Active recovery is essentially what is traditionally termed a “cool down”. While this has been engrained in sport from youth to adult level, the research available on how it can improve recovery is limited.
Active recovery generally involves a period of low intensity exercise following a game or training. The theory behind it is that it the contraction and relaxation of the muscles during the low intensity exercise acts as a pump improving blood flow (Joyce and Lewindon 2014). The improved blood flow can aid with bringing nutrients to the muscles and removing waste products built up during exercise. There is also a theory that active recovery can help a player relax and dampen the heightened arousal levels that occur in a game or training situation (Harrington 2016). This could be useful for promoting sleep and relaxation after activity and as mentioned earlier this is extremely important for recovery.
Low intensity exercise associated with active recovery can consist of any sort of activity. Active recovery can even be a good way to incorporate more rugby specific skills such as passing into the training. Stretching is often commonly completed as part of an active recovery. A mix of static and dynamic stretching post exercise can be a useful part of an active recovery to try and promote increased range of motion about the joints.