Active Recovery is FLAWED?!

There is tons of books suggesting that emmediately after strenuous training, athletes should do some easy aerobic work for 3-5mins (as a coold down), because it it shown that this kind of recovery speed-up lacate removal (from blood) compared to passive recovery.
Also, when doing some interval training (for distance runners) it is suggested that active recovery between sets speeds up recovery by increasing lactate removal from blood…

The underlying theory behind this approach is based on cardiovascular/anaerobic model which states that LA and H+ buildup (as a consequence of oxygen lack in muscle cells) are inducing muscle fatigue. So, if we get rid of them, we get rid of fatigue. But, is this the case really???

New research (Noakes, Gladden, Brooks, Robergs etc) showed new ideas regarding LA metabolism. Some of them are the followings:

  1. Oxygen independent glycolysis DOES NOT cause increase in H+. H+ increase in cell is created by the dis-balance between ATP/CP breakdown (which cause H+ buildup) and mitochondrial respiration (oxydative fosforilation) which uses H+ ions. If the mitochondrial respiration is too slow (due decreased number of mitochondria, their size and enzymes, and sometimes lack of oxygen - which by the way never occur) then H+ will build up due ATP/CP dreakdown and NOT due oxygen-independent glycolysis

  2. It is showed that LA does not induce fatigue and it may preserve from fatigue. Also is true for H+ ions (experiment done on rats)

  3. LA may shuttle around the body (also inside muscles) and present very potent energy source and not some “fatiguing substance”

  4. Bla, bla, bla

So, is removing lactate from blood really improving fatigue recovery? Is there any real research on performance affect by active vs. passive recovery and not just bLA level?
Is active recovery actually spending some of the very potent energy source?
Is active recovery really needed to speed up recovery? What are physiological mechanism of active recovery procedure except spending and reducing bLA levels (which does not have anything fith fatigue)? Is it blood flushing? But blood already flushes aflter strenuous work? Is it only psychological (providing transition to rest)? Are there any effects on CNS and autonomic nervous system?
:mad: Damn, too many questions… :slight_smile:

Can anyone post their opinions? thanks!

Maybe first look at te role of the warm down in restoring muscle length. Is stretching alone enough or do you need to combine the two? When muscle length is restored, the recovery process can begin up to 4 hours sooner. The method by which all this happens is less important than the fact that it does happen. I have always noticed a variability in the amount of warm-down the top athletes want to do at different points in the season (less when their really ready) and their wants may well be directly linked to their needs.

would you suggest the length (and degree) of warm-down is directly more dependent on the volume of training therefore rather than intensity?

I can see perhaps where you are coming from, but I think you’ll be the first to understand that you are touching only one aspect of it. Perhaps -apart from other reasons, as noted above- the lactate levels and their “desired” reduction represent those processes that need some kind of reversing for homeostasis attainment.
But by keeping the whole picture in mind you’ll see its merit -to which I am sure you agree.
For example, increased, or rather accumulated lactate levels may not even be an issue after certain sessions for an athlete -independently of event- but a warm down is still needed, I guess…

PS I like how you draw attention with your titles… :stuck_out_tongue:

Jup, you are right Nik!
I didnt said that warm down (or active recovery) is unnecessary, just I wanted to say that its effect may have nothing to do with lactate reduction…
Charalie proposed another alternative of its mechanism, but I think the most important mechanism is maybe in autonomic neural system… providing a “transfer” to normal rested state of the athlete.
Again, we should look at the things as a whole not just one aspects of it (which was not my intention)!

Good point

This is the point made by Henk in the Forum Review ebook. Having spoken to him on this subject I can see how it may be possible.

I suspect you’re right. They did a study on one of our top sprinters some years ago, trying to follow the example of swimmers tracking blood lactate and they were surprised to find that she felt more recovered when her lactate values were higher. This makes sense from a CNS recovery aspect as the higher lactates were from Special Endurance sessions rather than Speed sessions. Given a set value of 600m, which will trash the CNS more? 2 x 300 all out with full recovery, or 10 x 60 all out with full recovery? And which will show higher lactate levels?

This seems about right, since the day after a tempo session I feel so fresh and so clean. As opposed to a day after a CNS session, when I feel like sleeping.

I guess lactic acid should not be elevated if you talk about extensive Tempo (according to CFTS).

Great point!
I think we really need to understand our bodies and their mechanisms are CONSTANTLY transferring from one point to another (“recovering”)…warm downs or not!
We can help them to move in the direction they’re already tending to,or just inesorably complicate things further…

Henk’s points should open eyes and minds up!

Yes sure, I know where you were referring to, but I can only speak of certain areas.
By my previous post I was referring to indirect effects indicated by the reduction of Bla levels (as a result of progressively reduced muscle activity), e.g., K+, which by the way play an important role to nerve function.

The other thing you want to think about is when you want to move the lactate out. Does the lactate itself stimulate a heightened recovery response? If so, for how long after the session? You don’t want to limit it while it’s working but you DO want to move everything out via extensive tempo the day after to heighten the upswing of the enhanced recovery cycle. This same principle is recognized in terms of therapy means. Any thoughts on this?

I already quited this experience of you in one of mine seminar works for faculty… I think you also mentioned it on Vancouver 2004?
BTW, I think that 10x60 will trash CNS, while 2x300 will induce higher level of LA :smiley:

bLA reduction may be some nus-product and indirectly (maybe just via time lines) connected to recovery speed up, while some other mechansms are more important (ions balance: Na, K as Nik outlined etc, functioning of ANS etc)
My favourite major suspect is Autonomic Nervous System… Thus doing active recovery may tell to the heart, CNS and other functional systems to “cool down, the strenuous activity is passed by, start recovering, go back to your normal functioning”. This “signal” may direct them into direction in which they normally tend to go (as pakewi stated), but it may speed up processes becuase ANS is inertial (it takes time for him to see that strenuous activity is over).

My question here is:
Should we differ between active recovery as a form of cool down (after a training) and light activity between sets of interval training? Are machanisms the same? Are they contraproductive during interval training?

Charlie, do you use any kind of active recovery during 2x300m Special Endurance training? Thanks!

To propose an answer to your question Charlie (“Does the lactate itself stimulate a heightened recovery response”): Lactate are very potent source of energy and contrary to glycogen, they can shuffle between muscle cells and other organs. I think Gladden showed that inury sites can uptake laktates and use them in heal process, but I must verify this statement! So, this may be the mechanism of active rest in speeding up recovery in injured athletes… I am just speculating here :stuck_out_tongue:

We do whatever active recovery the athlete wants between Special End reps. As the breaks are relatively long, the need for assisted recovery will vary by individual and time of year (more active type recovery required at the beginning of the SPP than at the end) We often used massage (usually light, shaking type), and some less obvious circulatory assists, sometimes as simple as loosening the shoes to allow for better circulation or raising the legs to let the blood drain. Occasionally, an athlete asks for assisted stretching, which is very easy.


had the guys doing the study ever ran a 400m flat out, rested 60s then ran a 200m as hard as possable??? Now that is Lactic acid build up…
The pain is like battery acid running through your vains!
Lets do an experiment on rats and relate it to sprinters…

The stretching is going well for you, and, clearly, you havn’t neglected to weightroom, but I think you’ll need to speak to Pakewi about shaving down if you want to succeeed in the pool.

I don’t want to derail the thread, but the pic above reminds me of one pearl of wisdom I’ve heard: “Animals don’t warm up, why should people?” Of course, animals warm up all day before their event (chasing dinner).

If i was a Sport Science researcher this is what I would look at. I think recovery between reps and sets in both the weight room and the track is something few people think about and something that could potentiall make a big difference.