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Recovery Strategies Pt 2

By admin admin | In Education | on August 6, 2019

In the previous article, I discussed the importance of recovery while touching on the areas of massage, compression, stretching. I am going to continue with other methods of recovery, including;

  1. Active recovery
  2. Water therapies
  3. Training periodization
  4. Nutrition
  5. Sleep
  6. Psychological

As a reminder, research focuses on 3 main areas of recovery.

  1. Decrease Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS),
  2. Perceived fatigue, and
  3. Increase repeatable high-level performance i.e. Strength/ fitness tests

Active Recovery

Active recovery is the process in which a movement-based exercise is performed following your event. This can include dynamic movements like leg swings, to a swim or sitting on a bike for a short period. Much of the research says that this type of cool down needs to be performed shortly after your activity finished. Active recovery has been shown to have effects on DOMS, however limit effects on perceived fatigue. The thought behind the benefits for active recovery is from the enhanced blood flow which in helps facilitates the removal of metabolic waste that has been produced through exercise, in turn potentially reducing muscle damage and pain.

Water therapy

Cold water immersion (CWI),

Yes, this is exactly what you are thinking, submerging yourself in cold water. Often ice baths are used. There are many difference ways this can be performed, ranging from wheelie bins, baths and to swimming pools.  CWI has effects on reducing both DOMS and perceived fatigue when performed1, 2, 3, 4.

There are a few physiological mechanisms or explanations believed as to why CWI works. Ameliorating hyperthermia, CNS mediated fatigue and by reducing cardiovascular strain3. In short this is meaning it cools the body temperature which has risen post exercise, which limits central nerves system fatigue and lowers the strain placed throughout the heart and body. Due to the use of ice (or cold water), there is another benefit which aid in the effects on DOMS and fatigue, a reduction in exercise-induced inflammation and muscle damage2, this can be due to vasocontristion1. We use ice with injuries to reduce swelling and ideally return to sport quicker. To the use of ice to help the body recover faster post exercise and return to higher levels of exercise/ performance quicker, is a logical step forward.

Contrast water therapy (CWT),

This is similar to cold water immersion, however you are alternating between cold water and warm water. However CWT has only been found to have significant affects on DOMS, not perceived fatigue as well2. While using CWT the body will go through alternating peripheral vasoconstriction and vasodilation. The cold water will constrict (as written above), while the heat, or warmer water will, helps dilates the blood vessels. The increased blood flow to the area in turn will help facilitate the removal of metabolic waste produced through exercise, and potentially reducing muscle damage and pain. This process aids by reducing oedema, influencing the inflammatory process and pathways.

Training Periodization

There is trend of increasing training loads, game play, and gym time, such as classes, within todays society. Either from playing multiple sports, specilising in one, or deciding to reach  goal ie. Weight loss, complete a fun run. It is extremely important to structure your training/ playing loads to minimise risk of injury and aid in recovery. This includes kids and adolescences going through growth periods, in which you need to be careful of growth-related condition developing, to recreational runner aiming for a marathon, to elite athletes.

Not only is periodization import in limiting injuries, but it is also very effective in gaining the greatest benefits from your training and to target the right physiological adaptions to best develop as an athlete. Periodizing a program can be both gym based, with Strength and condition focus, and also timing peak performance for athletic events with seasons.

Strength and conditioning programs can often be developed by a different health professional, therefore it is very important for communication between health professionals and coach to open and frequent.

A few of the most common errors we see are

  1. Over training
  2. Training body part and areas that aren’t going to be beneficial for your chosen sport or event
  3. No performing accessory exercise to compliment you chosen sport
  4. Not structuring recovery or rest days in to training

Here at START Training, we are very good at periodizing training and programs, that work in conjunction with your current training, and gaining the greatest benefits from your training.


Fuelling your body right for exercise is extremely important and quite complex when you get down to the finer details. This is why there are specialists such as Dietitians, including sport dietitians. I won’t go into too much detail as its not my area of expertise and outside my scope of practice. I personally have experience use dietitians, as do many of the exercise physiologist here at START Training.

There are a few key factors that are very important when working out food and exercises. Some of the more common factors overlooked are

  1. Timing of food very important. This is both before and after exercise.
  2. Difference between the type of exercise you are doing, fore example cardio vs weights. This determines what foods you need to focus on. While also needing to remember this has a bearing on training days compared to rest days
  3. Another surprising underestimate people make, is not eating enough.

A recommendation would be to go see a dietitian for the best plan possible.


We all know that sleep is an important factor in life, however it is extremely important in aiding the recovery process following exercise as there are several important psychological and physiological provided by sleep.

Sleep can be affected easily depending on what sport or exercise you participate in. If you are playing a team sport and not starting till late. Getting home following the game, then proceeding to eat and wind down. Your time of sleep can be pushed back significantly. On the other side of this, you could be an early riser to exercise. If you aren’t getting to bed early enough due to work for example. This is also impacting on your time to recover.

Sleep is when we recover. It is clearly important for our lives in general let alone recovery from exercise. Otherwise sleep deprivation wouldn’t have been used as an torture technique. Sleep deprivation may result in in impaired muscle glycogen repletion, impaired muscle damage repair, alterations in cognitive function and an increase in mental fatigue


Particularly looking at elite athletes, there are many psychological factors that can affect their perform. Many individual and teams have sport psych’s working with them. This can improve dealing with the high-pressure moments. Again, this is not an area of expertise for me, so I won’t delve too far into the specifics.

There is a great deal of research out there that outlines the positive benefits that exercise can have on one’s mental health. However, there are also huge implication on performance. Both consciously and subconsciously. This can be down to as simple as returning to sport after an injury.  If you are trying to protect an injury, this may lead to developing another injury through compensation, or injuring your other limb as it is now performing twice as much work. Performing a proper rehabilitation program helps with this, but sometimes you are just nervous.

Using a psychologist (or sports psych) to make sure you are dealing with the pressures of exercise, and the surrounding effects, can be highly beneficial and shouldn’t be ignored or thought negatively towards.

By William Holland – Exercise Physiologist and Massage Therapist


  1. DALLECK, LANCE C., The Science of Post-Exercise Recovery., American Council of Exercise.
  2. Dupuy, Olivier., Douzi, Wafa., Theurot, Dimitri,. Bosquet, Laurent., Dugué, Benoit., An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Front. Physiol., 26 April 2018, Volume 9, Article 403
  3. Ihsan M, Watson G, Abbiss CR., What are the Physiological Mechanisms for Post-Exercise Cold Water Immersion in the Recovery from Prolonged Endurance and Intermittent Exercise?, Sports Med. 2016 Aug;46(8):1095-109.
  4. Halson, Shona L., RECOVERY TECHNIQUES FOR ATHLETES., Sports Science Exchange (2013) Vol. 26, No. 120, 1-6
  5. Jianmin Guo., Linjin Li., Yuxiang Gong., Rong Zhu., Jiake Xu., Jun Zou., Xi Chen., Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis., Front. Physiol, 27 September 2017
  6. Nédélec, M., Halson, S., Abaidia A., Ahmaidi, S., Dupont, G.,  Stress, Sleep and Recovery in Elite Soccer: A Critical Review of the Literature., Sports Med (2015) 45: 1387.

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