How to Maximise Your Recovery (part 2)

I highly recommend reading part 1 on maximising your recovery before continuing on here… the options below may be useful additions to your recovery but are not well supported by the currently available research and your main focus and energy should be put into sleep and nutrition along with some active recovery.

Once you’ve got your sleep and nutrition worked out you may want to look at a few other options to aid your recovery from training

There’s no doubt a good massage is good. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and agree with that, and there is some
research suggesting it’s a good way to reduce muscle soreness and perceived fatigue. But, it seems that massage’s effect on recovery is more based on the perception of feeling better rather than any drastic change in the body.

The research available appears to be mixed too – With this study concluding that ‘The effects of massage on performance recovery are rather small and partly unclear’. And going on to say ‘but it can be relevant under appropriate circumstances (short-term recovery after intensive mixed training). However, it remains questionable if the limited effects justify the widespread use of massage as a recovery intervention in competitive athletes.’

Another study (that I have misplaced the reference for), noted that 100% of the intervention group (those that received massage) were able to complete the 10km run at the end of the 10 weeks of training, compared with the control group who received no massage, where only 58% were able to complete the same 10km run. In addition, even though pain experienced by the subjects did not differ between groups, the massage therapy group perceived that they managed and dealt better with the pain associated with increased running. 

To sum all that up…
If they’re a regular part of your recovery regime then keep it up. If they’re not a regular part and you have no issues there’s no urgency to rush out for one, but it might be worth considering adding in to give you a boost along the way.

The fad for compression gear has been going strong for a few years now, and shows no sign of abating and whilst the research continues to pile up, it remains full of gaps and contradictions.

I wrote a whole blog post on this a few years ago, and it seems that not much has changed research wise. This was my conclusion then – “While some studies find physiological benefits, such as increased blood flow, increased muscle oxygenation, decreased lactic acid build up and decreased muscle oscillation, the theoretical benefits from this don’t necessarily translate to noticeable performance benefits in all cases.”

This study of well trained rugby union players does conclude “Wearing compressive garments during recovery is likely to be worthwhile, and very unlikely to be harmful for well-trained rugby union players.”  If the best we’ve got is ‘unlikely to be harmful’ then we’re probably clutching at straws

Once again, just like massage – there seems to be some benefit to wearing compression garments in terms of less ‘perceived’ soreness, and that may be reason enough to get a pair. (Plus – I like to wear them as an added layer of warmth in winter.)

Ice baths
Ahhh… the dreaded ice bath. This may be great news to you if you’re like me and not a fan of the cold – The University of Auckland recently concluded – “Our study found ice baths are no more beneficial than a simple low intensity warm-down at reducing inflammation and muscle damage after intense exercise.”

Not only do ice baths not combat inflammation, an earlier study by the same international research team showed they actually reduce the benefits of training hard, with smaller gains in muscle mass and strength following weight training.

I don’t think we’re going to see Ice Baths disappear from elite sporting recovery routines anytime soon and if you’ve been using them as part of your plan and feel that they’re a worthwhile addition then go for it. It might be worth however, considering if they’re really necessary. Plus… they’re bloody uncomfortable and that’s enough for me not to jump in.

One extensive meta-analysis specifically looking at stretching and preventing muscle soreness, included over 2,500 participants and concluded “that post-exercise stretching for recovery only reduced the effects of muscle soreness by 1-4 points on a 100-point scale (1-4% improvement). Despite this figure being statistically significant, the effect is very small. As such, post-exercise static stretching may have little, to no, worthwhile effect on muscle soreness.” On the flip-side, perhaps every little thing counts?

There are probably a few good reasons to include stretching as part of  your routine tho.
– Relieving Stress
– Managing Blood Sugar Levels
– Muscle Growth 


In Conclusion

As I mentioned in Part 1 , the best bang for your buck recovery tools you have at your disposal are probably the simplest 2. Ensuring you have adequate sleep and adequate nutrition. There is little supporting evidence for many of the other popular recovery modalities.

This study on recovery modalities found “there is no compelling scientific evidence to support the use of contrast temperature water, immersion therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, compression garments, stretching, electro-myostimulation, and combination modalities”