RSS header - this is hidden

Recovery Tips for Athletes | BridgeAthletic

Posted by BridgeAthletic on Nov 3, 2018 10:34:30 AM

Find me on:


How do you think about recovery? 

“There has been a huge emphasis lately on the benefits of different recovery modalities; from cryotherapy and sensory deprivation to mindfulness and meditation. While some of these have shown great promise, none of them can or should take place of the basics.”
- Sparta Science
This is a trend noticed across the board in training, you need to stick with the basics. While it can be easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest, usually for good reason, it is not as helpful or significant if the fundamentals are neglected. Everything stems from the basics. Just like in weight training, you need to get the basic movements down before increasing your load. The same goes for recovery. Start with active recovery, proper nutrition and rest a then move onto to other methods when more serious recovery is needed.

New call-to-action

Active Recovery
"When you stay active between work intervals, it speeds up the removal of lactate and helps to reduce the acidity that hinders performance when you increase the intensity again."- Cathe

After hard training sessions, or big performance weekends it can be hard to get back to work, especially when athletes crave time off to rest. Here's where active recovery can work its magic. Why? Because it helps battle against those sore muscles that are probably the driving factor for their desired rest time.

When an athlete trains, lactate builds up in their muscles and bloodstream, causing their blood to become more acidic. The acidity that builds up during exercises interferes with an athlete's ability to contract their muscles, meaning it is interfering with their performance.

So, to prevent this, ensure they are recovering actively by stressing the importance of this to your athletes. While they may feel that those cool down laps after practice or the light swim sets a day after a meet are pointless extra work, it's actually helping their bodies prepare to work hard again soon. And without this recovery it could prolong soreness, leaving them unprepared for the next performance day.


Here are some active recovery ideas
#1 Self- Myofascial release (SMR)
Foam rolling is one form of SMR. The purpose of using equipment like this is to massage your muscles. Consistent foam rolling may improve range of motion, and decrease an over active muscle tone.

#2 Walking
A simple way to get your blood and muscles moving and out of resting mode.

#3 Lighter Weight Lifting
By doing an exercise that made you sore, but at a much lower weight (about 30% percent of usual weight) it can help to reduce the lactate acid built up in the muscles. While also helping to establish muscle memory.

#4 Hiking
A significant way to burn calories and also take advantage of a day off from regular routine training.

#5 Swimming
It works out your whole body, requiring all muscles and joints to be active while putting very little stress on them.

#6 Yoga
Mobility work that takes the body through a full range of motion.

While active recovery is very important for an athlete's ultimate performance, knowing when and how to rest is crucial as well.
“Here’s a fact about exercise and conditioning that many athletes fail to consider: You work out in order to recover. It’s after a workout is finished that your body does its biggest job – adapting to the healthy stress of exercise by making metabolic changes over time as improved performance and increased lean muscle mass.” - Thorne

Why is sleep so important for an athlete? Without proper rest and time for the body to regenerate athletes will be lethargic, less alert, and fail to perform at their best. Sleep allows the body to repair damaged muscles and tissues, promoting new growth while also processing memories and information and releasing important hormones to regulate the body's functions.

Cheri Mah, a researcher at the U.S Human Performance Center and a professional sports advisor with a focus on sleep, broke down the importance of sleep, and how athletes can get their best sleep. Mah conducted a study to examine how improved sleep quality affects the performance of basketball players. She found the athletes:

  • Sprinted faster
  • Reacted quicker
  • Had lower levels of fatigue
  • Increased accuracy on 3-pointers and free throws by 9%

All sounds pretty good, right? So, what goes into getting this ever so important quality sleep? Here are some tips.

#1 Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep
This is more about creating chronic sleep habits rather than just attempting to get this amount of sleep the night before a game. Ideally, athletes should begin creating this pattern during their off-season so it is already a routine once the crazy schedule hits.

#2 Maintain a regular bedtime and wake up time
Following point #1, this is how you will create a routine so your body will more naturally crave these precious hours of sleep. "Our bodies like regularity and will anticipate sleep with a regular sleep schedule." -Mah.

#3 Implement a wind-down routine
Falling asleep scrolling through your phone? That's a big no no. Your mind stays stimulated from the bright screens which can lead to less restful sleep. You should begin winding down and staying off of electronics about 30 minutes before you aim to go to sleep. Reading (from a non-electronic screen) can be a great way to transition into sleep.

#4 Evaluate your sleep environment
“Make your room a cave. You want it to be dark, cool and quiet. I recommend blackout curtains and keeping your room between 60-67 degrees.” - Mah.

Managing Jet Lag

  • Create strategies depending on the flight. For some flights it might be more advantageous to sleep while on others it may be smarter to stay awake to become appropriately adjusted to the time zone.
  • Dehydration makes jet lag even worse so ensure athletes are staying hydrated.
  • Adjust watches and meals in accordance with the destination's time zone. Use eye masks and ear plugs to create relaxation.

How to coach for sleep
When needed, coaches can use tools to help monitor their athletes' sleep. Tanna Burge shares with us that, at Texas A&M, they utilize sleep study technology only when it is truly needed, and on an individual basis, rather than a team-wide tool.

"We use tools to track sleeping only when needed. If something is going on with an athlete where they are having trouble sleeping or never really feel rested, we want to be able to use technology to track this athlete. We want to make sure that, if there is a sleep apnea or other sleeping disorder, we catch it so we can appropriately care for that athlete, so they can recover well, and have a better quality of life long-term." - Tanna Burge

If you don't yet need tech to help evaluate sleep patterns, turn towards an education strategy. Teaching your athletes why they need those logged hours can drastically impact compliance. If they understand how lack of sleep affects performance, they're likely much more willing to wind down a little earlier each night.


It can be challenging, especially for student-athletes, to log enough hours of sleep so working with them to better manage their time during the day can lead to better sleep in the evening. And when necessary, have athletes talk with your school's psychologist or dietitian. There may be other things they need to be doing to feel well rested.

Sleep Supplements
When all else fails, look to sleep supplements. Thorne’s Multivitamin Elite PM formula has helped athletes get better sleep the night before big performance days. If athletes have trouble sleeping due to restlessness or anxiety this could be a great tool for them to utilize. Throne has other sleep supplements such as a melatonin pill that aids athletes when traveling. This article from Healthline covers a variety of ingredients to look to for sleep aids.
Cold Therapy
"Looking at cold therapy as a diagnosis of the state of the nervous system. On days that I find getting into cold particularly difficult, it is an indicator that my nervous system may be overly sympathetic that day." - Joe Di Stefano
Cold therapy, or cryotherapy is extremely popular right now. Many of us have used it in a simpler sense, maybe not even related to performance. Cold treatment as a way to help swelling muscles is a main reason so many athletes enjoy using cryotherapy.
Check out the many ways to utilize this recovery method:
#1 Ice baths
These are an efficient way to reduce swelling associated with strains and sprains. By reducing swelling, athletes can recover more quickly and get back to training.
#2 Cryotherapy, (cold therapy)
Involves a few minutes of total-body exposure to temperatures far below zero. It decreases muscle soreness by reducing inflammation, enabling athletes to train at a higher level everyday.
Some trainers and athletes take advantage of the methodology behind cryotherapy by taking cold showers or jumping in water after long runs to instantly cool the body off. Cold showers in the morning are also a growing trend. Joe Di Stefano, Strength and Conditioning specialist, calls his daily cold showers Cold Emersion. He looks at it, "as a diagnosis of the state of the nervous system. On days getting into the cold is particularly difficult, is a indicator that the nervous system may be over sympathetic that day." Joe's using this method to listen to his body- the stronger his reaction is to the cold- the more it's been affected by external stressor (lack of sleep, nutrition, etc.).
In addition to helping pin point the state his body is in, Di Stefano believes that cold emersion speaks to the mental blocks athletes face. There can be a lot of mental stressors that take over an athlete's performance. "The thought of the cold shower is often worse than actually taking the cold shower." That said, cold emersion can help bring an athlete back into the moment and learn to break through their mental blocks.
Other Trends
Athletes, professionals and enthusiasts, are all beginning to take advantage of recovery centers such as, ReCover, that have different equipment to help them recover faster. Here's a list of the most popular.
1. Cvac System is a 'cellular massage' created through atmospheric pressure and oxygen. It flushes cellular metabolic waste, increases VO2 max and increases aerobic and anaerobic performance thresholds. This promotes athleticism and shortens recovery time.
2. NuCalm. An FDA approved technology to benefit the autonomic nervous system. Through brainwave frequency, neurology and hormonal balance to escort the user into a "pre-sleep" to help the mind and body relax naturally. "The system calms the brain by bringing in alert beta wave functions down the alpha/theta ranges. High beta brainwaves are associated with fear and anxiety. Alpha brain waves are considered the first stage of sleep and are associated with relaxations and peacefulness." NuCalm brings brainwaves from beta to alpha ranges.
3. Infrared Saunas deliver the far spectrum wavelength which penetrates deep into the body. It helps with muscular, ligamentous and tendinous repair, cardiovascular health and is detoxification.
4. Compression treatment is a form of Zonal air compressions. These compressions begin by applying pressure at the furthest end of a limb and incrementally transitions pressure towards the proximal end of the limb. All compression services can be complimented with heat+vibration wraps. This helps an athlete's blood circulation and improves the rate of muscle recovery.

New call-to-action


Topics: Training Tips