Tips for Optimizing Your Recovery


Three Types of Recovery

There are 3 types of recovery: active, passive, and what I like to refer to as pro-active. Active recovery involves the activities you can incorporate after your workout. Passive methods mostly involve modalities (machines that assist your body in recovery processes). The most important type of recovery, however, is pro-active, and it involves what you do outside of your activity sessions, such as sleep and diet habits.

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Most people think of active recovery as foam rolling and stretching. These are excellent ways to increase mobility and reduce soreness, but there are many other methods of active recovery. Tempo runs, low-intensity interval runs or exercises, are all good for promoting repair and waste removal.

Passive recovery modalities can include contrast baths, compression, etc. There is an infinite number of products coming out that promote “recovery” as their use. It’s often hard to tell whether or not they work scientifically. The most important thing to remember is "does it feel good to you?". Until studies are out, there’s no telling whether it’s physiologically helping or not. As long as it’s not detrimental to recovery, almost anything that feels good is helpful to you because it helps your body to relax and return to its resting state after exercise.

The 2 hours you spend working out are important, but how do you spend the other 22 hours? How you manage your daily life outside of exercise is the most important aspect of recovery. If you aren’t sleeping or eating properly, no amount of exercising can fully undo consistently bad habits. If you work out enough and don’t allow for effective recovery, you could be doing more harm than good.

There are plenty of tips out there for building better sleep and diet habits. We will certainly continue producing content that is exercise-specific and can help you identify those habits. In the meantime, here are some quick resources to get you started on the most important aspects of recovery.

Sleep: http://supp.apa.org/books/Pediatric-Sleep-Problems/Healthy_Sleep_Habits.pdf

Diet: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/dga_healthy-eating-pattern.pdf

Anna J Applegate, LAT, ATC

Anna is a licensed Athletic Trainer in MA. She’s worked with adolescents, veterans, and D1 & high-level athletes in both Sports Medicine and Sports Performance. She’s focused on a holistic approach to injury prevention and performance enhancement. In addition to writing for Bear Grips, Anna is working to create resources that make technology and analytics accessible for coaches and clinicians.

  1. Calleja-Gonzalez J, Terrados N, Mielgo-Ayuso J, et al. Evidence-based post-exercise recovery strategies in basketball. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 2016;44(1):74-78.
  2. Halson SL. Recovery Techniques for Athletes. Gatorade Sports Science Institue. https://www.gssiweb.org/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-120-recovery-techniques-for-athletes. Published January 2014. Accessed February 14, 2019.

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