouts (and sometimes just during regular activities, like canning or giving a presentation at work). Its app shows my heart rate AND the zone I’m in from moment to moment, then tallies up my time in each zone per workout and day/week/month. Here are some sample activities:



HR range

Activities Aug. ’18


Total rest –

Feels stretchy


·        Sitting, sleeping

·        Seated yoga


Active Recovery –

Easy motion; often hard to stay this low


·        Gentle sun salutations; seated active yoga

·        Tai chi warm-up

·        Walk to meeting


Light – base fitness – feels like “I’m actually doing


·      Flowy tai chi

·     1 flight stairs

·     “Taking a walk”

·     Giving Reflex

·     Weeding

·     Slowest elliptical


Steady state – improve aerobic – feels like I’m working hard


·     Brisk walk

·     Moderate elliptical

·     2 flights stairs


Tempo – speed/stamina – breathing very hard


·    Mowing flat

·    Cardio workout


Max – increase max performance – starting to worry


·     Mowing slope


Galloping heart




If you want to try this at home, there are tons of gadgets and apps out there. You absolutely need something that can measure heart rate variability – most FitBits and whatnot don’t do this, even if they can track your heart rate. Welltory and I think HRV4Training can actually measure HRV using your phone – so that can be a good way to get started. I use the Welltory phone measurement about 15% of the time. It sometimes chokes for no apparent reason, but when it works, it seems to be pretty accurate. I have also wanted something on my wrist that would show HR zones, so I can use my phone to play my workout and let me see my HR zone on my wrist. However, I haven’t found a wrist tracker I like (I have tiiiiiiny wrists) and after a couple months, I’m pretty good at knowing by HR zone by feel. So I just watch the workout video and check my HR zone once in a while, or after I’m done.

I’m also going to give Morpheus a try. It seems to be geared exactly for what I’m trying to do. Might be overkill – but there’s a 60 day trial, so why not? It varies your zones day-to-day based on your current recovery state, which sounds more precise than just saying “zone 1 is always 88-105bpm.” I have days when chopping kale in the kitchen puts me in Zone 2 and days when I can’t get into Zone 2 by speed walking, so it would be nice to have something that knows what “recovery” should look like today. I’ll let you know how it goes when I’ve had it for a couple weeks.



  1. January 3, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    […] in for tomorrow’s installment where I’ll go into agonizing detail about those. […]

  2. January 3, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    […] a previous post, I talked about basic concepts of recovery activities. I wanted to update you with a couple new […]

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