The best performers are able to implement recovery sessions that reduce their fatigue levels quickly and therefore optimise their regeneration before their next training session

Work Hard + Recover Well = Best Performance

Recovery is usually overlooked in a training program. Whether you are a weekend warrior aiming for your a PB in the City to Bay in September or working towards your next national championships, recovery should also be formal part of your training schedule. When we think about training to reach our fitness goals, we usually focus on active training and physical exertion. Recovery should be seen as part of your ‘training’ as well. During each active training session your body is stressed. Don’t be alarmed – this is how you get fitter and stronger.

Rest and recovery following a training session allows your body to recuperate from physiological stressors, including fatigue to the musculoskeletal, nervous and metabolic systems. Insufficient recovery after training can lead to your body being unable to fully recuperate, leading to ongoing weakness and deterioration of your body tissues. Sufficient recovery following a period of training overload leads to a training effect where you are able to tolerate a higher workload than you could have done previously. This process is called overcompensation.

Overcompensation is illustrated in Figure 1. It is the physiological mechanism behind the training effect- it is how you achieve better physical results from training. ​

You need to recover from a training session in a way that eliminates the effects of fatigue by the time you commence your next session. The best performers are able to implement recovery sessions that reduce their fatigue levels quickly and therefore optimise their regeneration before their next training session. This will increase your baseline fitness. Passive rest is a popular form of recovery. There are also other recovery strategies that you can try to optimise your body’s regeneration before your next training session.

What are the best recovery methods you should include in your training program?

The following list outlines some recovery methods and suggested protocols that are being supported by current research.

Method & Suggested Protocol

Rest – High quality and quantity of sleep of seven to to nine hours for adults.

Sleeping tips

Practice relaxation techniques before going to bed.

Lie down to sleep only when you are sleepy.

Get up at the same time each day.

Things to avoid in the late evening



Alcohol – leads to disturbed sleeping patterns.

Contrast water therapy – Cold water immersion for 1 minute. Immersion in hot water between 1 and 3 minutes. Continue for 3-4 cycles. (This can be done in the shower after a match).

Can be applied within approximately 1 hour post exercise (Bieuzen et al 2013).

Pool recovery session

Immersing the body in cool water (eg. 22 – 28 degrees) following hard exercise after hard training sessions or games.

Can be conducted the following morning after a late afternoon / evening game.

Heat – The use of a sauna, spa, hot shower, warm pool and heat packs for 10 – 30 min.

* Warning – If you are suffering from any form of acute injury/ inflammation – weather it be from an overuse injury or from acute contact heat isn’t the way to go.

Compression garments – Wear post exercise or between tournament matches between a half to full day post activity (Hill et al 2013).

Cold – Cold water immersion (eg. ice bath) for 3 x 1 minute or continuously for 5-10 minutes. Can be used post game or mornings after the game (Glasgow et al. 2014).

Stretching – Stretching can be performed pre and post training or competition.

Behm & Chaouachi (2010) suggests that:

– Dynamic stretching is best performed before prior to training and competition where strength, high speed, explosive or reactive activities are needed.

– Static stretching is best performed in the cool down or between training / matches.

Light exercise/ cross training – Light exercise as an effective low intensity way of recovery. e.g. stretching, yoga, pilates. Can be performed 12 – 24 hours following a hard session.

Massage – Therapeutic sports massage, self massage or massage tools (foam roller or trigger balls) are really good ways of recovering from a hard session. Usually performed after training or later in the day.

Psychological – Complete after training – unwind, e.g. listening to music, visualisation on the way home, debrief after matches and trainings, 10-15min before bed – “switch off”.

Nutrition – Sports Dietitians Australia: http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/

Which recovery method is best?

Depends on the individual. Trial methods and see what works best for you. We encourage you to choose a recovery modality that is best suited to your individual training schedules, preferences, facilities and equipment available to you. Remember, the objective is to reduce your fatigue and put you in the best possible position to perform at your training session or competition.

Example recovery routine

Before training/competition Make sure you warm up properly, including dynamic stretches. Keep well hydrated. First 5-10 minutes after training or match Cool down properly with light aerobic exercise. Use set static stretching routine. Rehydrate. 10-20 minutes afterwards Contrast therapy – while showering following session. Self-massage. Continue to hydrate. That evening Have a hot shower. Relaxation techniques. Continue to hydrate. Next day Pool recovery session. Debrief – with yourself, your coach or sport psychologist. Once a week Cross training

Take away message: Work Hard + Recover Well = Best Performance

If you are having trouble managing your fatigue levels or implementing appropriate recovery strategies in your training program seek some assistance. Our Physiotherapists are well trained in recovery management and can tailor a program specific to your goals and training regime.