Athlete Recovery – Every January we see a surge in people getting back into their fitness routines, more often than not, with no plan in place. The same can be said for athletes who play sports and get back into training at 110% without gradually re-introducing themselves to training. Recovery is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is a crucial component to any programme to ensure you stay injury free, particularly after a few weeks over the Christmas period.
This article can help you if you can relate to any of the following:
- Do you find your stiff and sore after training or playing?
- Is it tough to get going at the beginning of training or matches?
- Do you plan or think about how you are going to recover?
Recovery is an essential part of training and in a professional environment is taken very seriously. It has grown exponentially in the past decade, with millions of dollars being spent on researching the best methods for athletes to recover.
Recovery is crucial to allow us to reduce fatigue, reap the benefits from training (often referred to as adaptation) and subsequently, improve performance.
So why don’t amateur or recreational athletes view recovery in the same way? Is it because we have less time? Less equipment and resources? Or maybe because we just don’t know how to recover properly? In this blog we’ll go through why recovery is an important aspect of training and also go through some basic strategies that can help you maximize your recovery game.
No more excuses for poor recovery!
How do I know my recovery is inadequate?
- Aching muscles or joints
- Repetitive or recurring injuries
- Poor sleep quality
- It takes longer to warm-up and get going
- Performance is decreasing
How To Recover Properly
Rest and Sleep for athlete recovery
It is crucial to make sure we adequately rest and sleep after pushing ourselves during training. You can think of sleep like the need to charge your phone overnight. Our bodies need to charge too, and like we mentioned above, this is where most of the adaptations from training occur. Dr. Matthew Walker, renowned author of ‘Why We Sleep’ has said “sleep is probably the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that few are abusing enough”.
Sleep not only impacts our response to exercise but also our response to food and nutrition so aim for a minimum of 8 hours sleep most nights, but especially after a tough training day or match. So, turn off the TV or Netflix, put away the work laptop and get yourself into bed an hour or two earlier than usual as see the benefits an extra few hours of sleep can have not only on your athletic performance but also your work performance, alertness and energy levels.
Check out the video below on Sleeping in Hot Weather
You can listen to an insightful podcast for more detailed information on the role of sleep in recovery here.
Nutrition and Hydration for athlete recovery
Refueling after training is another critical aspect to recovery. You wouldn’t expect a petrol car to function when you put diesel in it, so we shouldn’t expect our bodies to function when we fill them with toxins that don’t positively affect our recovery.
Carbohydrates and protein are important nutrients when it comes to recovery. If you have been partaking in endurance sports, refuelling your carbohydrate stores should be goal number 1, followed by protein. If you have been partaking in more weightlifting-based sports, protein should be prioritised for muscle growth and recovery.
Some rough guidelines to follow are:
- 5-7g of carbohydrate per 1kg/bw
- 1.6-2g of protein per 1kg/bw
However, for most recreational athletes ensuring we eat a balanced diet consisting of meat, fruit, vegetables and carbohydrates should suffice. Less precise guidelines for food composition of a balanced diet can be seen below and more detail on this can be read here.
How do you know if you are dehydrated? Some signs of dehydration are muscle cramps, fatigue and dizziness so it is important to hydrate both pre and post exercise. It can be tough to monitor how much fluid is required for different types of exercise but a rough guide but urine colour is a simple and easy way to assess hydration status – clear urine indicating adequate hydration.
You can read about this in more detail here.
What else can I do for athlete recovery?
Active recovery is also another important aspect of recovery. There are a huge amount of options and it largely comes down to personal preference when choosing. So try out some of the below strategies, see what works for you and try to implement it regularly as part of your recovery plan.
- Massage is a widely used recovery strategy among athletes. The jury is out in the science world in relation to the benefits of massage, but we can’t deny it feels good and massively benefits a lot of athletes. It can improve muscle soreness and also increase blood flow which helps with recovery.
- Foam Rolling
- Similar to massage but known as self-myofascial release. It can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation, and increase your joint range of motion.
- Ice bath or Sea Swim
- Cold water immersion causes changes in skin, core and muscle temperature along with increasing blood flow and the release of certain hormones like dopamine. These changes in blood flow and temperature can have an effect on muscle soreness, inflammation and also on fatigue. All crucial aspects to control when it comes to recovery.
- Low intensity exercise such as an easy cycle or swimming
- It is thought that active recovery can help with removal of lactate (what builds up in muscle and causes cramp), while no detrimental effects on performance have been demonstrated.
- There have been mixed reports regarding the benefit of stretching as a recovery strategy. Similar to active recovery there have not been any detrimental effects on performance associated with post-exercise stretching, so if you find that it helps you, incorporate it as part of your recovery routine.
- Saunas are becoming increasingly popular, particular when combined with ice baths or sea swims. They provide many benefits such as relieving stress, improving sleep, helping to flush out toxins, improve heart health and just generally feel nice!
- Compression garments
- Compression is widely seen on elite athletes these days. The compression aspect of these garments is thought to improve circulation which helps to remove toxins and increase blood flow to muscles. This can subsequently reduce muscle soreness and inflammation.
How can we help you in the clinic?
We provide a vast array of treatments such as:
- Sports massage
- Soft tissue therapy
- Dry needling
- Exercise therapy
- Active recovery
We are experts in these fields and apart from using our skills to ensure you feel better leaving the clinic than when you came in, we can also help you plan and prepare your training and recovery.