Recovery - an introduction

Training and racing have a huge impact on our muscles, metabolism and mindset. Clearly, the major impact is to improve our performance but there are some negative impacts on a range of functional attributes. The first thing to understand is that the adaptations of the body that training is seeking to produce actually occur during recovery rather than during the training itself.

Recovery lead pictureSecond, muscles tend to shorten and tighten. This can result in loss of flexibility and makes us more prone to injury, In addition, there are impacts on cellular metabolism, hormones, stress levels and mindset.

Which is why proper recovery is so vital!

Points to consider

  • Flexibility
  • Performance
  • Static Vs. Dynamic Stretching
  • The Importance of Recovery
  • Increasing Recovery Efficiency
  • Positive Mindset and Motivation

Regardless of our sport or athletic goal, ultimate performance is the dream of every athlete.

We tend to over-train or over-exhaust our bodies in this quest. Injuries and psychological effects are numerous.

In order to perform and progress, we need to study and accept three elements for ultimate performance:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Recovery
  3. Positive mindset

Flexibility…

Flexibility is achieved through muscle stretching.

Muscle stretching contributes to better joint mobility and the avoidance of injuries.

The muscles lose part of their elasticity from strength training as exercises are often repeated with limited trajectory. Old injuries can also pose problems as can intensive workouts, without proper rehabilitation.

While stretching our muscles, it is possible to reduce the risk of muscle injuries and increase our performance. Mobility is influenced by various factors such as reflex and muscle contraction when over-articulated. Furthermore, the structure of the joint, the physical elasticity of the muscular system and body temperature can also influence mobility.

The reflex muscle contraction is easily controlled by taking care not to over-stress the muscular system. Increased body temperature reduces muscle stiffness and increases the extensibility. Warm-up exercises, for example, should precede the stretching exercises. This way we will make sure that our training is safe and efficient.

Stretching exercises after the end of the training will significantly help to reduce muscle pain that occurs after intensive workouts. In fact, muscular tension in the last phase of recovery plays a crucial role in restoring the length and elasticity of injured muscles.

Regardless of the method we will use to stretch a muscle, we should know that you should only stretch warm muscles and stretching exercises should not cause pain! Specifically, stretching should be adjusted individually to each trainee and it must stop at their own pain limit. The stretching technique needs to be directly related to the needs of a specific athlete.

Performance and Flexibility

The motion range of a joint will increase only if there is a change in the length and difficulty of several mechanisms. For example, neuromuscular adjustments have to be applied to increase the tolerance to stretching. These mechanisms are also responsible for affecting muscle performance in activities with high power and strength requirements.

Of course, the negative effect of static stretching depends on some factors like:

  • Intensity
  • Duration
  • Performance
  • Athlete’s background

During the flexibility exercises with a duration of more than 90 seconds and when the intensity reaches the athlete’s limit, there is a strong evidence of reduced performance. On the other hand, while we are stretching for less than 30 seconds, with less intensity, the performance is higher than usual.

Furthermore, intense and prolonged static stretching must be avoided before a competition or during speed and strength training. Experienced athletes have a smaller decrease in muscle performance immediately after stretching. Interestingly, scientific research has shown that when static stretching is followed by dynamic stretching, the negative effect on performance is reduced.

Static Vs. Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is found to produce much greater improvements to power and agility performance when compared to static stretching.

In particular, a US military study carried out in 2006 divided participants into three groups: no warm-up, static warm-up and dynamic warm-up. The dynamic warm-up team showed moderate performance improvement in strength and agility exercises when compared to the rest of the groups. For this reason, dynamic stretching has a clear advantage compared to static stretching when examining the performance test in strength and flexibility.

From a clinical point of view, we know that a certain amount of flexibility is required for every sport. Depending on the activity, the amount of flexibility required varies from joint to joint and from athlete to athlete.

The Importance of Recovery

What is typical for most athletes is their excessive volume of training. For example, excessive frequency at high intensity for prolonged duration. If this volume doesn’t include adequate breaks and recovery, it will result in overtraining. Typical and most common symptoms of overtraining is a poor performance. Other outcomes may include feeling weak, sleep problems, reduced desire for training, increased tendency of injuries, prolonged muscle tension and pain.

A proper program of the training will allow controlled exhaustion and fatigue. Adequate rest will enable recovery, so you will be ready for the new upcoming challenges.

Of course, high quality rest also contributes to a higher frequency of training in a given period. Therefore, significant progress will be higher.

Never Underestimate the Power of Proper Recovery

Proper recovery speeds up the regeneration of muscle tissues. It leads to reconstructive effects in relation to micro-trauma sensitive cell structures. Also, re-establishment of homeostasis, and normalisation of biological functions. It enables positive adaptation, changes that reduce the possibility of acute and chronic problems. Thankfully, proper recovery leads to super-compensation.

It has been proven that methods of recovery have an impact on reducing the number of injuries. Furthermore, without proper recovery there is an earlier onset of fatigue, which negatively affects coordination and concentration. Even more importantly, it affects the movement control, which increases the risk of injury.

How can we Increase Recovery Efficiency

The following are ideal recovery activities that can greatly help in the quest for proper recovery after training.

Walking is a man's basic form of movement. In fact, walking stimulates recovery and can have a protective mechanism for some future spinal injuries, hips and other parts of the body. "Active Muscle Pump" is a set of muscles in the lower extremities that constantly contract during walking. This applies vascular pressure and helps activate a powerful recovery mechanism. Walking is literally a perfect active recovery that can be done anytime and anywhere.

Nutrition is crucial! Regardless of chosen diet plan, an athlete needs to opt for organic, unprocessed and natural sources of macro and micro-nutrients. In particular, athletes need to choose anti-inflammatory foods to speed up the recovery system. For example, when choosing meat, the best anti-inflammatory protein source is in lamb, fish and rabbit meat. Furthermore, quail eggs, coconut oil and goat dairy are excellent sources of micronutrients, minerals and, interestingly these foods don’t promote inflammation.

Practice Self Myofascial Release (SMR), also known as self-massage, immediately after your training session for visible results. These techniques require direction and a knowledge of anatomy so it's advisable to consult a physiotherapist. At the beginning, align the SMR with the specific muscle group you have trained. If you work on your chest, then you will do SRM for pectoralis major and minor after the training. This can seem simple but is very important.

Positive Mindset and Motivation

Do not underestimate how significant your goal is. Whether your goal is to lose 1 kilo of body fat or to win a Marathon, it is just as important! If achieving this goal helps you accomplish your dreams then it’s a triumph!