Saturday, August 13, 2016

Too Much Recovery May Slow You Down

*You did great Jo!!!
You've read that it's best to do a recovery ice bath after your training session, eat within 30 minutes of your exercise to replenish your glycogen stores, get a massage etc.

Well, you'd better stop that. Are you kidding me? Isn't that what Michael Phelps, Joseph Schooling and all the other top athletes do after training? And you're asking me not to do that?

Well, don't be recovery-obsessed, not while you're in training anyway.

Exercise and training are all about adapting to stress. However, the more time you spend "forcing" recovery, the less chance your muscles have to build up strength and endurance.

Researchers are discovering that when you try to recover quickly (from training) by removing the signals of stress (from your exercise/ training), you may be helping only short term recovery. This will also reduce the signals needed for your muscles to adapt.

While the researchers are suggesting that you still need to recover from training, but you just need to plan and periodize recovery the same way you would plan and periodize your training.

Meaning, you don't have to achieve optimal recovery after every training session. Some fatigue and soreness is acceptable and even necessary at certain times in your training program.

However, during high quality training sessions and especially during competition, an increased focus on recovery (and not adaptation) is needed.

So here are some general guidelines. Most often your recovery strategies should be targeted towards the longer term.

During base training/ pre season or easy workouts, adaptation to training stress is fine. You want some fatigue and soreness (or "inflammation") because this is part of the muscular adaptation process. Using ice immersion post training will often interfere with the adaptation process leading to less than optimal adaptations.

Ice immersion can and should be used during competitions especially if you're racing in a few events a few hours later (like Phelps and Schooling during the Olympics) or over a few days. It is also time to eat real god food to recover, get your massage sessions in etc.

You'll probably have to figure what works best for you as different recovery strategies work differently for everyone. Some prefer a massage while others prefer ice baths.


Halson SL, Bartram J et al (2014). Does Hydrotherapy Help Or Hinder Adaptation To Training In Competitive Cyclists? Med Sci Sports Ex. 46(2):1631-1639. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000268.

Roberts LA, Raastad T et al (2015). Post-exercise Cold Water Immersion Attenuates Acute Anabolic Signaling And Long-term Adaptations In Muscle To Strength Training. J Physiol 593(18) : 4285-4301. DOI: 10.1113/JP270570.

*I used to swim with and treat Jo Schooling way back in 2004-2008 when we were both swimming at the Centre of Excellence under coach John Dempsey. He used to kick my butt in the pool even when he was ten years old. Great job on winning Singapore's first ever gold medal at the Olympics. So very happy and proud of you!

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