Recovery to Practice: Your team's guide to a comprehensive recovery plan

Updated: Sep 18, 2020


Did you know that back in the 1890s, train crashing was one of America's greatest spectator sports? Yes, you read that correctly. Two trains crashing into each other was one of the popular pastimes of the era. Up to 40,000 captivated American's would turn out to watch retired locomotives charge full-steam ahead into each other's path.

Cool story isn't it?


But what does that have to do with team sport recovery?


Well, have you ever seen an adult athlete try to enter the ice bath? In recovery terms, the ice bath for a sport scientist is the equivalent of standing in a paddock full of Americans watching two trains collide.


It's captivating to watch and you just can't help but look as the athlete tentatively surveys the bath before entering it. The impending anguish never gets old.


But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Since our last recovery blog, TRIAX have had some questions on when the best time is to program these recovery modes and what a weekly plan could look like.


It's all about timing in terms of an effective recovery plan. If we can time these practices correctly it will go a long way to maintaining the performance level of our athletes.


You're in luck (boy this blog really pays performance dividends). In this post we will analyse each recovery period during a typical in-season week and will outline the optimal time to implement each recovery type.


When you make it to the end of the post there will be a nice little recovery surprise waiting for you!

 

In-Season Recovery


In-season recovery is important for obvious reasons with the focal point being when our match is played on the weekend. For this exercise it's important to work forward from the match and highlight the different recovery milestones we required along the way.


Dive in.


In-season recovery tips: What you need
 

IMMEDIATELY POST–MATCH


We've just played our match and have won (hopefully). Nobody got reported (no clear vision to substantiate any claims) and it looks as though everyone has come through the match unscathed. After we belt out the song in the rooms and distribute the sponsors vouchers for votes we need to start our recovery.


Recovery immediately after the match is important to establish good habits and to start our process for preparing for the next match. Here's how we do it.


1. Nutrition and Rehydration

I must stress I'm not talking about the sausage rolls or VBs. I'm talking about decent nutrition and hydration. If you want to have a few beers AFTER you've done your recovery I don't mind.


We want a blend of protein and carbohydrates in our recovery meal/drinks (2-4). There's many ways to do this and you may have to find out what your athletes prefer. Generally it's one of two options:

  • 25g protein shake with 300 ml of skim milk (milk may not be palatable for athletes so replace with water) with a sports drink of some kind (think Powerade/Gatorade) (2)

OR

  • Assortment of fruits and high protein yoghurts with increased water or sports drinks – again we need to think about what athletes can stomach. This is a trial and error game. Some clubs will even order pizza as well with a preference for meat toppings (2-4)


Required fluids for hydration = (Pre-activity weight – Post-activity weight) x 1.5 (L) (3)


2. Cool Down and Stretching


Some clubs will perform an active team cool down with stretching, whilst others won't do this at all. This is optional but if you opt to include this into your program then I suggest that you keep it brief and attempt to complete it quickly after the match.


5-10 minutes of walking around the ground with some static stretching intervals may be an efficient way to do this.


3. Ice Baths and Cold Water Showers


Ah, the old ice bath again. If you don't have bath facilities at the club then a cold shower will work instead. In fact there's probably no hot water anyway, particular at the away fixtures.


It may be best to work in intervals depending on your tolerance to the water. The textbooks tell you 10 minutes is the optimal time but you can get away with 5-10-minutes (1).


A few options are:

  • 3 x 3-minute intervals OR

  • 2 x 5-minute intervals OR

  • 1 x 10-minutes

 

24-36 HouRS post–MATCH


Who doesn't love a Sunday sesh? Just down at the beach, having a few beverages, playing a few fun games with the teammates. Sounds like bliss doesn't it?


Well before you test how cold the Great Northerns are, let's provide a bit more context.


Our Sunday session is actually our active recovery session. We'll be down the beach, but our beverages will be most likely water. But don't worry, the sea water temp will be even cooler than your bottle of Mount Franklin.


24 - 36 hours after the match is all about our active recovery combined with some cold water immersion (1). You would have seen footage of AFL players down at the beach the day after the game and that's exactly what we are going to do. Except without the salary.


Our active recovery will incorporate some fun ball-based games with teammates, some dynamic and general movements as well as the dreaded cold-water time.






Have a look at the plan below and don't forget to bring the budgie smugglers.

  1. General ball games this can be any sort of ball game (or a combination), but bring a few balls down and play some games in small groups. Make sure they aren't too strenuous but promote general movement. Aim for 10-15 minutes

  2. Dynamic movements and stretching – make your way down to the sand if you haven't already and program some dynamic movements and stretching for the squad. Think leg swings, walking lunges and rotations, even some Yoga if you know it! Just light stretches and allow the major muscle groups to work through their ranges of motion. Aim for 10-15 minutes

  3. Sea Water 10 minutes of water time. This can be separated into 2 x 5-minute blocks if desired. Wading in the water at waist height is sufficient, but I'm not against going out a little deeper. This is all about the benefits of cold water immersion and hydrostatic pressure. Feel free to bring a ball out into the water and have a play around (remember those Wahu balls?)


30-45 minutes should be all you need before you can commence your actual Sunday sesh!


After match team recovery checklist
 

PRE-FIRST TRAINING SESSION


Before our first training session of the week lets tick off these items:

  • Post match recovery – nutrition and cold water immersion

  • Active recovery (24-36 hrs after)

Before our first session of the week it's important that we prepare ourselves appropriately. Let's place a focus on foam rolling before the session. This is a popular method with athletes as it is easy to complete and may improve any feelings of soreness within soft tissue.


Here's how we do it:

  • 3-5 body sites – varied locations around the body. This can be individually tailored to athletes to focus on sites that they feel require extra attention

  • 30-45s repetitions – length of the duration on specific body site

  • Repeat throughout 2-3 circuits


Foam Rolling for recovery

Following the foam roller it's important to complete a comprehensive warm up with the team to ensure you are ready to go. At this point it may be wise to complete some athlete-specific stretching or movements on an individual basis.


TRIAX Recovery FAQ: What about getting a massage during the week?


A: I am all for it! Whatever makes you feel well within yourself!


The impact of massage on physiological recovery is disputed. But, recovery is just as much about the mental side of well-being as the physiological side. Your club may have a physio or trainer who provides rub-downs at training and for match day anyway.


To save club finances (for the purposes of this blog) we won't prescribe individual massages.

 

post–TRAINING SESSION


After each training session it's wise to incorporate water immersion as a recovery method. Ice baths are a long time fan favourite, but following a LOW-CONTACT session, you may want to switch it up with a contrast water session (hot/cold rotation) (1).


Either option is fine and including variety in your recovery program may help with adherence. Baths are preferred but if you don't have the facilities, showers are sufficient.


If you choose an ice-bath approach, then follow a similar protocol to the after match process as previously mentioned (above). Ice or cold water options are ideal directly after exercise. However, for variety, a hot/cold method can be used. This may be beneficial the day after training and in-between sessions.


How we structure it:

  • 3-4 sets of hot/cold splits

  • 1-2 minute repetitions in each temperature

  • Aim for ~10 minutes in total

  • Use baths where possible – body to be submerged to at least waist height


It may also be appropriate to do some injury 'prevention' work after one of your training sessions during the week. Like any component of a program, you need to determine the optimal time you could fit this in around the match. Typically, you'll have two nights of sleep somewhere in your week before your next training session/match so work around this (see video below).


For example, Nordic curls are a popular exercise at some of the clubs I've worked with and can be easily completed at the end of the training session with your partner holding your ankles.


However, due to how demanding this exercise is on the hamstrings for those who have not experienced this exercise, it's strongly recommended to slowly progress this exercise. In fact, I'd look to incorporate these exercises in your pre-season programs to ensure your athletes can become accustomed to the demand upon the hamstrings.


Start with 1 set of 4 and then build slowly into 2 sets. You can see the Nordic exercise demonstrated below:



TRIAX will have a blog to come on the concept of 'injury preparation' so stay onside for further updates!

 

pre–MATCH


You've rolled up to the game, sunnies on, the chewing gum in the mouth and the club dufflebag over the shoulder. You give the 75-year-old gatekeeper the head nod and proceed to prance your way towards the change rooms. It's game time.


The majority of our recovery has been completed for the week.


Before the match is your time to get yourself ready for a big performance. If you like to use the foam roller, this would be a good time to roll.


The main thing is to know how you or your athletes best prepare for a game.


It might be a combination of the following:

  • Foam rolling

  • Movement activation (think mini bands, resistance bands, foam rollers, spiky balls etc.)

  • Rubdowns

  • Stretching

Try out these different processes and see what works best!

 

There you have it. That's TRIAX's comprehensive recovery plan for your athletes.

As promised here is a nice little graphic for you to decide on your recovery timings.


In season recovery tips and timings

How did we go? Are there any glaring omissions from our squad of techniques? Let us know via our social links below!


To keep up to date with TRIAX Performance, please subscribe to our mailing list and follow our social media accounts.

If we can be of further help to you and/or your team in any way, please reach out and contact us!

 

about the author

Rob Delves

Sports Scientist

B. Ex&SpSc (Hons)

PhD Candidate

Available for Sport Science Consulting

Twitter | Linkedin


 

References


1.Joyce D and Lewindon D. High-Performance Training for Sports. [electronic resource]. Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc., 2014.

2. Sports Dietitians Australia. A guide to protein rich meals. [electronic resource]. Sports Dietitians Australia. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/A-Guide-to-Protein-Rich-Meals.pdf

3. Sports Dietitians Australia. Fact Sheet:Recovery. [electronic resource]. Sports Dietitians Australia. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/120628-Recovery_SD-version.pdf

4. Sports Dietitians Australia. Fact Sheet:Recovery. [electronic resource]. Sports Dietitians Australia. https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Recovery-Nutrition.pdf

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