The more time passes, the more research is discovering how important it is for athletes to implement recovery/regeneration strategies into their training programs, regardless of sport. In short, these strategies are utilized for athletes to be fully recovered and ready to go for their next bout of training or competition, in the shortest amount of time possible. If there is not a substantial amount of planned strategies to employ, then adaptations to training can be compromised. Remember, work plus rest equals success!!!
Here are some examples of proper regeneration strategies for athletes:
Sleep: This may be the MOST important factor for proper recovery. It is recommended to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. The reason why is because there are 5 stages of sleep in which each stage serves a purpose for our mental and physical recovery whether it is an increase in serotonin production, access to the unconscious mind followed by the release of growth hormone. Also, for the avg person who wakes up at 7 am, the best time to take a nap is between 1 and 3pm for approximately 20-30 minutes. Too much sleep can make you even more tired and groggy.
Hydrotherapy: The best way to recover from a rough training session physiologically is NOT the hot tub, but rather an ice cold plunge. You will see a lot of people get into the hot tub directly after a work out, which may be more psychologically relaxing, but has the opposite affect on the recovery process. Hopping into an ice bath that is about 50-60 degrees for at least 5 minutes will help decrease inflammation that may occurred during your work out, lower core body temperature as well as restoring parasympathetic balance. These components allow your body to expedite the process of recovery.
Massage: Self or professional massage is a great way to get blood flow to the sore muscles, help remove bodily toxins, decrease soreness and improve tissue quality. Some examples of these are trigger point, myofascial and active release, and cupping. These sessions can last anywhere between 5 to 90 minutes, depending if these strategies are used in isolation, or as total body sessions and optimal on days OFF from training.
Stretching: After any kind of self or professional massage, it is recommended that you take time to stretch through a full range of motion for blood flow and for the elongation of muscle for improvements in flexibility (improved ROM around joint) and mobility (improved range of motion within a joint). These include various forms of dynamic stretching (forward/backward lunges), active isolated stretching (example: half kneeling quad hip-flexor stretch), and static stretching (holding end ROM for longer periods of time).
Again, these are some general suggestions to help your athletes prepare for the NEXT training session in the shortest amount of time. Using all of these in variety can reap tremendous benefits not only physiologically but psychologically as well. Try to implement some kind of recovery/regeneration strategy into every post-training session. In a perfect world, my ideal regeneration strategies would be implemented as follows:
Post Work Out:
Static Stretch, Ice Plunge
Active/Self Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Work, Active Isolated Stretching, 15 minutes of light cardio ie: bike (flush) and when possible, a 30 massage after!!! You will see tremendous benefit in the upcoming work outs when you employ these strategies as they fit your training regime.
Jared Saavedra, M.S., CSCS, NASM PES, CPT, USAW-SPC, IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist, IYCA Speed and Agility Specialist