Regeneration Strategies: What, Why, When and How to Recover

Recovery and Regeneration are the limiting factors to much of our training prescriptions.  I know with more control over the athletes’ recovery and down time, the better quality and quantity of training I can prescribe.  When our NBA and NFL athletes are here for combine preparation we greatly influence their rest, nutrition, supplementation, recovery and regeneration as well as their training programs.  This allows us to prescribe programs of great volume that include intense quality movements and exercises.

Sleep is a critical part of recovery.  Most athletes need 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night beginning and ending at about the same times.  Too much sleep, too little sleep or long naps can inhibit the bodies ability to adapt to the stresses of training.  Deep sleep will encourage the release of hormones for recovery of muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as the immune system.  Lighter sleep stages will help to reinforce neural patterns stimulated during training sessions.  Drugs, alcohol, environmental changes, delayed bed times and illness can all disrupt normal sleeping patterns and recovery.

General Post Training Strategies

Ten to fifteen minutes in a swimming pool of movement consisting of large general movements of the body can relax, refresh and speed the process of recovery.  A

3 – 4 minute hot tub alternated with a 30 – 60 second cold plunge repeated for three reps can greatly foster the recovery process.  For relaxation, end with a warm environment which will encourage sleep.  For recovery between training sessions, end with a cold bout.  The cold tub should not exceed 10 degrees Celsius.

Specific Post Training Strategies

Metabolic fatigue – is volume related such as training for over an hour in length, multiple training sessions as well as the overall cumulative effect of fatigue and can be recovered by the use of re-hydration and refueling immediately after training and competition.  Metabolic fatigue can be recognized by early onset of fatigue, normal training seems more difficult or the athlete struggles to complete the session.

Neural fatigue of the peripheral nervous system – is also volume related and caused by high intensity sessions or long low to moderate sessions of training and can be recovered by hydrotherapy, light active and static stretching as well as massage.  Neural fatigue is expressed by low power output, heavy/slow feet and poor technique.

Neural fatigue of the central nervous system – is caused by low blood glucose levels brought on by high pressure training sessions involving rapid decisions and reactions or just training monotony.  This type of neural fatigue is expressed by lack of motivation/passion and can be recovered by steady intake of carbohydrate during and after training, rest and alternative activities such as music, movies and video games.

Psychological fatigue – is caused by team conflict, competitive pressures or other outside stressors such as school and personal or social conflicts.  This type of fatigue is expressed by loss of confidence and/or lowered self esteem; poor interaction and communication among team members; negative attitudes; increased anxiety and poor sleep patterns.  This fatigue can be recovered by activities such as reading, movies, books, video games, etc.

Environmental and Travel fatigue – is caused by disruption of normal routines such as sleep patterns, meal timing, increased sitting or standing requirements, cultural changes, climatic differences and time change.  This fatigue is usually expressed with longer warm-up needs and slower starts to the workout, increased unforced errors in early competition and earlier onset of fatigue.  Recovery strategies for this type of fatigue include proper preparation and planning for training and travel: adequate hydration and refueling patterns; limiting climate stressors such as extreme heat or cold; minimize visual fatigue with sunglasses and limited computer time and minimizing hearing fatigue by wearing ear plugs on long flights and limiting loud music on mp3 players.

Post Training Recovery Schedule

Immediately After

Restore fluid and glycogen levels by drinking .6 –1 L of sports drink

Eat quality protein and low glycemic carbohydrate snack

Stretch lightly with active and short duration static (10 seconds or less)

Walk or jog lightly to assist lactate recovery

Check weight to gauge sweat loss

Listen to relaxing music

At Home

Continue to rehydrate and refuel

Shower and end with alternate hot/cold showers (30 seconds each) for 3 – 5 reps

Have a balanced meal of quality protein, low – moderate glycemic carbohydrate

Utilize a relaxation or music to unwind


Bath to relax

Long stretches and/or PNF

Self massage – foam roll

Prepare for bed

Incorporate visualization and/or relaxation techniques

If unable to sleep – get up – jot down the problem(s) or make a list

Next morning

Monitor your body – respiration and heart rate as well as how you feel

Weigh in

Record in your training journal

I hope this article will help give you insight into the art of the application of the science of recovery and regeneration.  It is easy to read but can be very difficult to put into practice.   I would like to thank Angela Calder of the University of Canberra in Austrialia for much of the body of this article.  She is an expert in the field of recovery and regeneration.  For more information see or the reference for this article “Recovery and Regeneration” in FHS issue 22 from 2003.

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