WP Remix
Ideas for Athletes & Coaches Preparing for Real Competition


AIS recovery centre Here are some notes from a recent talk I went to at the Australian Institute of Sport (pictured) by Dr Jo Vaile who did her PhD thesis on recovery techniques for athletes.

Athletes need good recovery for top performance - the sooner you recover, the sooner you can train well again.

When an Athlete’s Recovery is Most Important:

  • Long sessions
  • Training twice a day
  • Perform weight training
  • Competing regularly
  • Athletes with high injury rate
  • High levels of fatigue/damage

Popular Recovery Techniques

  • Sleep - probably the most significant and important thing
  • Stretching
  • Active recovery [light exercise]
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Periodized training program
  • Compression [eg, compression socks and clothes]
  • Psychological means - music, movies, etc.


  • Primary purpose is to relax the muscle
  • Best achieved by short, static stretches of 6-10 sec
  • May increase range of motion
  • May decrease risk of injury

Active Recovery (warm-down)

  • Active recovery enhances the removal of lactate as the result of increased blood flow
  • Aids the recovery of force from eccentric damage and reduces subsequent muscle soreness
  • Beneficial for post-exercise heat dissipation
  • Beneficial effect on subsequent performance

Contrast Water Therapy

The application of alternating hot and cold water to the whole body can help recovery by increasing blood flow, stimulating the central nervous system, decreasing swelling, decreasing stiffness, increasing range of motion, decreasing muscle soreness and increasing the removal of metabolites.

Research suggests that an equal ratio of time in hot and cold water immersion in a bath/spa or shower is ideal. For example, 2 mins in cold, 2 mins in hot water, repeated 3 times.

Always finish with cold water to reduce body temperature and inflammation. This ‘ices’ the whole body which is great for recovery.

Cold Water Immersion and Ice Baths

Cold treatment is the most commonly used strategy for the treatment of soft tissue injuries.

Cold water immersion or an ice bath may be an effective treatment to decrease skin, muscle and core temperatures, decrease metabolism, reduce inflammation, enhance blood flow, decrease pain and reduce muscle spasm.

A very effective temperature is about 15 degrees, for 2-5 mins. But you can get good results using just cold tap water, staying in there a lot longer, eg 5-15 mins.

Recent Research Results

Performance on a static squat (strength test) was improved by hot spas, cold water immersion and contrast therapy.

Performance in a squat jump (power test) was improved by cold water immersion and contrast therapy but not by a hot spa. There was reduced swelling in the legs with the cold/contrast treatments compared with the hot treatment.

Performance in a time trial on successive days (over a 5 day study) was reduced with passive recovery and hot water immersion and maintained with cold/contrast therapy.

Compression Garments

Compression garments have been found to decrease muscle soreness, reduce swelling, decrease lactate levels, increase blood flow and increase venous return.

Since they are easy to use, they should be used often!

The most effective garment is the full-length tights and they work like a kind of pump, pushing blood up the legs and back to the heart.

Jo recommended the 2XU brand of compression garment because the fabric is slightly thicker, they have a higher-quality weave of fabric that retains compression better and they are involved in ongoing research.

For travel and flying, Jo recommended medical grade compression socks (eg, Venosan) from Pharmacies, but they are expensive. The socks can reduce or eliminate swelling in the legs and feet and allow the athlete to get back into full training quicker.

Jo recommended wearing compression garmnets the longer the better - eg, between two training sessions in a day, or even sleep in them (subject to comfort).

Preferably, wash them in a laundry bag, in a cold wash, to help retain the compression effects.

Timing of Recovery Interventions

Jo recommended that recovery strategies be carried out in the following order (where available):

  1. Warm-down and stretching
  2. Nutrition (eg, sports drink)
  3. Hydrotherapy
  4. Compression garments
  5. Nutrition (meal)
  6. Massage

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