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Coffee & Coaching Episode 18: What Recovery Techniques are Most Effective?

Episode 18

Title: What Recovery Techniques are Most Effective?

Episode Length: 16 min (Can watch the episode or read the blog below)

About the Episode: 

There are many different recovery methods that are often discussed as options for endurance athletes, but which ones actually work and what are a waste of your time and money? Today we're going to touch on which ones are most effective - from the most basic to those that require a little more investment and time. 

Watch the Replay 

 Or if you don't have time to watch the replay, you can read our summary of what's covered below! 

1. Sleep

  • Sleep is the MVP of recovery. It requires no equipment and we already have time allocated every night to get it done!
  • You can do all the other recovery methods we discuss today, but if you’re not getting enough sleep you simply won’t recover. It’s that simple!
  • Aiming for 8 hours is a general recommendation. If you can then fit in a 30min nap somewhere in the day too, particularly if your training load is quite high. 

  • Getting enough sleep and getting enough good-quality sleep are two different things – the key is to ensure your ‘sleep hygiene’ is on point.
  • This means a quiet, dark room for sleeping, using your bed exclusively for sleep, maintaining a regular bedtime and turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • The book SLEEP by Nick Littlehales is a great read if you’re wanting to learn more about sleep and how to get the most out of it.

2. Foam Rolling

  • Studies have shown that foam rolling can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and allow for an increased range of motion around joints.
  • Spending even 10 minutes rolling out while you’re watching tv in the evening can be the difference between staying injury free or not.
  • Purchasing a foam roller is also extremely cheap, you can find them for under $20 online. 

3. Stress Management

  • Stress has lots of negative impacts on our health, including the potential to delay recovery.
  • it increases certain hormones in our body that keep our body in the ‘fight or flight’ mode. While in this mode our body is ready to face any incoming threats – and this prevents us from relaxing. Our digestion slows, our heart rate remains high and these changes prevent effective recovery.
  • Stress also reduces our immunity – and we all know that getting sick does not fit into a triathlete’s training schedule!

  • Everyone manages stress differently, but a few easy options include meditation or mindfulness, a relaxation massage, getting outdoors and exercising!

4. Ice Baths / Cold Water Therapy

  • ice baths or ‘cold water therapy’ have long been used as a technique to help reduce muscle soreness and therefore improve recovery. 

  • Cold water therapy requires temperatures of 10-15 degrees°C.
  • In winter this is easy – head down to your local beach/lake/river and stand in the chilly water. The same can be done if you have a pool. In summer, you need a bath/clean bin/tub and a few bags of ice.

5. Contrast Water Therapy

  • The alternative to just cold water is rotating between both hot and cold, which is thought to increase blood flow by causing blood vessels to open and close in response to the temperature change.
  • The evidence supporting contrast water therapy is similar to that of cold water therapy
  • Now this one is a bit trickier, but all you really need is a cold body of water or ice, and a hot body of water. Using the same methods as listed for cold water therapy, you can interchange with jumping in a hot shower. 
  • The recommended amount of time for this technique is seven rotations of one minute in the cold and one minute in the hot water.

6. Compression Garments

  • Many athletes swear by wearing compression leggings or socks either during training, competition or during recovery.
  • The amount of research on the benefits of these garments is limited, however, it has been shown that compression garments can assist in muscle recovery by improving blood flow and preventing swelling
  • There are so many different brands out there offering compression garments, with a range of differing prices. 2XU is a pretty common and affordable brand for compression garments

7. Massage

  • Despite what many athletes think, the research does not support the view that massage improves muscle performance and recovery time, it does, however, have positive impacts on our psychological recovery from training.
  • Many athletes also report feeling less muscle soreness post-massage or that tight spots or knots have been loosed up, however, this may lead to premature return to training and therefore increased risk of injury. So, make sure you maintain your normal recovery periods even if that massage makes you feel better!

8. Recovery Boots

  • They gradually inflate which compresses your leg and then deflate. This is meant to promote blood flow and tends to result in that ‘fresh legs’ feeling when you take them off.
  • You typically use them from anywhere between 20mins to 1hr
  • There isn’t a whole lot of evidence to support their effectiveness yet, however they definitely feel good, and provide a bit of a cheaper and easier to implement alternative to massage.
  • At the very least they force you to put your feet up for a period of time which many busy triathletes struggle to do! 


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