Athletic activities place significant physical and metabolic demands on your body and affect your body’s energy levels and internal environment.
Many athletes, both competitive and recreational alike, may benefit from sports recovery techniques such as those outlines in this article. How quickly you recover from a bout of exercise or an athletic event may have as much to do with the techniques you employ immediately afterwards as the duration of the event or the intensity at which you performed it.
Using effective recovery techniques is important for all athletes to reverse or minimize sources of fatigue and restore your body (and mind) back to pre-participation levels in the least possible amount of time. Recovery techniques, when used consistently and appropriately, may reduce fatigue, improve the frequency and quality of your training and elevate your athletic performance in general.
Stretching and active recovery
Stretching and active recovery (i.e., a warm-down) are commonly used recovery techniques. Gentle, static stretching for 10 seconds or more per stretch may help relax tight muscles, improve range of motion and reduce the likelihood of injury. The principle purpose behind this recovery technique is to reduce muscle tightness, not improve flexibility. Active recovery (i.e., light physical activity) has long been used to help dissipate excess heat post-exercise and enhance the removal of blood lactate, among other reasons.
Nutrition and hydration
Getting the proper nutrients and staying hydrated are two key recovery techniques used by athletes. Studies have shown that for some athletes, recovery following strenuous activity was improved by consuming a liquid carbohydrate protein supplement early in the recovery process (and produced greater recovery benefits than a carbohydrate only drink containing an equal amount of energy or calories). Staying hydrated during physical activity is one of the best ways to ensure optimal athletic performance and restoration of water and electrolyte balance, and is a crucial part of the recovery process of any physical activity that results in sweat loss.
Rest and relaxation
Rest and relaxation are among the simplest — and possibly most effective — recovery techniques for athletes. Good quality sleep may be the No. 1 recovery tool for athletes, as it helps regenerate damaged tissues, abolishes lingering fatigue and provides a mental break from competition. Recent studies have shown there is a growing body of scientific evidence confirming a link between sleep, cognitive processes and metabolic function, as it relates to post-exercise recovery and athletic performance. The National Sleep Foundation states that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for peak athletic performance, regardless of activity and that less sleep may increase the likelihood of fatigue, low energy, poor focus and slow post-game recovery.
Other recovery techniques include hydrotherapy, compression garments, massage and other types of bodywork. Above all, seek advice from a professional when physical activity results in injury or when physical exertion leaves you feeling overly depleted—even after proper hydration, nutrition and rest. Physical activity is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but the type and intensity of activity needs to be based on individual needs and limitations in order to be truly beneficial.
Dr. Erika Hamer, DC, DIBCN, DIBE, is a chiropractic neurologist and the owner of Ponte Vedra Wellness Center, offering chiropractic care, personal fitness training and related health and wellness services at offices in Ponte Vedra Beach and Nocatee Town Center.