By Matt Swanston on 28/01/18 10:50 AM
Recovery is an essential part of the training and racing cycle. When you’re swimming multiple times a day at a high intensity, your body needs a chance to refuel and repair. Fast recovery is especially important during blocks of heavy training, and also during competition when you have multiple races back-to-back. Here are 8 tips to help you recover quickly and prepare your body for the next high intensity effort.
Don’t skip warmdown
Active recovery is crucial to helping the body heal after a workout or race. If you don’t commit to some easy swimming after finishing an intense effort, all of the toxins and waste products that your body has accumulated will sit in your system. You need to keep your heart rate slightly elevated and your muscles active so that your blood will continue flowing. This will flush your system and accelerate the healing process.
Listen to your coach when he or she tells you to warm down! If you skip this essential step, you are only stunting your recovery.
Eat within 30 minutes
It is important to consume both carbohydrates and protein within the first 30 minutes following a workout. This short window is possibly the most critical time to eat, as the body desperately needs to repair muscle tissue and replenish lost glycogen stores. The body is also most efficient at replenishing energy stores inside this window.
Immediately giving the body fuel will speed up the recovery process. Even if you can’t get a full meal within the first 30 minutes, make sure you at least have a snack with some carbs and protein. Then eat something substantial and healthy as soon as possible.
Try using supplements
One easy way to ensure that you’re immediately getting carbs and protein into your system is to have a recovery drink. These supplements are designed to contain an optimal ratio of carbs to proteins (around 3-to-1 or 4-to-1) and are easily consumable after a workout or race.
There are a huge range of supplements available to assist recovery. However, you need to do your research before purchasing or taking any supplement. Make sure there are no ingredients on the banned substance list – the last thing you want is an accidental positive drug test!
Stretch and use a foam roller
Stretching after practice is a great routine that will help your body heal and also improve your flexibility. Lengthening your muscles will improve your circulation and speed up the recovery process.
Also try to set aside time each day to use a foam roller. It’s a great habit to form, as it will untangle your muscles and increase your blood flow. Applying pressure to knotted areas will relieve tension and restore your range of motion, allowing your body to relax and recover.
Receive a massage
Sometimes stretching and foam rolling isn’t quite enough to relieve all of your tense muscles. If the opportunity is available to you, get a massage! It’s not just a luxury; massages can speed up recovery.
Massages help to relieve tension in your muscles, get your blood flowing, and they can reduce the risk of injury. There is a reason many top swimmers get daily massages after training, and also after morning and evening sessions during competition. By giving sore muscles the attention they deserve, you can recover faster and be ready for your next big workout or race.
Get in an ice bath
Many swimmers also use ice baths as a recovery tool after hard training sessions or between competition blocks. By submerging muscles in icy cold water, you can reduce inflammation and help the body repair muscle damage.
However, you have to be careful when using an ice bath; make sure it is under the supervision of a coach or trainer. If you submerge too much of your body for too long, you could run the risk of lowering your core body temperature too much. There is also debate about how much ice baths actually help swimmers physiologically, since swimming is a low-impact sport and heavy muscle damage is rare. But if an ice bath makes you feel better, the psychological benefits could be worth the cold!
Use compression gear
Another strategy for quick recovery is wearing tight garments. Compression pants are most common, but tops and socks are also used by high performance athletes. Studies have shown that wearing compression gear can help the body clear lactate from muscle tissue, thereby speeding up the recovery process.
After you’ve warmed down following a high intensity workout or race, squeeze into some compression garments. They’re especially helpful to wear in-between heats and finals at meets, when it’s important to recover as quickly as possible.
The recovery process is fastest while the body is asleep. Increase your sleep time at night to give your muscles a chance to repair themselves. You’ll arrive at workout the next day feeling better refreshed and you’ll have more energy.
Taking “power naps” is another way to quickly boost your recovery. Research has shown that even a 20 minute nap can improve alertness and energize your body. This is a particularly useful strategy between heats and finals, when there is only a limited amount of time for recovery. Just be careful you don’t sleep too long or too late in the day, or else your night-time sleep cycle might be affected!
Recovery is crucial for elite athletes. Learning how to help your body recover as fast as possible will improve your training and your stamina in competition.