The sporting world has gone Recovery Crazy.
Over the past ten years, Recovery has gone from being something you did when you got tired, to an integral aspect of every training session, every day, all year round.
First it was massage.
Then came all the countless variations of hydrotherapies: spas, saunas, ice baths, contrast showers, high-flow shower massage, wading pools, hydro pools…….
Then the recovery nutrition stuff: creatine, sports drinks, gels, bars, Slushies….
Now the focus is on sleep: sleep research, quality of sleep, quantity of sleep, timing of sleep, power naps, managing sleep, monitoring sleep and even the genetics of sleep.
It is now at the point where many coaches and athletes are making Recovery a higher priority than actual hard training! (The only time this should happen is in the dictionary).
So it’s time to Recover from Recovery: let’s consider Recovery in Perspective.
What is Recovery?
A good practical definition of Recovery is the deliberate use of interventions aimed at enhancing an athlete’s capacity to adapt to the physical and mental demands of preparation and performance.
In other words, doing something which is likely to help an athlete recover more effectively from their training and / or competition loads.
How can you enhance an athlete’s recovery?
A good way to remember the different recovery techniques is to remember WASHUP :
Water: the use of different forms of water, e.g cryotherapy (ice), hydrotherapies (contrast showers, “hot-cold” baths, spas, saunas, swimming pools etc).
Active Rest: doing something physically active other than the primary training and competition activity, e.g. walking, swimming or cycling instead of running.
Sleep: ensuring adequate quality and quantity of sleep.
Hydration and refueling: drinking the right fluids and eating the right foods at the right time, in the right quantity and of the right type to enhance recovery.
Unwind mentally: mental and emotional recovery is just as important as the physical aspects of recovery.
Physical Therapies: including massage, physiotherapy, stretching and Yoga.
So is Recovery important?
Absolutely. There is no doubt that Recovery is critical for athletes: to train hard then to dedicate energy, effort and enthusiasm to their recovery program.
The one thing we know for certain about succeeding in high performance sport is that you need to consistently train hard.
And using WASHUP recovery techniques means that athletes can recover faster and more effectively and therefore they can train harder more often.
So how did all this Recovery stuff start?
In the “old days” the pathway to sporting success was primarily focused on hard, physical preparation. The culture of most sports, particularly the Olympic sports where physiology is such a critical aspect of performance, e.g. running, swimming, rowing, gymnastics, diving, triathlon and cycling, was to work and work and work until you couldn’t work any more.
With the growth of the sports science industry and the deeper understanding of applied sports physiology, people began to realise that an important limiting factor in the physical aspect of sports performance was the athlete’s ability to recover.
This led to some athletes, coaches and even nations to try and find ways of enhancing an athlete’s recovery ability – by any means necessary in some cases – and the unfortunate rise of the use of substances such as anabolic steroids and other artificial and illegal recovery enhancing substances and techniques.
In more recent times however, the race has been on to find better, smarter (and importantly safe, ethical and legal) ways of accelerating an athlete’s capacity to recover.
And what’s the bottom line?
The bottom line is….the reason athletes and coaches would introduce a smart recovery program is so the athlete can work harder.
And this is where the whole Recovery thing has got out of control.
Too many athletes and coaches have misinterpreted the Recovery principle and have decreased training loads whilst at the same time increasing their emphasis on Recovery.
Again, at the risk of labouring the point, the reason an athlete or coach would introduce a smart, WASHUP based recovery program is to accelerate the athlete’s rate of recovery and therefore provide the opportunity to work harder more often.
The Recovery / Hard Training Matrix
When it comes to managing training and recovery, you have four options:
- Don’t train hard and don’t introduce a WASHUP based recovery program – doesn’t make any sense if success is your goal.
- Train hard but don’t introduce a WASHUP based recovery program – works for a while but eventually illness, injury and fatigue will limit your potential for success.
- Don’t train hard but introduce a WASHUP based recovery program – unlikely to produce anything but a well-rested but under-prepared athlete.
- Train hard and introduce a WASHUP based recovery program – work hard, recover well, do it consistently and success is practically inevitable.
- Recovery is one of the buzz words around sport at the moment but like all “fads and fashions” it needs to be considered in balance with all other aspects of your training and competition program. Keep it in perspective!
- The key to Recovery is remembering that its purpose is to accelerate an athlete’s capacity to adapt to the physical and mental demands of their training and competition schedule…faster recovery means that an athlete can work harder, more often.
- Whilst the research around the impact of a smart Recovery program on the competition performances of athletes is still very sketchy at best, there is some evidence that systematically introducing a smart recovery program incorporating the WASHUP techniques can enhance an athlete’s capacity to rest, restore and regenerate and be more ready for their next training and competition activity.