Recovery for athletes comes in many different forms. It can be active or it can be passive. It can last for a day, a week, a month or longer.
It can be wearing CW-X compression garments or going for a slow jog, or both, at the same time.
Or it can just be eating and drinking in the right way and at the right time.
It can include nothing … literally nothing, just rest … or it can be the effective fingers of your massage therapist or a foam roller on your bedroom floor.
For some it means ice; for others heat.
It can and will change over time whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, but you will always need it.
And one thing holds true whatever shape your recovery takes: it is at the core of every successful training strategy.
We all need a good night’s sleep and for most of us that’s somewhere between 7 and 9 hours a night. That can mean a lot of early nights if you’re training for a big event and that’s not always achievable.
But a lack of sleep can have a major impact on athletic performance. A 2009 study from Bangor University found that just one night of sleep deprivation decreased endurance performance in runners¹.
Rest days are also an important part of an athlete’s training strategy and even the elites generally take at least one complete rest day a week.
Rest days help you prevent injury from over use and let you restore glycogen stores and rest sore muscles.
Rest time can be spent stretching, using a roller or getting a massage all of which can be enhanced with a little help from CW-X Conditioning Wear compression garments.
Rest days let you catch up on sleep and take a mental and physical break from the stresses of training.
And the bigger the training load the greater the need for rest.
Despite runners continued commitment to stretching, the research doesn’t always back up its effectiveness for injury prevention and recovery.
A 2004 review of over 100 studies into the effectiveness of stretching for injury prevention found that it was inconclusive, though it did go on to state that further specific research was necessary².
The research did find that stretching enhanced flexibility though it went on to say that increased flexibility didn’t prevent injuries either!
There is some logic in this. Intuitively flexibility doesn’t necessarily sit comfortably with a runner’s desire to minimise excess movement whilst running.
But in running as with most things in life we are all an experiment of one and any athlete who relies on stretching as part of their recovery routine should probably stick with it.
More recent research into the benefits of foam rollers however was clear. It found that using a foam roller as a recovery tool helped with recovery from muscle soreness and in restoring range of motion in exercise damaged muscles³.
Combining this with the documented benefits of wearing compression garments from the CW-X Conditioning Wear range would seem like a useful strategy for athletes who regularly train hard.
Contrary to popular belief there’s no research to support the idea that recovery runs help recovery.
By the time you think you are clearing the lactic acid from your muscles on a recovery run the day after a hard workout, it’s already long gone.
Nor is there evidence that recovery runs increase blood flow to fatigued muscles in the way CW-X Conditioning Wear compression socks and compression tights do, or in the way that massage does.
But recovery runs do enhance fitness because they are generally run on tired legs which can lead the brain to rope in less tired muscle fibres potentially resulting in more efficient running.
If you run three to four times a week you probably don’t need recovery runs but more than that and they are worth slotting into your program, as much as anything for the mental benefit of a very easy run once a week.
Depending on the season, the prospect of an ice bath at the end of a workout can cause dread or delight.
But whether you look forward to it or not the research shows that ice baths help reduce inflammation in muscles after a workout⁴.
Additional research also shows that ice baths between workouts can prevent a decline in performance in the second work out⁵.
Combine that with the documented benefits of CW-X Conditioning Wear for recovery after a hard workout and the next hard workout will be a breeze.
Every athlete knows that eating the right food at the right time can play a crucial role in recovering and performing better, faster and for longer.
So when repeated research suggested that low fat chocolate milk had the same naturally occurring benefits as commercially available recovery sports drinks, chocoholics everywhere rejoiced⁶.
Whether the research backs it up or not, however, every good athlete knows that even treats such as chocolate once in a while can be good for you.
But like training without recovery, whatever form that takes, eventually too much of a good thing will be bad for you.
Article by Rachael McKinney, 2015.
1. Oliver SJ, Costa RJ, Laing SJ, Bilzon JL, Walsh NP,2009. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance, School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University.
2. Thacker SB, Gilchrist J, Stroup DF, Kimsey CD Jr. 2004. The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
3. MacDonald Graham Z, Button Duane C, Drinkwater Eric J, Behm David George, 2014. Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool after an Intense Bout of Physical Activity, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
4. Ihsan M, Watson G, Lipski M, Abbiss CR. 2012 Influence of postexercise cooling on muscle oxygenation and blood volume changes Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, School of Exercise and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia.
5. Dunne A1, Crampton D, Egaña M. 2012 Effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy water temperature on subsequent exhaustive running performance in normothermic conditions. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
6. Thomas K, et al. 2009 Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.