Cool down

Cool down is a group of exercises that are performed immediately after training or competition to provide a period of adjustment between exercise and rest. 

  1. Improve muscular relaxation
  2. Remove waste products
  3. Reduce muscular soreness
  4. Return cardiovascular system back to rest

Application of cool down:

  • Activity/dynamic movement lighter than training level to bring cardiovascular responses down slowly
  • Stretching to restore range of movement and reduce risk of injury when body temperature is still elevated

Ice baths/cold water immersion (CWI)

  1. Can improve perceived feelings of fatigue
  2. Due to pain-killer effects, may be particularly useful in high impact or contact sports
  3. Repeated exercise performance in the heat may be improved when a short period of CWI is applied during the recovery period
  4. Can be effective in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after high intensity exercise while the effects on muscle recovery are less clear

Application of ice baths/CWI:

  • Ensure that you trial ice baths prior to competition to ensure that they have a positive effect on you and your feelings of fatigue
  • Ice baths may be better saved for competition recovery as there is evidence to suggest that regular use of ice baths (daily in a short period of time) may slow natural muscle recovery and so impair adaptation and performance rather than increase recovery
  • There is little scientific rationale for what the lower limit of water temperature should be, and athlete tolerance or preference is often the basis

Contrast baths

  1. There is more evidence to suggest that alternative hot and cold might be better but this is practically very difficult to do sometimes
  2. Increased circulation to the legs
  3. Increased circulation will speed up the rate at which metabolites that are produced during exercise are removed from the muscles
  4. Reduced lactate levels in the blood
  5. Increased perception of recovery

Compression garments

The support and gentle compression effect of compression garments can assist athletes to recover faster and with fewer negative effects such as muscle soreness and lethargy.

Compression garments can be used during and after exercise, as well as during travel for the following benefits:

  • Reduce muscle fatigue – during exercise muscles are exposed to vibration which causes muscle oscillation, resulting in muscle fatigue. Compression garments reduce muscle oscillation which in turn results in reduced muscle fatigue
  • Improve circulation – graduated compression of the limbs actively encourages and increases venous return to the heart and lymph nodes. This results in faster warm-up and enhanced overall circulation
  • Reduced muscle damage during exercise – by reducing muscle damage, compression garments can minimise swelling post exercise and can significantly reduce the severity and duration of exercise 
  • Reduced muscle soreness – the graduated pressure works to improve the recovery cycle by helping the pumping action of the cardio vascular (CV) system, removing blood lactate from exercising muscles, leading to reduced swelling, faster muscle repair and reduction in muscle soreness
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) protection – DVT is a condition that mainly affects the lower body and is typically associated with long periods of travel or inactivity. Compression garments can enhance blood flow in these areas through enhanced venous return, reducing the risk of DVT and swelling in ankles and limbs

Active recovery

Active recovery refers to low-intensity exercise following a competition or other intense workout. These activities can all be completed at a very low level or can involve short bursts of activity (e.g. 5 secs) within low intensity work in between.

Again, trialling before a major competition is the best plan to find what suits you and best improves your perceived recovery levels. Active recovery allows an athlete to physically and psychologically recover from the stresses of training and competing while still maintaining fitness levels.

Active recovery sessions encourage recovery by:

  • Assisting blood circulation
  • Reducing muscle lactate levels
  • Easing muscle soreness
  • Positively affecting psychological recovery by improving relaxation

Key points

  • Cool downs restore the CV system back to rest
  • Ice baths may be effective in high impact or contact sports in competitions
  • Compression garments can assist athletes to recover faster and with fewer negative effects such as muscle soreness and lethargy
  • Active recovery allows an athlete to physically and psychologically recover from the stresses of training and competing while still maintaining fitness levels

This is an extract from our 2013 Recovery Booklet. Read the entire document, with references and further reading, on our website: www.sisport.com/recovery