Blog: The Importance of Active Recovery

Category: Sport, General, Rugby

After game day or a hard workout/training session, it would seem that complete rest would be the best way to encourage recovery… However, research proves many advantages in active recovery.

What is active recovery?

Active recovery is a specific session that is less intense and has less volume than any of the other sessions you do that is specifically designed to reduce physical and mental fatigue.

The Purpose of Recovery

The purpose of recovery is to allow the muscle to repair itself and to engage muscles that are tired or sore from a previous day, intense training or competition. When we are recovering from a phase of training, we can have down weeks (less volume) or complete recovery days. Recovery during a down week is around a 30% reduction in the typical training volume of the week. This 30% is not set in stone, but is an example to show that you aren’t reducing your training load by 50% or more. That level of reduction is reserved for when you are tapering for event. With they way the school holidays sit, our pupils get exposed to these taper weeks naturally.
Science to back this up

There are hundreds of studies that underpin Active Recovery, we have highlighted a few below that positively affect psychological and physiological factors.

One study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that active recovery immediately after the event encourages recovery and reduces muscle lactate levels faster than complete rest. After hard intervals, one group rested completely while a second group exercised at 30 percent intensity between intervals. The active group reduced blood lactate levels faster and could achieve a higher power output throughout the workout.

Another study found that adding low intensity to the rest period after competition did not decrease an athlete's physical recovery and actually had positive effects on psychological recovery by improving relaxation.

A third study found active recovery encouraged lactic acid removal and and helped speed recovery.  The general theory is that low-intensity activity assists blood circulation which, in turn, helps remove lactic acid from the muscle.

What we do on Recovery Days
The point of a recovery day is to recover from your training in not only the physical aspect, but also as a much-needed mental break.

Active recovery focuses on completing a workout at a low intensity, but just high enough that it gets the blood moving and helps reduce residual fatigue in the muscle. At the moment we are concentrating a lot on off feet lactate work using the wattbikes. Using the wattbikes offer a no impact alternative and the computers allow us to understand what state of fatigue our students are in by measuring power outputs and imbalances in muscles.

We also use trigger point rollers to help elevate any tissue quality issues. Imagine rolling out pizza dough. Our aim is to lengthen muscles and increase range of motion.

Post home games we are using the pool, using flush and hypoxic methods to increase blood flow and reduce lactate.

Pool Recovery Session Example:

•    Swim for 2-4 lengths at a comfortable pace. Then complete a one minute stretching for the Hamstrings.
•    Swim one length again, at a comfortable pace and the stretch the Quads. Again limit the stretch period to one minute
•    Swim one length then stretch the hip flexors.
•    Repeat the routine for 1-3 sets.
•    Spend 15-30 minutes at this session and after returning to the changing area and drying down take a cool/cold shower for two minutes.

There are also numerous other methods that we are using to overcome stress and fatigue, however we will cover this in a later blog.

James Davies
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

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