Why is recovery important?
As athletes seek to improve performance in their chosen discipline they have to train on a regular basis to increase strength/speed/skill/stamina and so on, as the training program progress the body is put under more and more stresses and strains in order to adapt. Through training, the tissues (muscles, tendons etc) in the body go through a constant, natural process of breakdown and re-building, through this we get our adaptions.
However this can sometimes cause problems and imbalances in the soft tissues. If these imbalances are left to build over time they can often developed into chronic conditions which can have a range of negative effects from impacting performance to making the individual more susceptible to injuries. How many have us have ignored little niggles or discomforts that have progressed into chronic pains, muscle sprains or tears?
Without adequate recovery we cannot adapt to our training, without adaptation we cannot improve.
We have several tools at our disposable which include (but are by no means limited too):
Active recovery: This can take place immediatley following a hard training session or in the days after it. Engaging in low level intensity exercise during the cool-down stage of training is thought to aid recovery by reducing muscle lactate levels more quickly, bring the heart rate down steadily and also relax tissues. Examples include a light jog/row, some dynamic mobilisations and so on. If taking place in the days after training it is thought that increasing the processes of aerobic respiration and blood/nutrient circulation helps to flush toxic metabolites out of the tissues and provide oxygen and nutrients to help speed up recovery.
Stretching & mobility drills: This can tie into the active recovery, particularly if the mobility drills are of the dynamic nature such as lunge/squat patterns and animal movements. Mobility exercises, foam rolling, strategically (read ‘painfully‘) placed lacrosse balls can all aid in improving tissue quality by helping to re-align muscle tissues, re-establish tissue sliding surfaces and prevent adhesions and scar tissues formation.
Hot/Cold therapy: This form of recovery involves alternating between periods of hot and cold, proponents of this method theorise that it enhances recovery, decrease delayed-onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), enhance blood lactate removal, and improve various other markers of inflammation. This is achieved by causing blood vessels in tissues to repeatedly dilate and constrict acting like a pump to flush the muscles with fluid thus removing toxins and providing nutrients. Studies show various times under hot and cold conditions to be effective, the same can be said for applying to a single limb or the whole body. Its easy to do in the shower, just shoot for approx 1min cold/2mins hot for 5-8 cycles, finish on a hot cycle.
Sports Massage: This is almost an incorporation of all the above and it emphasises prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons. Benefits are wide-ranging and implementing this as part of your training plan can speed up recovery between workouts/events and also prevent injuries by limiting the negative effects of hard training on joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Sports Massage can restore tissue quality, improve circulation in tissue, breakdown/prevent formations of adhesions, improve flexibility/mobility, enhance immune system function as well as general reduction of stress and tension and improved mental wellbeing.
(It goes without saying that hydration and nutrition also form a huge part of recovery and performance, this should have been obvious from all our nutrition blog posts!)
How can you implement these?
- Active recovery along with mobility and stretching can take place anywhere! You can do it from the comfort of your own home while watching TV. You dont need any equipment to do it, but you can also utilise some equipment such as a foam roller or lacrosse ball (which you can buy at the gym!). Check our MobilityWod for all your mobilising needs. You could also venture out and go for a gentle 10-15min jog, a bike ride or do some animal movements.
Also, dont forget about our Wednesday classes. We have barbell skills classes all day which fit perfectly into the active recovery bracket, the intensity is low but we get you moving. We also have the movement & mobility class at 18:30 so you can learn to move better and get some mobing and recovery done at the same time.
Sports massage sessions might get costly for a daily occurrence, but a visit once a week or every couple of weeks can make a world of difference to your training and recovery. Again this is available at the gym! You can book in here (and its a bargin till I finish my course in November).
Hot/Cold therapy: You all have a shower or a bath!….and even if for some reason you dont, guess what? We have them at the gym!
Your training is only as effective as your recovery. To reap the benefits of all your sweat and hard work make sure you give your body to some TLC!
Workout of the day
A: Back squat
5 sets of 5 reps
B: 12 alternating intervals of 15 seconds on/30 seconds of:
Max rep KB Swings (as heavy as possible)
Max rep Tuck jumps
Max rep Pull-ups