Monday, 28 February 2011

Recovery - Too Much Of A Good Thing?

There is a lot of literature on various forms of recovery, and a great number of different modalities that can be used to recover. Perhaps most well known are the dreaded ice-baths, where athletes submerge themselves in very cold water (usually about 5 degrees Celsius) for a certain time period, in order to dampen inflammation post-training. Then there are also the new compression garments, which are supposed to help recovery. Recovery nutrition is also a big field, with the discussion of antioxidants (substances which “mop-up” free-radicals, preventing muscle damage) playing a large role.

I am very interested in recovery. But some emerging research has got me thinking. Can we be too recovered? Adaptation to training requires the body to put under a great deal of stress – how the body deals with this stress then causes adaptation. By prematurely removing or reducing this stress, do we alter the adaptation response? Recently, I have been encouraged by my support staff to avoid antioxidants around training, and to reduce the number of ice baths that I have during a heavy training cycle, in order to hopefully increase adaptation.

Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and a place for maximal recovery. During the competition, and pre-competition period, I will have a great number of post-training ice baths, increase my antioxidant consumption, and wear compression garments. But in general training, I am taking a step away from this. What are your thoughts on this, and what are your optimal recovery tips?


  1. Hi craig,
    I have been thinking about the same about recovery too, but isn't cool down part of recovery too? one of the main things that happen during cool down is that all the by-products of training gets removed from the muscles right?
    So I feel that using ice massage and a little compression right after training helps in this cool down process and after that its better to let the body do its work.
    I'm no expert in this thing so please do correct me if I'm wrong.

  2. Craig,

    I hadn't considered this concept at all until you've mentioned it, and it intrigues me. To be honest, I'm always too lazy to do some of the more common "recovery" modalities such as icing or a cool-down jog which has caused me to catch the ire or coaches and trainers alike.

    There might be some merit to limiting some of the drastic recovery techniques (I'd like to hear more from possible research or experience of others actually instituting it) like antioxidant foods or compression garments during certain cycles, but its one thing to try to encourage your body to work on its own recovery, and its another to try to avoid injury. The only time my laziness is every conquered when it comes to recovery activities after workouts is with the threat of injury.

    Like everything with training, competition, and life, there is a difficult to find median to these tings, like perhaps not overdoing recovery modalities, but not neglecting certain things that might help you avoid injury later on. Then again, I'm very injury prone so I'm always worried about it.

  3. Hi Johnny - I agree. It is about striking the right balance, which will be individual to everyone. The time of year will be important too - I believe warming down is far more important during the competitive period as opposed to a heavy training period. My article wasn't meant to say recovery is bad, rather as to open discussion about whether too much recovery can occur - and there probably isn't a right or wrong answer!

    Jack Sparrow - as I have alluded to with Johnny, there is no right or wrong answer, and it is important to do what feels right to you, whatever this is. This article was more intended to just stimulate discussion, which it appears to have done.

  4. I like to take a big poo post training. Letting ALL the badness out, thus aiding recovery. Do you think it helps?

  5. No david, I dont. Thanks for your input tho.

  6. Hi Craig, joint supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM have anti inflammatory effect. Will this blunt the training effect in any form. Since I have started taking them I have had none to little progression, on the track or in the weight room. I came off then for a month or so and my performances started to go up again