Practical recovery strategies

Here are examples of recovery strategies which can be used after training and after a match.

Post-training recovery strategies

 Immediately after training:

• rehydrate and refuel

• stretch lightly, using both active and short-held static stretches (10 seconds maximum) while the

muscles are warm

• walk or move lightly to prevent venous pooling and promote removal of circulating lactate

• check for fluid loss by comparing body mass to body mass before training

• listen to relaxing music on your way home

• wear a compression garment (lower body or upper body depending on the type of training).

 When you get home after training:

 • continue to rehydrate and refuel

• shower as soon as possible

• continue to do some light static stretches in the warm shower

• light self-massage strokes on chest and upper body in the shower

• alternate between heat (30 seconds) and cold (30 seconds) in the shower, repeating three to five times

• within 60 minutes of training have a well-balanced meal, including carbohydrate and protein and continue rehydrating

• use a relaxation technique or music to unwind.

 In the evening

• shower, spa or bath to relax muscles

• relax (for example, listen to music, watch TV)

• static stretching, holding the stretch for about 60 seconds

• self massage, especially legs, feet and hips.

 Prepare for sleep

• five to 10 minutes before bed, switch off from the day

• use relaxation skills such as visualisation, breathing exercises or music

• get out of bed if you cannot sleep; do not lie awake worrying.

Next morning

• monitor your response to training

• check body mass and record subjective state of fatigue and quality of sleep

• prepare for training.

Post-match recovery strategies

Within the first five minutes: Rehydrate and refuel: Eat/drink carbohydrate and protein. A recovery sports drink is adequate.  Players need to be reminded that thirst is a poor guide to hydration status.

5 to 20 minutes: Cooldown - Move lightly for five to eight minutes, then stretch for eight to 10 minutes.

15 to 20 minutes: Use a hydrotherapy modality, for example contrast showers or cold bath. Self massage, using predominantly shaking techniques to stimulate the nervous system. The players should continue to hydrate. Body mass can be checked to ensure that hydration is complete.  

Within the first 60 minutes: Continue to hydrate. Ingest more food. Carry out a performance review. Start to relax, use music if appropriate. Wear a compression garment.

In the evening

Relax as appropriate, for example read or go to a movie or socialise. Continue to hydrate and refuel.

Prior to bed.

Use relaxation skills to switch off.

Next day

Active recovery session (i.e. pool session).

 Contrast shower

Alternate one minute of hot (as hot as tolerable) with 30 seconds of cold (as cold as tolerable). Repeat three times.

Cold bath

Use a temperature of five to 15° centigrade. Immerse for five to seven minutes. Move body parts during the immersion.

Pool session

The goal of a recovery-based pool session is to promote recovery with low-intensity aerobic exercise coupled with stretching activities that utilise all the main joints involved in rugby performance. The structures and the swimming strokes should focus on the full range of movement. The water depth of the swimming pool will determine the degree of weight supported and the amount of ground contact.  

The intensity of the session should be at a low level, and players who are unable to swim need to reduce the duration of the workout, particularly if the pool is deep. All sessions should last about 20 to 30 minutes.

Sample session

• swim three lengths while alternating the backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl

• walk for three minutes in waist-deep water with a range of upper body activities (for example,

sprint action, reaching up, side bends, rotations)

• walk two widths with full high-knee action in shoulder-deep water

• walk two faster widths with high-knee running action in shoulder-deep water

• walk two widths, emphasising ankle action in waist-deep water

• swim two lengths with a sidestroke (alternating side)

• walk two widths sideways with a side lunge action in waist-deep water

• swim three lengths while alternating backstroke, front crawl, and backstroke

• walk two widths, cross oversteps style, in waist-deep water

• walk two widths with a hip circling action in shoulder-deep water (width one forward, width two backwards)

• walk two widths, lunging in waist-deep water, with a variety of lunging combinations

• walk two widths backwards, taking large steps, in waist-deep water

• swim two lengths sidestroke (alternating side)

• walk two widths with a sprinter’s paw-back action in waist-deep water

• walk two widths with a high-kick action in waist-deep water

• jog two widths in waist-deep water

• spend five minutes statically stretching key muscles in the water.

This is an extract of Recovery techniques and practical guidelines by SA Rugby. For the full article click here.

Source: SA Rugby: Recovery techniques and practical guidelines by Mike I. Lambert and David Van Wyk; MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.

  (Health24, August 2011)

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