Recovery Strategies

Basic Recovery Strategies

There are 3 basic recovery methods which we use, perhaps without realising.  Two of which we enjoy, Sleeping and Eating and one which we, as CrossFitters tend not to, Resting

Resting.  The body adapts to the stress of exercise, allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

Sleeping.  Sleep promotes brain cell restoration, leading to increased mental alertness.  Motivation levels are highest when mental alertness is highest.  Sleep also enhances muscular recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release.

Eating.  We need to fuel our bodies to recover and train again.  We also need to repair and grow our bones and soft tissue.

If we’re lacking in one of these, the other two need to pick up the slack;

  • If you’re training 7 days a week then you better be getting adequate sleep and eating all the food.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, then you need to make sure you’re sleeping well and resting.
  • If you’re lacking sleep, then you can probably train well if you’re nutrition is on point.

We can get away with this but only for a short while.


Alternative recovery strategies

Contrast Showers.  These involve having a shower after training and then alternating between cold and hot water a number of times.  The idea behind this is the cold water causes blood vessels to contract and reduces blood flow (vasoconstriction), the hot water then causes a widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow (vasodilation).  The lymphatic system also contracts and relaxes with alternating hot and cold therapy. This is thought to help ‘pump’ metabolites and stagnant fluid out and allow fresh blood and lymphatic fluid in.

Contrast showers result in faster recovery and reduced muscle soreness when compared to passive recovery and was shown to quicken short-term recovery following sprint training, compared with a slow jog active recovery.

There are a number of ways to use this.  If I have time I just turn the shower to cold for 30s then back to hot for 30-60s and repeat 3 to 6 times.  If I’m in a rush, or have a particular sore area, like my quads after a hefty front squat session, take the shower head down and focus the cold spray on the specific area for the required time.  There’s no harm in doing a full body contrast at the end.


Naps.  Napping gives your brain a chance to rest and your body a chance to heal.  While we should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night, we probably don’t.  While naps don’t necessarily make up for lost sleep, they can help to increase alertness and awareness.  Growth hormone is released in the early stages of sleep which boosts your immune system, reduces stress and anxiety, and aids in muscle repair and weight loss.

As a bonus, A study done in Greece found that those that took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Among working men their risk of death was reduced 64%!


Electronic Muscle Stimulation.  These are great little machines that work by sending an electrical impulse between two sticky pads attached to your skin.  There are lots of expensive models on the market but keep an eye out, I picked mine up in Lidl for less than €30.

Compared to passive recovery, electrical stimulation showed evidence of working better to lower blood lactate levels, a metabolic by-product of exercise, enhancing blood flow through activation of the muscles.



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