Practical Recovery Techniques
What Happens to your body during Training?
Exercise and training result in muscle tissue breakdown, depletion of energy stores and fluid losses. To ensure that your body repairs and strengthens its systems in between training sessions, you must include adequate rest and recovery periods to maximise the benefits of your training sessions.
What happens during Recovery?
Recovery allows the body to repair damaged tissues and replenish energy and water stores. If you provide your body with sufficient rest and recovery, your body can adapt and continue to improve. Inadequate rest and recovery can lead to an effect known as “overtraining” and is characterized by a reduction in performance as well as increase the potential for injury and illness. Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury, among others.
Practical Forms of Recovery
There are many practical forms of recovery that are available to most athletes. Below are some practical examples.
Active Recovery is low intensity exercise following a training session (cool down) or a low intensity exercise that is performed instead of complete rest. Studies have found that active recovery immediately after a training session or even encourages recovery and reduces muscle lactate levels faster than complete rest. Theory suggests that the low intensity exercises assists in removing lactic acid levels from the blood via continuation of blood circulation. The reduced blood lactate levels in turn assist the recovery process.
Sleeping is one of the simplest ways to increase recovery. Consistently inadequate sleep has been shown to result in hormonal changes that are detrimental to physical performance. Research suggests that inadequate sleep increases the stress hormone Cortisol, decreases production of the the human growth hormone (HGH) and reduces glycogen synthesis. The resulting combination is believed to reduce performance.
Although not everyone will agree on the recovery benefits of stretching, it will increases flexibility and provide muscles with a greater range of motion. The improved range of motion should reduce the likelihood of injury and improve athletic performance, particularly in the long term.
Nutrition is essential to assist in the recovery from training and should be eaten immediately after a session. Nutrition recovery encompasses a complex range of processes that include;
• refueling carbohydrate stores in via muscle and liver glycogen
• replenishing fluid losses and electrolytes lost in sweat
• manufacturing new muscle protein, red blood cells and other cellular components as part of the repair and adaptation process
• assisting the immune system to repair the damage and stress caused by training
Compression garments have been shown to be effective in decreasing muscle sores, increasing blood flow, reducing muscle lactate levels as well as muscle swelling.
Contrast Water Therapy
Using a combination of alternating hot and cold water can assist the body to recovery by increasing blood flow, increasing the removal of waste metabolites, stimulating the central nervous system and decreasing muscle swelling and stiffness. Always finish contrast water therapy with cold water to reduce body temperature and inflammation.
Cold Water Immersion and Ice Baths
Cold treatment is a common treatment strategy for the treatment of soft tissue injuries and can be effective in the repair process. Cold water Immersion assists to decrease muscle and core temperatures, reduce inflammation and enhance blood flow. Cold water immersion or an ice bath may be an effective treatment to decrease skin, muscle and core temperatures, decrease metabolism, reduce inflammation, enhance blood flow, decrease pain and reduce muscle spasm.
Massage can assist with the recovery process through increasing blood flow, reducing waste metabolites and assist with lengthening muscles and improving range of motion. Massages can be provided by massage therapists but athletes can also perform self massage with the use of their own hands or via products such as those supplied by Trigger point therapy.