• Out of the Box Physio

Post-Exercise and Post-Sport Recovery! Some cold facts on a very hot topic.


Recovery is one of the current boom topics in sports medicine, physiotherapy and health and fitness. Everywhere you look, someone is trying to sell you something or tell you about the latest and greatest recovery tool or aid. Some of these tools are great and some of them won't do much other than lighten your wallet.

Before we get into the facts, it is important to know that athletic recovery is a very complex topic. It is sport, exercise, environment and athlete specific. There are multiple factors at play that determine the stress placed on the body during physical activity. This means that there needs to be a structured and often scientific approach to the techniques applied. (eg. What works in rugby league may not work as well in marathon running).

It is all so confusing; so in an attempt to dispel some of the myths and untruths we have seen getting around lately we have decided to share the things we know from a sports physiotherapy perspective about recovery in athletic and sporting populations. Here are the 5 key things we think people should know about recovery here at Out of the Box Physio.

1. Pre and post sport event diet is crucial. What you eat and when you eat it is one of the key factors in athletic performance and recovery. This varies based on what your are doing, at what time and when your next session is. Our advice as health professionals is that if you are interested in recovering well from physical activity then you need to go straight to the experts. That being a sports dietitian. Even better, find a sports dietitian that works with athletes in your chosen sport or activity as they will have great knowledge and tips on eating the right foods at the right time. 2. Sleep and Sleep well. Much of our body's recovery will occur while we are sleeping so getting a good night's sleep is vital. Sleep allows your tissues and cells to recover, repair and refuel. The deeper you sleep the better these processes will occur. The amount of sleep needed will vary from person to person. Guidelines do indicate an average of 8 hours per night is healthy but some will need more and some will be fine on less than this. The trick is to find your sweet spot and make sure you get this most nights. 3. Start hydrated, and re-hydrate post event We are coming into summer and it is already getting pretty hot. It is likely that during your activity you will sweat and loose fluid. Drinking during activity is important but even the best drinkers can find it hard to maintain hydration in the Queensland humidity. This means that following your activity session, you need to make sure that you drink enough fluid to re-hydrate properly. Proper hydration allows your cells to recover and repair. A sports dietitian can advise you on the correct types of fluids to consume during and after your physical activity but generally speaking you can't go past water. Be careful of the sugary sports drinks, despite being easy to drink and tasty these may not be the best option. Caffeine and Alcohol can actually make you more dehydrated as they act as a diuretic.

4. Things that can help muscle aches and pains.

Remedial massage, water immersion (ice-baths), myofascial release tools (trigger balls, foam rollers, and massage sticks) and even cryotherapy (cold rooms) all have some research to suggest that they can assist with muscle and athletic recovery post event. Stretching remains controversial in the literature. There is support for and against its use in athletic performance and this is probably too big a topic for the scope of this blog but as a general rule (unless you have an injury), if something feels a little tight it is ok to give it a stretch. 5. Be Active Active recovery techniques have been around for some time now. The concept here is that low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise in a steady state can assist with muscle recovery. Elevating heart rate and respiratory rate moderately will increase blood flow and importantly help to distribute oxygenated blood around the body. This helps the body to rid itself of exercise induced byproducts such as lactic acid. Practically, this could be going for a long walk or a gentle bike ride or a jog the day or two after a hard session. There are some new recovery tools on the market that utilise this same active recovery theory, such as Compex devices. These are relatively new to the market so are yet to be thoroughly researched however if you have access to one you could give it a try. Recovery is complex and well researched topic. Physiotherapists, particularly those with backgrounds in sports physiotherapy are well placed to guide you on the best things that will help you recover from your physical demands (even tradespeople and those working outdoors need to think about recovery). Like all things, the better we get to know you the better we can help you.

All of our therapists here at Out of the Box Physio have dual degrees in Exercise Science and Physiotherapy and backgrounds working with athletes and sporting teams so we are more than happy to help with any of your recovery concerns. Please be wary of the latest recovery trends, particularly if they claim to help you recover faster and vary dramatically from the above because unfortunately at the moment there are a lot of people trying to make a lot of money from this hot topic.


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