Making the Most of Recovery Aids

Thanks very much for the replies Angela. You mentioned doing short 10 min warmups a few hours prior to the main session - I have done this before and I feel it usually makes a big difference if I am tight. If I have kept up with flexibility and am not so tight then it seems to have less of an effect. Do you think contrast showers would have a similar effect to this prior to a workout? When you did this would you end on hot?

Finally, some people think that recovery methods lose there value if used too frequently, what are your thoughts on this? If you were doing multiple contrast showers each day, did they still have the same effect at the end of your career as they did at the start?

When you are talking about high performance I think you will find that spreading work out works well. This general idea might apply to anyone not just athletes. In fact it was this principle that Charlie and I took to " our" post Seoul career . We took our experience from sport and his high level expertise and delivered it to those who might afford it. I have lots of people ask = " what are you training for". My stock answer = " Life". I want to keep up with my son and the adventures that I invite into my life. ( (I digress). But I am not telling you anything you have not discovered on your own am I? I know I go on and on about contrast baths and I do realize they are not for everyone but I felt it was something that really worked for me. I know Ben hated them but I also know he had to do them at times. I also know he had full access for Charlie before, during and after training in terms of massage and later Waldamar when Charlie had the funds to hire help. HOt and colds are done to end with cold. if you are doing them the right way this will be something you enjoy and look forward to.
I believe I had a real advantage on others due to my understanding of Charlie pushing active recovery. As I have said before so many people think it is all about the work. Its about the quality of work and the proper rest and understanding of recovery time between sets and the application of principles as it pertains to how work efffects our CNS. Not once ever in my life have I felt I have over done recovery. In fact this statement makes me laugh out loud. I do remember Marian shooing us out of her room at the Four Seasons because she was getting really sick of all the treatments but this was because she had so much going on day after day after day.
Charlie did do a hot and cold progression for someone once but this was a client and we were wanting to show them on paper how to accelerate recovery over time. Just curious… What would the alternative be to doing frequent recovery methods? If your program is progressively building in higher volumes and higher qualities of work then does recovery stay the same or does the recovery just accelerate your own bodies ability to handle more work over time? I thought the idea of active regeneration is really to shore up more energy and feel better so that you can go hit the training harder the next day and maybe with less effort and have more on reserve? In my experience people are really lazy when it comes to doing non glamourous work. Training is cool. Epson salts baths not so much. What ever … I dont care. you need to proove to your self . I didnt have tons of fights with my coach about this topic for nothing I tell you that.

Ange,as usual,thanks for posting your truly enlightening experiences as an athlete,human,and coach.
Contrast showers/baths are an extremely valuable training other than recovery tool. When done properly (alternating maximally tolerated cold and maximally tolerated hot) they provide what is instantaneously perceived as a life or death situation by the brain in an extremely safe and controllable manner. The body responds to such a stimulus maximally activating all its resources to engage the two opposing stimuli,successfully negotiate the suddenly changing environment,and secure its own survival. All this is done only managing sensory afference of information to the brain,with no CNS otput (motor efference from the brain) ,hence the greatest value recovery wise. Also,having no output costs,but only metabolic ones,provided these latter are properly addressed,such a stimuli can be very successfully applied daily,all of the time,as in Angela’s experience,and they may truly represent a simple,nevertheless key,training for life tool at its purest.I like to think of them as training of the highest quality. Keep doing them long enough and they willact and feel exactly like training,while creating and supporting precious adaptation processes in the organism.

I was thinking about this more kbm. I understand that it makes sense that doing recovery methods over time might feel like they lose their value but I know this is not true at least from what I have experienced. I wanted to mention a few things because it is important.
Over time you will get better at understanding how you want to do certain methods of recovery. YOu speak to people and you test it your self and you learn just by how you feel.
Some people don’t really want to think about this kind of recovery which is what I was getting at with Marion. It was my impression that she did not mind doing all the treatments etc but at a certain point she just wanted everyone out of her room so she could do what ever.
Charlie spoke often about Ben watching all the Jackie Chan movies day in and day out and he and others liked to hang out and not do much. This too can be a kind of active recovery in that doing nothing is pretty important for some athletes in contrast to the intensity of how they train.
I remember Al vermeil telling us that is was very difficult to get the athletes ( Chicago Bulls)to adhere to any protocals of anything recovery oriented once they left the training factilities.
TRack is different and individual sports are as well because you have to rely only on your self and therefor you need to look for all the tricks and places you might get ahead.
I guess if I did the hot and cold the same all the time it might lose it’s value but each time I have done it is different and the more I do certain things the more I tweak it so I get more out of it. I would say the tools I have used as an athlete were more useful the older I got ( more info is for sure better as is more experience) and I would also say those tools serve me very well now if and when I need them.
And my comment about lazy… well I always felt a lot of the sprinters I knew were just born relaxed. This was certainly not the case for me and I admired those who needed less active recovery but hey we are all different…;).
It is always interesting to hear what others say too so I hope my thoughts might invite others to say something on this as well.

For the sake of feedback from a diversity of people…
The more I train through the years, the more I realize that doing absolutely nothing (non-active recovery versus active) makes me feel like crap, and picking up a training session the next time is more difficult… (Which is why I enjoy double sessions too, even if the morning one is a pure warm up, with a quick stretch, drills, strides, and go home).

Easy biking home for 15’ after every single training has also helped me a lot, especially after lactic sessions on the track.

With some intense weight room sessions now during a very cold winter in Milan (and no chance to run fast on the track), muscle soreness and tightness goes wonderfully with what could be described as ‘contrast therapy’ (that you guys speak about), but with the aid of alternating sauna and cold baths. (so wonderful… and mentally ‘easier’ than switching the temperature yourself in a shower).

Mentally easier often only means there is no signal to adapt to and you are slipping into a restorative mode,and out of an adaptive one,which is what makes you feel good. But there may certainly be individual exceptions.

Pakewi, when speaking about this and adaptive mode of discomfort - do you conclusively think that every training session should not feel good, so as to adapt to something each time when seeking a meaningful purpose?
To go along this, I wanted to comment that the more I train, the more a realize that a ‘comfortable’ training (especially when speaking of ‘restorative’ tempo or long run training), has a deteriorating effect to the way I feel at the end. Perhaps this also justifies Charlie’s saying that tempo doesn’t have to/shouldn’t feel easy (so there’s some form of adaptation each time one does something - correct me if I’m inaccurate please).
I think this is something that the majority of people get wrong, and that ‘simply moving for the sake of moving’ is not enough, for whatever purpose, if one strives to continuously evolve through training.
With that being said, I agree with your comment above…

(Now I may read this tomorrow and disagree with myself, but at least I can have some feedback and thoughts on my today’s thought … =) )

Comfort zone is comfort zone,by definition NOTHING happens there. Too bad nothing happening is no good news,as we either move forward or backwards, in between is playground for tricks played by our minds.
Nevertheless we all keep showering,training,and living under comfortably warm water and half way turned knobs.

Thanks again Angela. Another thing I was thinking of is that I have heard some coaches state is that if you use too many recovery methods too often, then your body basically gets “worse” at recovering on its own. At elite levels I don’t think this would ever be something to worry about, because elite athletes don’t really have time to have sub-par training sessions because they weren’t recovered enough. But for developing athletes, I think it makes some amount of sense to limit some modalities at points in the year such as GPP, so that your body can deal with the fatigue on its own.

I also think that the amount and type of recovery modalities that should be used should be dependant on the athlete and sport and what type of training they are doing. Some amount of fatigue and even inflammation is necessary for certain adaptations, and so if some recovery method is going to decrease inflammation, then will you have gotten the most out of the training you were doing? In a sport like track where quality is such an important factor in training, and some of the metabolic and structural adaptations are often secondary to the neural adaptations, then recovery methods are probably well warranted so that you can feel the best for training as often as possible. But for some other sports I am not so sure.

Finally, one thing I have read from coaches who use the Omegawave with their athletes is that certain modalities are better/worse depending on the state the athlete is in, either sympathetic or parasympathetic dominance. Cold water is good for sympathetic overtone, and since the majority of speed/power athletes would be more likely sympathetically dominant, then contrast showers are probably a good recommendation to anyone. But other modalities such as sauna would not be as good of a choice.

i know at my school everyone thinks i’m crazy when contrasting but when i convince them to try it they fall in love (almost everyone here ices/cold water bathes and contrasting tends to be more comfortable and more effective for the recovery needed). almost all recovery aids used by the athletes are done in the facilities though and i think it’s because we like to have a clear division of student time and athlete time

Sympathetic overtone as you define is only an indication of where an individual may be along the adaptation phases spectrum. Per se it does not mean anything nor is enough for a training prescription. According to the reasoning above you would choose the recovery method to counterbalance a hypothetical inbalance,to correct something. It just does not work like that. If you add a factor in a process you have to take in consideration how that single added factor interplays with and influences all other factors which form the process at the time.

Every choice can be good or bad depending not upon a certain state,but on the direction you want to move the process into.

Beyond all the pseudo-science,in my experience contrast showers used in different hot/cold ratios,and with different durations,and frequencies of application provided results in areas ranging from performance to recovery,to fat loss,and even as a training tool by itself.

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Jul;111(7):1287-95. Epub 2010 Dec 4.
Short term effects of various water immersions on recovery from exhaustive intermittent exercise.
Pournot H, Bieuzen F, Duffield R, Lepretre PM, Cozzolino C, Hausswirth C.

Research Department, National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, 11 avenue du Tremblay, 75012, Paris, France.

In order to investigate the effectiveness of different techniques of water immersion recovery on maximal strength, power and the post-exercise inflammatory response in elite athletes, 41 highly trained (Football, Rugby, Volleyball) male subjects (age = 21.5 ± 4.6 years, mass = 73.1 ± 9.7 kg and height = 176.7 ± 9.7 cm) performed 20 min of exhaustive, intermittent exercise followed by a 15 min recovery intervention. The recovery intervention consisted of different water immersion techniques, including: temperate water immersion (36°C; TWI), cold water immersion (10°C; CWI), contrast water temperature (10-42°C; CWT) and a passive recovery (PAS). Performances during a maximal 30-s rowing test (P(30 s)), a maximal vertical counter-movement jump (CMJ) and a maximal isometric voluntary contraction (MVC) of the knee extensor muscles were measured at rest (Pre-exercise), immediately after the exercise (Post-exercise), 1 h after (Post 1 h) and 24 h later (Post 24 h). Leukocyte profile and venous blood markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)) were also measured Pre-exercise, Post 1 h and Post 24 h. A significant time effect was observed to indicate a reduction in performance (Pre-exercise vs. Post-exercise) following the exercise bout in all conditions (P < 0.05). Indeed, at 1 h post exercise, a significant improvement in MVC and P(30 s) was respectively observed in the CWI and CWT groups compared to pre-exercise. Further, for the CWI group, this result was associated with a comparative blunting of the rise in total number of leucocytes at 1 h post and of plasma concentration of CK at 24 h post. The results indicate that the practice of cold water immersion and contrast water therapy are more effective immersion modalities to promote a faster acute recovery of maximal anaerobic performances (MVC and 30″ all-out respectively) after an intermittent exhaustive exercise. These results may be explained by the suppression of plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and damage, suggesting reduced passive leakage from disrupted skeletal muscle, which may result in the increase in force production during ensuing bouts of exercise.

J Sci Med Sport. 2009 May;12(3):417-21. Epub 2008 Jun 11.
Effect of water immersion methods on post-exercise recovery from simulated team sport exercise.
Ingram J, Dawson B, Goodman C, Wallman K, Beilby J.

The University of Western Australia, Human Movement and Exercise Science, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.

This study aimed to compare the efficacy of hot/cold contrast water immersion (CWI), cold-water immersion (COLD) and no recovery treatment (control) as post-exercise recovery methods following exhaustive simulated team sports exercise. Repeated sprint ability, strength, muscle soreness and inflammatory markers were measured across the 48-h post-exercise period. Eleven male team-sport athletes completed three 3-day testing trials, each separated by 2 weeks. On day 1, baseline measures of performance (10 m x 20 m sprints and isometric strength of quadriceps, hamstrings and hip flexors) were recorded. Participants then performed 80 min of simulated team sports exercise followed by a 20-m shuttle run test to exhaustion. Upon completion of the exercise, and 24h later, participants performed one of the post-exercise recovery procedures for 15 min. At 48 h post-exercise, the performance tests were repeated. Blood samples and muscle soreness ratings were taken before and immediately after post-exercise, and at 24h and 48 h post-exercise. In comparison to the control and CWI treatments, COLD resulted in significantly lower (p<0.05) muscle soreness ratings, as well as in reduced decrements to isometric leg extension and flexion strength in the 48-h post-exercise period. COLD also facilitated a more rapid return to baseline repeated sprint performances. The only benefit of CWI over control was a significant reduction in muscle soreness 24h post-exercise. This study demonstrated that COLD following exhaustive simulated team sports exercise offers greater recovery benefits than CWI or control treatments.

Great post Ange and 2, 4 (especially The more I need a hot and cold the less I feel like doing it.) & 4 were the catalyst for me making a 2 cycle contrast my default morning shower after I read it. It was one of those mumble grumble yeah I Know really should things but now I wouldn’t change. :slight_smile:

Overall, I think worrying about overusing recovery methods is a little like worrying about eating too many fruits and vegetables or doing too much flexbility work. Technically it’s possible, but for the vast majority of people it’s a non-issue.

I have never used the Omegawave, so I was just restating what I had read. But yes, from what I understand, their reasoning is to “counterbalance” an imbalanced ANS state, generally to get back to a slightly parasympathetic dominance at rest (probably lots of exceptions here depending on athlete and sport). I 100% agree with your second point, but if someone is showing signs of sympathetic overreaching for a long long time, then to me that would be a sign that they are not adapting well to the training they are doing, which could be for a variety of reasons. But it makes sense to me then to have methods such as cold water therapy etc, in order to get the athlete into a more recovered state.

I was never really worrying about overusing recovery methods for myself, I was just asking Angela if she thought that the contrast showers lost any benefit over the years of doing them because I would assume the body would adapt to them over time.

I have been experimenting with Epsom salt towel soaks to deal with some nagging foot/calf morning pain and stiffness (I was re-reading this and thought I’d add since someone asked and it wasn’t really addressed, as well as bump this since it has some great information for people to read.)

For the past week, I started to do foot soaks in warm Epsom salt water. As I sat with feet in the tub, I was re-reading the CTFS recovery chapter where it talked about towel soaks. So I grabbed one and put it on one calf only to try an experiment. All week for 15-20 minutes I mixed 2 cups salt in 3.5 gallons of hot/warm water. Towel was re-applied every 5-7 minutes once it felt cool.

Morning after the first day, I woke with no pain or stiffness in the towel leg (the reason for doing this was due to a chronic morning stiffness/pain issue for several years, that generally goes away within 20-30 minutes of waking.)

I repeated this for 4 nights (tonight being #4). Each day I have awakened to no pain and my tone in the calf has decreased in portions, tested with palpation. I’ve seen a noticeable increased in ankle dorsiflexion throughout the week, and playing around with L5-S1 ELDOA, noticed a significant different on the towel treated leg.

I post this because Epsom salts might be more valuable in one’s self therapy that people think.

That’s sounds exciting. I’m not sure if I understand how exactly you do the towel soaks. Do you soak the towel in warm Epsom salt water, wrap it around the calf, wait for the towel to become cold and then repeat for a total of 15-20min? Do you do this once a day? Also, was this more effective than just bathing your feet in the Epsom Sal water. If yes, why do you think so?

Your description is correct. I am only wrapping one leg, so the other leg is getting a foot soak only. It appears my issues are more related to calf issues that need to be addressed.

Here is me in my shower with the towel wrapped.