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ATHLETE LONGEVITY SERIES - ATHLETE RECOVERY

So we've discussed injury prevention, overtraining, and adaptability in this series. One variable that repeatedly comes up when discussing athlete longevity is recovery.

Under recover and you put yourself in a position to under perform. You can see how this can lead to slower progress, reduced desire to train, greater likelihood of picking up an injury etc. Because of this, prioritising recovery from training is a must for athlete longevity.

When we think of recovery from training there are a few main bases to cover:

  • Nutrition

  • Rest

  • Physical recovery

These bases can be broken down further to look at some more specific factors to focus on and keep on top of.

Nutrition:

By looking at what we eat in the hours post training we can promote maximum recovery. Post training nutrition things to focus on are:

  • An easily digestible protein like whey, or a lean meat like ground beef or chicken. Vegan or vegetarian protein source options will ideally be a complete protein with lower fats to digest faster. A serving of protein will stimulate muscle protein synthesis and begin the muscular repair process and reduce the likelihood of DOMS.

  • An easily digestible carbohydrate like rice or cereal. Picking an easily digestible carbohydrate source lower in fibre let's us digest the food quicker, meaning quicker nutrient uptake and ideally an appetite for more food later! By eating a quickly digested carbohydrate source we increase blood glucose levels and in response, insulin, a naturally occurring anabolic, is secreted by our bodies to reduce blood glucose levels. By taking advantage of this natural process we can encourage muscle growth and recovery!

  • Hydration! If you regularly find you don't have any kind of appetite in the hours post training try drinking more water (or intra) during and after training. Not gallons, just a little more than normal - anecdotally from several athletes I know this helps.

Rest:

We grow and recover when we are resting. With that logic, it makes sense to rest just as hard as you train.

  • Sleep is a huge factor, with most people needing anywhere in between 7-9 hours sleep to be well recovered. It's not always possible to get in 7+ hours of sleep for some, but it's worth working towards increasing how much sleep you get and the quality of that sleep.

  • By resting and using a few techniques like slow breathing and meditation we can take advantage of being in a parasympathetic (rest and digest state of your nervous system) state. Stay with me on this one. The parasympathetic state is associated with improved nutrient absorption and digestion and slows the heart rate amongst other functions.

Physical recovery

This is a slightly broader topic, involving techniques like using massage guns, having a sports therapy session, stretching, active recovery etc.

Different methods result in slightly different outcomes, in short, physical recovery methods promote relaxation of muscles and lengthen and realign fascia. This will not only provide pain relief but will also give back your full ROM, meaning you can perform your next session more efficiently. In turn this reduces the likelihood of injury and inefficiency.

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