What is Recovery?
In simple terms, recovery is the time that is needed to repair the damage done to the body caused by training or competition. Or, it could be defined as the ability to meet or exceed performance in a particular activity.
1) Normalization of physiological functions (e.g., blood pressure, cardiac cycle)
2) Return to homeostasis (resting cell environment)
3) Restoration of energy stores (blood glucose and muscle glycogen)
4) Replenishment of cellular energy enzymes.
The whole purpose of recovery and rest is to allow the muscles to repair themselves. In the short term recovery can happen to some degree in 24 hours or to a slightly larger degree by taking a full rest or recovery day. But to fully reap the benefits of the training stress that has been applied for an extended period of time, we need several days of recovery combined to form true adaptation. The key point of adaptation, simply stated, is that we get stronger & make progress during this period. Without proper recovery + adaptation, you won’t make gains from the hard workload.
This process looks like this, training stress causes fatigue which actually causes us to lose fitness, but once we give the body time to recover and adapted we jump up to a new level of fitness.
Failing to understand the importance of recovery will leave your training flat, possibly lead to injury, overtraining, and underperformance.
How to recover:
Recovery starts as soon as the workout is over and continues until you go to sleep at night. Although sleep is a huge part of recovery, I believe sleep should not be considered as part of your “daily” rest or recovery. Sleep is sleep. It has its role, which is vital to many aspects of our life and health, but we have other responsibilities to take care of before sleep happens in order to maximize recovery.
Post workout recovery tips:
Nutrition for recovery
Directly after, as in within 5 minutes, of the end of your workout. (Plan ahead if you end your workout at a gym or away from home. If your able to eat a normal meal right after, then special shakes aren’t usually needed. Real food is best.
During workouts you should aim to drink 28-40oz of water and sports drink mix per hour. (or 5-10oz per 15 minutes.) (I recommend, for workouts lasting shorter than an hour, only water is needed unless it is the second workout of the day or you are training in a very hot climate.)
Another rule of thumb is to consume 20oz of fluid for each pound of body weight lost during exercise. (Try weighting yourself before and after workouts. If you have lost more than 1 lb, you did NOT consume enough.
Post workout. Again, you should drink at least 20oz of fluid per pound of body weight lost during exercise. This should be consumed within 2 hours of finishing. (For the most part, this should be water)
Post workout foam rolling and stretching.
Post workout ice baths for 10 minutes, no longer (Perfect water temp is 52 degrees) Best saved for long or high intensity workouts. Done after stretching and shower. Don’t take a warm shower after you have been in the cold water.
Compression gear, directly after training. (Socks, leggings, compression systems)
Rest! (Put your legs up! Elevation is extremely helpful for circulation to help flush out byproducts and facilitate recovery. Sit still!
Naps! (Recommendation here is that naps should be 20 minutes or less, unless you have time to nap for more then an 1 hour.)
Massage (If possible schedule 1 per month as upkeep. Or, if on a budget, I like to use massages as race prep. I schedule one 4-5 days before my big races. 4 days is a minimum, never 1-2 days before your race.)
Hot baths with Epsom salts. (Great for recovery days.)
Debated as the most important aspect of recovery and, therefore, your training. Now that we took care of all the other aspects to help us recover we can use sleep to finish it off. This is when the majority of your recovery happens. Without ample sleep, you won’t have proper recovery, therefore decreasing maximum potential for performance.
Basic guidelines that a very healthy adult should be shooting for is an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. That’s for any adult, not for an athlete in training. I believe athlete’s need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep, but should shoot for 9-10.
Rule of thumb, start with 8 hours and add the following:
For every 10 hours a week in training time, add an extra 60 minutes to your sleep schedule each night. If 15 hours of training, add 90 minutes. That equals at least 9 hours a night for almost every athlete.
In periods of peak training, add an extra 30 minutes per night, really shoot for 10 hours.
*Rules of rest (Jason Gootman and Will Kirousis)
*Bishop, P.A, Jones E., & Woods A.K. (2008). Recovery from training: a brief review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research., 22(3):1015-1024.
*Jeffreys, I. (2005). A multidimensional approach to enhancing recovery. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 27(5): 78-85.
*Sleep guidelines National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,