The Art of Recovery: Part II
Similar to active recovery, hot/cold recovery is used to flush blood into the muscles and move lactic acid out of the bloodstream. At the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) we have a purpose-built recovery centre that makes this process as easy as possible. It involves submerging our bodies into hot and cold water alternatively. For hot, think hot tub and for cold, think 10 degrees Celsius (50F). A typical session might entail two minutes hot and two minutes cold for a total of 10 minutes in each. You can replicate this process by filling a bathtub of ice and water, sitting in it for 10 minutes and then having a hot shower. You can also alternate hot and cold in a post session shower. I asked our team physiologist if we could use a sauna as the hot part, but apparently that doesn’t work as the submergence is an important component. So, no saunas for hot/cold recovery.
Compression Garments and Sleep
We also use compression garments as part of our recovery process. We are provided them by our team sponsor 2XU and the jury is still out as to how much they help.
From my understanding, they need to be really tight (nearly uncomfortably so) to serve any purpose. I wear them during heavy training phases and at regattas as I know they can’t hurt. But, if you are just beginning to use the Concept2 Indoor Rower or train recreationally, then you can probably save your money.
While compression suits may help, other aspects, such as sleep, are more important. You can have gallons of protein-enriched sports drink in hot and cold pools while wearing compression and actively recovering, but if you don’t get enough quality sleep then you are compromising whatever efforts you’re making on the Concept2 Indoor Rower. This is especially challenging for college athletes for all the obvious reasons but it’s something I wish I did better earlier in my life and should be a priority. Aim to get eight hours or more a night. Ideally, your bedroom should only be for sleeping, and this, I hear, helps your body know that the bedroom is the place you sleep. So, if you have trouble sleeping try to curtail other activities like reading and watching TV in bed. If possible, keep regular bedtime and waking times. Speaking of sleep, I need to get some now, but remember that although you may not be able to use all of the strategies all of the time, do what you can when you can. Your efforts can only improve your performances. I’m sure you’d like to know as you are staring down 2000m that you have done everything to get your best result possible.