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Recovery - What actually makes a difference?

When it comes to recovery, there are hundreds of opinions of what actually works and what doesn't.

by My Finish Line


The modalities of recovery from training are coming at us thick and fast from an academic world which is leading the way more than ever on research, and an industry hell-bent on selling us their garments/technologies/interventions. From a layperson’s perspective, where do we even start?

We know the macro interventions of proper diet, sleep, rest and a correctly planned training direction control 80% of how we feel and how we perform. The whole point of putting ourselves in a training ‘hole’ is that we overcompensate and feel – and perform - better down the line

What about the daily micro-interventions?

We know that the research on ice baths fluctuate, but some of the most recent peer-reviewed research does seem to indicate that despite that beautiful refreshed feeling we get when coming out of the 10-degree water (with apologies to Wim Hoff but some of us simply don’t have your fortitude!), ice baths actually create positive changes on a muscular cellular level and also can positively affect testosterone levels….. (and here comes the big breath…)… but so does sauna use. There is some exciting new research on sauna use which indicates that, yes, despite the sweaty flush we feel on exit, this also has positive cellular level function when it comes to performance and recovery from effort.

And compression wear? Yes – once again – the regulating of Creatine Kinase level in the muscle seems to be affected positively by using tight leggings. Active recovery? Yes – once again, there is plenty of evidence suggesting us “cooling down” at the end of sessions has hugely positive carryover to regeneration for the next bout.

The question therefore is, if sleep and training and nutrition makes up the vast majority of our ability to perform and recovery (which it does), why are we seeing recovery modalities in a competing sense? Some affect us biologically, some psychologically, some have deep cellular benefits and others have neural regeneration benefits.

And here comes the beauty – while we should use all these in our training – the most physically arduous effort of them all (competition) is best served from a recovery perspective by doing nothing for two days afterwards, since competition taxes our nervous system, physiologically, psychologically and emotionally and returning to homeostatis in all these aspects is paramount and is exactly what training is all about. Let the body adapt.