Regeneration: Enhancing Recovery for Optimal Performance
Recovery through regeneration sessions and proper planning is critical to the success of every athlete/client. Within the Athletes' Performance Training System (APTS) there is a large focus on balancing the Work + Rest = Success equation. Work breaks the body down and it is the planned rest and recovery between training sessions that allows the athlete to achieve maximal performance and supercompensation. Within this equation the proper planning and periodization of work is just as important as the planned regeneration sessions used to enhance recovery. Kraemer (2) defines periodization as programmed variation in the training stimuli with the use of planned rest periods to augment recovery and restoration of an athlete’s potential. By this definition we can see that periodization is designed to optimize recovery which leads to supercompensation and therefore more work does not always relate to greater performance. Many leading authors would argue that the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), and more recently the Fitness-Fatigue Models (FFM), describe the physiological defense for using programmed variation through proper periodization (2). The FFM describes how there is a short-term fatigue effect that varies based on the type of work (i.e. Power vs. Endurance) followed by a long-term fitness or performance effect that is specific to the type of work (i.e. Maximal Strength vs. Hypertrophy). If work is reapplied during the fatigue state too often then performance will continue to fall and there is a potential for overtraining. For a detailed review on the FFM and the practical application for training please reference Chiu and Barnes (1). Additional reading on tapering and the proper use of the “Unload” is explained in the paper by Wilson and Wilson (3). The first step in optimal recovery is proper planning specific to the athlete’s abilities, sport demands, available time and the training age of the athlete.
Within the optimal periodization plan there needs to be planned regeneration sessions, active rest phases and periods of complete rest. The supplemental regeneration will focus on the following strategies: soft tissue through various self-myofascial techniques and stretching; proper nutrition; mindset and psychological stress management; sleep strategies and napping education. Self-myofascial techniques can be broken into general massage and local massage. General massage focuses on blood flow, lymphatic stimulation and general relaxation through the use of foam rolls, vibration and massage sticks. Local massage works towards the release of tissue adhesions and efforts are focused on specific trigger points using Trigger Point Technology tools, tennis ball + vibration and specific practitioner techniques (ex. Active Release Technique). These strategies will be followed by stretching methods that include joint mobility work, active isolated stretches and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. These methods are followed by hydrotherapy using the cold plunge and/or hot-cold contrast work. To enhance recovery further the use of compression garments can be provided for travel and wear at home.
Nutrition will be addressed day one with the athlete and an empowerment approach is used to give the athlete understanding and control of sustainable strategies. The following guidelines will be addressed in detail with each athlete that goes through the APTS: Meal spacing and timing; portion control based on goals, pre-workout nutrition, during workout nutrition, post workout nutrition, hydration, grocery shopping, and travel strategies.
It is critical to understand that stress is cumulative as explained by GAS, and stress outside of training can positively and/or negatively affect performance. For this reason we must monitor and manage any negative psychological stress outside and within training. Strategies that can be used or recommended include the following: Progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, meditation, music and aroma therapy, and many other relaxation based techniques.
Sleep is essential for mind body reconstruction and supplemental “Power Naps” are very important for optimal recovery. Going to bed before 10pm and getting 8-10hrs of sleep is not always a reality for the athletes/clients we work with. For this reason naps can be used to supplement, but not replace night time sleep. During a 20min nap the body will drop into brain frequencies that support memory, motor learning, mental recovery and general relaxation. The best time will typically be between 1-3pm, but an earlier nap prior to an afternoon training session is perfectly acceptable. It should be noted that progressive alarms that slowly bring the athlete/client to an awakened state can be recommended, and naps should be limited to 20min so not to fall into slow wave sleep which is extremely difficult to wake-up from and train.
There are many other strategies, but these are sustainable suggestions that can put an athlete in the best possible position to perform every time they step into the weight room or onto the field. In the end the best methods are those that the athlete believes in and feel empowered to complete on their own.
Athletes' Performance Training System: Regeneration
The following is an example of a perfect day scenario for optimal recovery:
8am: Breakfast + Hydration
9:45am: Pre-Workout Nutrition + Hydration
9:55am: Training Monitor
10am-11:00am: Training + Hydration (Electrolytes)
11:00-12pm: Soft-Tissue Work, Active Stretch, Post-Workout Nutrition + Hydration and Hydrotherapy
1pm: Lunch + Hydration
2:45pm: Pre-Workout Nutrition + Hydration
3pm-4pm: Training + Hydration (Electrolytes)
4pm-5pm: Soft-Tissue Work, Active Stretch, Post-Workout Nutrition + Hydration and Hydrotherapy
6pm: Dinner + Hydration
Chiu, L., and J. Barnes. The Fitness-Fatigue Model Revisted: Implications for Planning Short- and Long-Term Training. J Strength Cond. 25:42-51, 2003.
Haff, G. Roundtable Discussion: Periodization of Training- Part 1. J Strength Cond. 26:50-69, 2004.
Wilson, J., and G. Wilson. A Practical Approach to the Tape. J Strength Cond. 30:10-17, 2008.
Nick Winkelman CSCS, *D; NSCA-CPT, *D
Education Manger/ Performance Specialist
Athletes' Performance (Tempe, AZ)