Recovery in Sport & Exercise - improve your performance

Recovery in Sport & Exercise – improve your performance

Recovery in Sport & Exercise – improve your performance

The principle of rest and recovery being central to healing is nothing new – the ancient Greeks practiced it centuries ago.

In modern sports science correct recovery benefits on improved sports performance is of great interest to athletes and recreational gym goers alike. But what actually works?

Why should you take recovery seriously?

  • Reduce exercise-induced stress
  • Receive fewer muscloskeletal injuries
  • Accelerate recovery to allow for a greater training load
  • Allow for appropriate race preparation stresses during competition season

Huxley shows how to take recovery seriously!

What recovery methods are often used?

  • Compression garments – such as compression socks
  • Functional foods – such as high dose vitamins or protein supplements
  • Cryotherapy – currently fashionable and involving the use of a freezing temperature medium

The science behind these methods is largely unproven and although studies on their benefits for performance have been completed the results are inconclusive.

The science behind the latest recovery trends is inconclusive for performance enhancement


What should you do to aid recovery and improve performance?

  • Good training principles and a well thought out exercise programme. Take into account cycles of training including: intensities, frequency and duration. Cross-training and strength and conditioning should be integral to a balanced programme.
  • Apply good nutrition principles: balance, moderation and variety focused upon the needs of the sport and training intensities.
  • Hydrate properly: a properly hydrated body fatigues less and recovers quicker.
  • Get enough sleep: recovery takes place during rest.
  • Apply active and inactive rest strategies between trainings, gentle exercise and low impact activity can be as beneficial as compete rest.

How do you know if you need more recovery?

  • Has your training quality reduced?
  • Is your race performance lower?
  • Has your neuromuscular function reduced – i.e. balance and co-ordination?
  • Do you experience increased muscular soreness, stiffness and/or swelling?

If you have answered yes to any of these it is possible that your recovery methods need modifying. You may be susceptible to musculosckeletal injury. Start by looking at your training diary and programme then assess when and if you need to modify your plan.

Other areas to look into if you suspect you are not recovering:

Changes to any of the following: Frequency, duration, intensity, familiarization, environment, injury.

Other recovery strategies used:

  • Cold water immersion
  • High dose vitamin suppliments
  • Use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatories

All of the above have been shown to have limited benefits in recovery and reduction in exercise-induced stress. No significant physiological or performance effects were noted.

Are the benefits of recovery methods all in the mind?

Evidence does point to the placebo effects of recovery strategies and the difference in individual athletes preferences also points to this fact. Therefore yes, any perceived benefit could just be all in the mind.


A balanced and well thought out programme of training, rest and nutrition is essential to counter the negative effects of exercise induced stress and subsequent reduction in performance. All emphasis should be placed on these factors and minimal time spent on other less scientifically proven strategies.

Other interesting topics we think you’d like to read….

Selecting an exercise professional

Runners injury rehab – part 1

Runners injury rehab – part 2