Recovery is by far the important part of the training process. Training is a stress that acutely reduces performance; and when given the opportunity to rest and recover the human body is capable of compensating and becoming better than before (5, 7). When looking at the rest days in your training program; lose the image of you sitting on the couch watching Power because you can barely move your legs. Those rest days should be about putting your body in the ideal state to prepare for the next training session. Here are several recovery modalities to integrate into your training.
The Basics – Eat (vegan) enough, sleep enough and stay hydrated
If you aren’t doing these 3 things, there is little to nothing that the following tips can do to help. Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and catching up from sleep debt by sleeping in extra time if you fall below that mark. Eat often (3-6 meals a day) and eat whole foods. Try your best to eliminate processed foods, sugary sodas/snacks and alcohol from your diet. Drink water when you’re thirsty and ensure your urine looks closer to the colour of lemon water than lemonade.
The physiological response to movement is an increase in your body’s temperature and blood flow leading to more nutrients being delivered to the extremities (2, 4, 6, 7). This is the fundamental idea behind active recovery. Based on your level of fitness active recovery includes anything from a walk around the block, to a short swim, to a yoga class. Get away from the desk and do something that makes you move. Your body (and mind) will thank you by accelerating the recovery process.
If your typical training includes complex movements, such as gymnastics, skating or weightlifting; your active recovery can include a short duration low intensity version of that movement. E.g. If you are in a training phase where weekly ice time is 3hrs, an active recovery day might be just getting out on pond for 20 minutes. This allows your nervous system to continue refining the movement while allowing the repetitively used tissues of that movement (in this case hips, knees and ankles) to recover from excessive stress. In special cases such as a deep playoff run; staying in a low-load movement preparation phase for 4-6 weeks would be ideal (5, 8).
Foam Rolling/Massage and Contrast Showers
Foam rolling and massage are both methods of myofascial release; a type of manual feedback to soft tissue that sends a signal to the brain telling the hypertonic (tight) tissue to relax (1, 2, 4, 6). This creates the feeling of release that is attained after a session of either of these modalities. Be aware that there is little to no physical change happening in the soft tissue, the results of this method are strictly neurological (1, 2). Contrast showers are a method intended to spur recovery by reducing perceived fatigue, localized inflammation and muscle soreness through increasing blood flow to the surface of the body (3). A simple approach is 1 min of hot water followed by 1 min of cold water for 3-5 rounds. Be sure to always finish with cold water.
Take your recovery into your own hands and ensure that when fatigued your body is in preparation for a performance state; champions are made in bed and the kitchen.
- Behara, B., Jacobson, B.H. (2015). Acute effects of deep tissue foam rolling and dynamic stretching on muscular strength, power, and flexibility in division I linemen. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 31: 888-892
- Healey, K.C., Hatfield, D.L., Blanpied, P., Dorfman, L.R., Riebe, D. (2014). The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28: 61-68
- Juliff, L.E., Halson, S.L., Bonetti, D.L., Versey, N.G., Driller, M.W., Peiffer, J.J. (2014). Influence of contrast shower and water immersion on recovery in elite netballers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28: 2353-2358
- Knapp. K.A. (2016). Self-care modalities: Improved performance and decrease injury for female athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 38: 70-78
- Orr, R.M., Pope, R. (2015). Optimizing the physical training of military trainees. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 37: 53-59.
- Rey, E., Padron-Cabo, A., Barcala-Furelos, R., Casamichana, D., Romo-Perez, V. (2016). Practical active and passive recovery strategies for soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 0: 1-13
- Sands, W.A., Apostolopoulos, N., Kavanaugh, A.A., Stone, M.H. (2016). Recovery-Adaptation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 38: 10-26
- Vontz, A. (2010). Debriefing the body: Unload to reload tactical fitness. Tactical Strength and Conditioning Report 14: 10-11
Jordan Guilford holds a degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is the Fitness Director for the Canadian Ice Academy.