Swimming Recovery: Everything You Ever Needed To Know
If you’re a swimmer, you know that the triad of performance is training, nutrition and recovery. But it’s a long way between knowing something and putting it to practice.
Recovery is often the most neglected part of the process, even though it’s as equally or even more important as showing up to practice in the first place.
Regardless of your current skill level, you’ll obviously want to minimise the time it takes to bounce back after a session.
Want to improve day after day?
Discover our expert science-backed tips on how to put in place a successful recovery routine.
The Top 6 Tips for Swimming Recovery
The best way to kickstart your recovery process and get ready for your next workout is by swimming easy at the end of your session. After an hour or two of strenuous exercise, your body needs to flush out all the toxins it has built up.
Cooling down might help you with that.
Swimming for muscle recovery is the best way to ensure you don’t hold all that lactate it has produced over the course of your workout. And while the science behind recovery is far from unanimous on the effects of active vs passive recovery, it is still a great way to lower your heart rate and reduce your blood lactate levels.
Besides, the physical aspect is only a portion of it. Active recovery can help you psychologically. It certainly feels good to swim easy for a few minutes after a demanding workout. Use the
to gather your thoughts and lower your heart rate.
While the science isn’t proven to help you have a better session next time you go to the pool, a proper cooldown is still a feel-good activity that can boost your overall happiness. And you know what they say: happy swimmers are fast swimmers.
Dynamic stretching is the best way to warm up. But when you hold the stretch position for a significant amount of time, your muscle is elongated and loosens. Whilst that isn’t what you need before a workout, it may help afterwards.
Static stretching will help your muscle fibers and tendons be more flexible. By staying in a position for long periods, you will be improving your recovery for the next day.
You should dynamic stretch before, and static stretch after your workout. That way you are setting yourself up for success. And while that doesn’t prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), it will relieve muscle tightness and improve your flexibility and range of motion.
Hydration and Nutrition
Your next-day performance starts during your workout. Hydration is key.
While you don’t notice it, you still sweat when you’re in the water. If you rehydrate during your swim session and replenish some of the nutrients your muscles lose throughout an intensive training session, you’ll be one step closer to boosting your recovery.
Your options are either water or a sports drink that contains carbs and electrolytes. Just stay away from sports drinks that are high in sugar and you’re good to go.
A post-workout snack can also do wonders. When you finish your workout, start by consuming simple carbs that will be rapidly absorbed by your body. Protein is also a must. During your workout, your muscle tissues will suffer micro-tears (these are the tears that cause soreness and are perfectly normal). By adding protein to your post-workout, it’s scientifically proven that your body will be better suited to start the recovery process.
A great option for a post-workout drink is chocolate milk. Boasting around a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, your recovery is guaranteed to start in the best way possible. You might be thinking: you mean the chocolate milk you find in the supermarket? Yes! Even Katie Ledecky, the 7-time Olympic gold medalist recovers with chocolate milk.
If it’s good enough for her, why shouldn’t you give it a try?
And the best part is you don’t have to do this drill…
Another great way of improving your recovery for swimming is the use of a foam roller in your downtime. The best thing is that you can foam roll while listening to music or watching your favourite show on Netflix, that way you can boost your recovery while enjoying a relaxing activity.
Foam rolling can provide an instant “hurt-so-good” massage and help you in several ways:
- Increased blood flow
By sending more blood to the area, more nutrients reach your muscles which in turn will speed up the recovery process.
- Relieve tightness
When you roll on a specific muscle group, the compression will help reduce muscle tightness. Foam rolling is a great tool to trigger point your way to light and loose muscles.
- Improved range of motion
By self-massaging with the help of a foam roller, you will notice an improved range of motion when you jump in the water for your next practice.
Target all the muscle groups you use in the water. Take a look at the next image and try a 15-minute foam-rolling routine. Remember to roll with caution in the areas you feel the most pain. Never force your way on a tight muscle, rolling shouldn’t be an unbearably painful experience.
Active recovery on a day off
While it might be tempting to just lie on your couch all day on a Sunday after an exhausting week, sitting around won’t make your recovery speed up by any means. Of course, resting is important, but sitting still all day is not your best option.
Sometimes the best way to recover is by swimming. Swimming for muscle recovery is always a good option. Following a strenuous workout with an easy swim is sometimes the best way to set yourself up for success in the long run. Not every session needs to be physically demanding.
Any form of active recovery is better than doing nothing. Both physically and mentally. Swimming for active recovery is a valid option but there’s an array of alternatives to choose from. Whether that means going for a walk in the park or going for a bike ride. The goal here is to mix up your routine, introducing new activities that will be pleasant and won’t feel like a workout on a day off.
A recent study found out that most elite athletes are not satisfied with their sleep schedule and sleep duration. 71% of athletes fell short on their sleep duration goals by at least one hour. But while it’s sometimes forgotten as a powerful tool to improve performance, sleeping is still the best way to recover.
When you’re sleeping, your body repairs itself at a rate that can’t be matched by any other fancy form of recovery.
The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Athletes might require more than that. After putting your body under stress, you need to make sure you get the appropriate amount of bed time to fully recover and feel fresh the next day.
Those who skip sleep are known to have a higher risk of injury and are unable to sustain performance levels.
The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to follow these tips:
Want to regenerate like a champion? Make sure you set the right environment for a good night’s sleep. Choose a quiet room, or if that’s not possible try a pair of earplugs. Nothing kills good sleep like external factors such as noise. Also, make sure you sleep in the darkest room possible and set the right temperature. Neither too hot nor too cold.
- Bedtime routine
Having a consistent bedtime is perhaps the best way to provide your body with the appropriate quality of sleep. And you know the drill, cut out screens before bedtime. Blue light kills melatonin production and decreases sleep quality.
- No caffeine
If you’re a coffee junkie, try to limit your caffeine intake at least for the last third of your day. Leading up to bedtime you don’t need to be energized like you before practice. Cutting out caffeine can prove to be an effective way of improving your ability to sleep through the night.
- Schedule your naps
Who doesn’t love power-naps? Naps are a verified method for resetting during the day. But if you’re napping, make sure you do it no later than mid-afternoon. No point in having shut-eye time later than a little after lunch. If your goal is to sleep well at night, ideally you should nap for 30 minutes right after lunch. That way you’ll benefit from napping without ruining your night.
All in all, these tips will contribute greatly to your sleep quality. If you can’t seem to get 7 hours each night, it’s probably time to go over this list and find out where you’re failing in your preparation.
The bottom line
Recovery from physical exercise is often associated with high-impact land sports that take a toll on athletes’ joints and muscles. And despite being a low-impact sport, swimming is a high-volume sport that’s still very demanding.
While from the outside looking in, swimming might look like a sport that doesn’t rely on recovery, it’s still a crucial aspect of performance that you shouldn’t overlook.
Don’t believe me? Ask Olympic gold medalist Cody Miller about recovery in swimming!
Do you use any other recovery methods that weren’t mentioned? Drop us a comment and let us know your favourite recovery tools that we haven’t heard about!