Words by MCAP Sports Myotherapist and Sports Podiatrist, Harley Wallis.

With involvement in high intensity sports such as football and netball being so common, I thought it would be good to share recovery techniques which assist you backing up after heavy training loads or physically demanding competition.

When you are highly active and stressing the body, physical damage can occur. As a result, this is where recovery comes into play. There are many reasons you might need to use optimal recovery techniques. For example, these include:

● Large injury history
● Currently performing resistance / weight training
● Increased training load
● Play sport regularly
● Muscle trauma from impact
● Sore muscles from exercising or playing sport

We will now look at the different techniques which are essential in the recovery process.


There are 3 key elements of nutrition that should be focussed on after physical exertion. Furthermore, these are strongly recommended before you get carried away with the footy club function:
● Protein- muscle recovery and repair. Eg: Milk, yoghurt, protein shake
● Carbohydrate- energy replacement. Eg: Pasta, rice, energy bar, sandwich, banana.
● Fluid- rehydration. Eg: Electrolytes, water.
If you make these elements part of your recovery you will be able to train and play at higher levels. Finally, consult your nutritionist/dietitian for more information.

A smoothie for recovery from training hard

Warm Down

Active recovery:
● Studies have shown that 5-10 minutes of light exercise helps to remove metabolites in muscles through increased blood flow.
● This reduces muscle soreness and stiffness and helps muscles function.
● Examples include- jogging, light resistance, cycling.
● May increase joint range of motion.
● May decrease the risk of injury.
● Static stretches, hold 20-30 seconds.
● Don’t stretch into pain.

A man stretching as part of his warm down to recovery


Massage and myotherapy has been used extensively in the recovery process. It can be done before, during and after physical exertion. Its effects are:
● Potential reduction in muscle soreness, increase flexibility and relaxation/psychological benefits.
● Promotes blood flow- assist in removal of metabolites/lactate.
● Potential aid in injury prevention.
● Can be used during physical activity/competition

Harley Wallis doing myotherapy for the Australian team

Hydrotherapy & Ice baths

Contrast water therapy
● Increase in blood flow, enhancing removal of metabolites.
● Decrease inflammation and pain.
● Can use shower/spa/plunge pools.
● 1 min hot, 1 min cold x 5. Always finish on cold.
● Do not use if you have an injury, bruising, open wound or illness.
Ice Baths
● Decreased pain, inflammation, body temperature, blood flow.
● Often used for soft tissue injuries but can be used on whole body.
● Bath or bin filled with ice and water.
● Submerge for 5-10 minutes, 10 – 15 degrees Celsius.

athletes use ice baths to recover form hard training


Compression has been widely used during or after training and with flights or bus trips.
Benefits may include:
● Reduction in swelling and pain, increasing flexibility.
● Increase blood flow back to heart, assisting with metabolite removal.
● Temperature regulation.

athlete wears compression during and after flights to recover

Sleep & Rest

Absolutely vital in the recovery process. The body will repair and grow when at rest. Maximising sleep will assist you to perform at your peak. A lack of sleep can be detrimental to the body, causing issues from decreased focus to difficulty controlling mood.
Strategies to help you sleep include:
● Do not watch TV or use your phone in bed. Set a time when you stop looking at screens.
● Avoid caffeine before bed.
● Don’t drink large amounts of liquid before bed.
● Maintain a regular sleep pattern. If you get out of routine, get back as quick as possible.
● Clear your head of thoughts.

woman sleeping to recover from training hard


Your recovery techniques should follow this order:
1. Warm down—-> stretch, light jog
2. Nutrition—> protein, carbs, fluids
3. Hydrotherapy—> hot/cold shower
4. Compression—> tights/socks
5. Nutrition—> healthy meal
6. Massage—> when possible
7. Rest—> plan to rest after activity
8. Sleep—> 8-9 hours is optimal

timing of recovery after training is important


It is your job to recover after intense physical exercise. Many people forget that in order to continue to train hard, you must recover harder. Recovery must be prioritised.

Use as many recovery techniques as possible. The more you use the better you will perform at training and subsequent games. No one wants to be injured, proper recovery helps to reduce the risk.
Everyone can respond differently to different techniques, find out which work for you and stick to it. Encourage your fellow team-mates and training partners to follow suit. You might be surprised by the impact it has on your performance. Don’t forget – TRAIN HARD, RECOVER HARDER.

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