Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

2 Recovering from intense exercise

Recovery from exercise is a very good example of an area in which rapid gains in technology and understanding have been made since 2010.

Activity 2 Recovery: the new frontier?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the following video , in which Michael Johnson hears from physiologists and trainers about developments in this field. What, if anything, surprised you in this video?

Download this video clip.Video player: Recovery: the next frontier in sporting progress?
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Transcript: Recovery: the next frontier in sporting progress?


No matter how good your training is out here on the pitch, it’s only as good as your ability to recover from it. And I’ve grabbed a hold of that, that recovery is no longer just this passive thing that you do in between training sessions, that there’s actually recovery training.
As an athlete, you want to train as intensely as you can to be able to get fitter, faster, stronger. And the idea of the recovery strategy is to allow you to do that. There is a range of recovery techniques that are used in sport currently. Some particularly popular modes-- cold water immersions, compression garments, various nutritional antioxidant-type strategies, neuromuscular electrical simulations.
There are lots of different things out there. Essentially what they’re all trying to do is influence or modulate the stress response to exercise. So things like inflammation, oxidative stress, and muscle damage-- by trying to influence these stress responses to exercise, we’re trying to either reduce the damage response to exercise so we can come back and recover faster or we’re trying to accelerate the recovery of these damage responses.
What’s normal? Well, the normal line of return back to normal is this. Can we steepen that? Are there modalities that we can use to tip that line up like this so now it squeezes down the timeline?
So now instead of 72 hours to recover from a really heavy strength training session, which we’ve seen historically, wow, are there some things we can do with kinotherapy? Are there some things we can do with some of the old school, dry needling? Are there some things we can do or not do with stretching? Are there some things we can do with compression therapy or cryogenics?
Are there some things we can do with the central nervous system in terms of mood and changes? Think of all the crazy things that-- can we potentially steepen that return angle? Now what does that allow me to do? Train more intense and be able to train in more density.
So they had a hard training day today, but we still have another training day tomorrow. So we need them to start their recovery immediately so by the time they come tomorrow, within 24 hours, 12 to 24 hours, they’re ready to train again.


So for the contrast baths, we’re going between 56 degrees and 104 degrees. They’re going to spend a little bit more time in the cold tub. They’re only going to spend a minute in the hot tub and they’re going to alternate going back and forth. And what that does is it creates this natural pump.
So you’ve got this constriction of the muscles when you’re in the cold tub and then they relax when you’re in the hot tub. And then they constrict again when you’re in the cold tub. You create this natural pump that is also helping to regenerate the nervous system.
Then we’re also going to use the NormaTec boots and get that even more compression. So we’re working out all those byproducts that have now built up into their muscle in reaction to their training or as a product of their training. And so by actively recovering both in a passive way, we’re just getting the body revved up to start its recovery.
I think the recovery techniques are constantly improving and changing, as well as the training techniques and the nutrition. And we go down to what’s happening in the blood, the blood levels of the athlete. And of course, we look at CK, which is a precursor for muscle breakdown. And if an athlete has high levels, then we know, OK, maybe today’s not a good day to push the training session.
A lot of the things here we’re really pushing the limit with and we definitely leave a lot up to the athletes. We like to set the buffet and they either like it and they take what they like and they go from there. And if we wait for a lot of things to be proven, then we’re a little bit behind the curve. So in some cases, we do take a little bit of a risk maybe, where it hasn’t been totally proven through research. But at the end of the day, if an athlete believes something is working, it’s working.
It’s very interesting to think about recovery. In some respects, it could be very important. If an athlete were going into a competition, we want to make sure that they’re recovered. But in the off season when they’re training, that recovery modality could possibly spoil the adaptation for the athletes. So also sometimes, it’s good to not go in the cryosauna or not ice or not use the compression pants and allow the athlete’s muscles to get sore so then they have a better adaptation to the training.
There’s a big head to head on the recovery versus adaptation story at the moment. When we do do exercise, we get these stress responses and it’s these inflammatory and oxidative stress responses that signal to our genes to produce more proteins and adapt in response to these proteins. Now, if we start to try and dampen down these inflammatory responses and oxidative stress responses, are we dampening down the signals to the genes that then express the proteins that then help us adapt?
What we’re trying to do is to take this a level deeper by looking at what we call the methylation of genes within the DNA. There is a theory that if something like cold water immersion is to be having a negative effect on adaptation, it may be because we are switching off some of these genes that are associated with muscle hypertrophy.
We’re close, but we haven’t figured it out yet. And wow, what if we could rewrite some of those curves? What if we could rewrite the steepness of return and recovery for different athletes depending on the steepness? Wow. What if we could do that? What if?
That’s exciting because I think that could potentially be the new frontier is this recovery regeneration space because it could be the limiting factor to how much training and how steep a training we can take on. That’s a pretty exciting space.
End transcript: Recovery: the next frontier in sporting progress?
Recovery: the next frontier in sporting progress?
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Did the potential link between recovery and genetic responses or gene ‘switches’ surprise you as an example of the detailed research in this field? Or perhaps the visual image of someone stepping out of a dry ice cryogenic chamber (–100 °C and lower) made you realise how specialised the field is becoming?

The statement implying that the placebo effect might be important was perhaps surprising, ‘if an athlete thinks something is working … it is working’. The same contributor also stated that with such rapid advances, if they wait for things to be proven scientifically, then they can be behind the curve of meeting athletes’ and coaches’ needs.

The how the body works theme, including recovery, has benefited from equipment/devices becoming more available; however, some of the equipment is costly (e.g. ice cryogenic chamber), so is not yet accessible to all.


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