Specialty Program - Youth

How to optimize athletic recovery

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stretch affect
March 16, 2023

What do we mean when we say athletic recovery? Gone are the days of driving yourself into the ground for the sake of getting better. Yes, strive for those 10,000 hours but recovery MUST become a part of your routine.

If we cannot find the time to allow our body to recover, heal, restore and rebuild, then the body cannot progress and improve no matter how well we learn to move more efficiently or how hard we train.

Taking a day off, getting sleep, and following a proper diet are all important facets of athletic recovery, but when it comes to optimizing recovery, at Stretch Affect we use:

  1. Percussive tools
  2. Pneumatic compression
  3. Cold plunge and sauna

Tissue Healing and Athletic Recovery

Understanding the physiology and general timelines for tissue healing either after a hard workout or after an injury is very helpful in the education of our client’s work load and expectations during different stages of their journey.

Recovery strategies apply to both exercise/performance as well as how we approach an injury. It’s important that we understand the process of tissue healing, especially after an injury to know when it is the right time to incorporate different modalities to expedite the healing process.

There are 3 primary stages of tissue healing with varying timelines for each stage based on the severity of the injury.

The first stage: Acute Inflammatory Phase (1-7) days

This is where you stub that thumb after a bad catch, and you wake up stiff or swollen. In this phase it’s important that we RESPECT the injury and let the body initiate the healing process.

Goal: pain and swelling management, protecting the injury and providing additional stability/support helps the healing process along.

At Stretch Affect we would focus on determining if there would be a need for taping, bracing, or icing. We would also discuss specific activities that can still be done or ones you would need to stay away from.

The second stage: Subacute/Repair Phase (can begin as early as day 4, up to 6 weeks)

This is the stage where you start to feel less pain.

Goal: focus on getting your function back with light loads to the injured tissue.

This is also the stage where there’s a high risk of reinjury.

A lot of times we see clients feel better because the pain is less and they go out and do something that the tissues aren’t fully ready to handle and bam!

Back to square one. So be careful while you are in this stage!

The third stage: Remodeling Phase (as early as 2-3 weeks and can continue for several months)

Pain and swelling have been down for a couple of weeks, strength and function is almost normal.

Goal: Build back what you lost. Exercises look more athletic with more compound movements and we start to have a lot more fun!

Percussion and Pneumatic Recovery

When we say percussion tools think massage guns.

Percussion massage can be used to help loosen up trigger points and knots accelerating your warm up and recover time by increasing flexibility and conditioning your muscles for faster regeneration.

Percussion therapy is shown to be an effective and efficient method of improving muscle tissue after working out. Because massage guns can target both fascia and muscle at the same time with optimal amplitude, torque and frequency; positive results can be achieved in 2 min, while manual therapy requires 15 min to obtain similar results.

athletic recovery with hypervolt massage guns

Pneumatic compression provides restorative healing with lymphatic drainage and circulation., these reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood and lymphatic flow and decreasing lactate buildup. Compression therapy increases circulation and helps you maintain your full range of motion.

Commonly seen as boots that cover the leg, benefits of reduced perceived muscle soreness have also been seen with arms and hips.

athletic recovery for a woman wearing normatec boots

Hot and Cold Recovery

For athletic recovery, often times we recommend using both hot and cold recovery in the same session.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the role of whole-body cryostimulation and sauna as treatments for relaxation, mental well-being, and several health problems. Despite their polar opposite temperatures, both of these treatments come with a dose of similar health benefits.

The use of contrasting temperatures can improve treatment of pain and inflammation, boost the immune system, improve blood flow and muscle movement, detoxification via the skin and lymphatic system, improve ability to adapt to stress, and accelerate recovery from exercise.

Full Spectrum Sauna

It is believed that Saunas have been around for over 2000 years and were first used as places to cleanse the body, but current research has found even greater benefits of sauna including:

  • Sauna use mimics physiological and protective responses induced during exercise
  • Repeated sauna use optimizes stress responses via hormesis and heat shock proteins
  • Sauna use appears to reduce morbidity and mortality in a dose-dependent manner
  • Frequent sauna use may protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease
  • Sauna use provides a means of preserving muscle mass and countering sarcopenia (muscle loss)

In the Stretch Affect Recovery Suite, we have a full spectrum infrared sauna available for our members!

Full Spectrum Saunas treat various tissue levels known as near, middle, and far.

Near – helps with skin repair, superficial circulation, immunity boost, and cell function

Middle – aides in pain management and muscle relief

Far – increase core body temperature and detoxification

Infrared Saunas utilize gentle infrared wavelength lights to penetrate your body’s tissues from superficial to deep assisting with tissue recovery and repair. The light penetration creates heat and increases blood flow to the tissues which aides in oxygen and nutrient delivery to areas of strain or inflammation. Enhanced delivery of white and red blood flow to symptomatic areas can help speed up your recovery.

In terms of recovery, we encourage our members to utilize the sauna prior to treatment to help de-tone tight muscles and trigger points, or after treatments to facilitate recovery from workouts.

Cold Water Immersion

Getting into a cold bath sounds and feels awful, but once you experience the benefits cold plunge can provide, you’ll be seeking it out.

Some of the top benefits of an ice bath are:

  • Reduce muscle soreness
  • Improve workout recovery
  • Improves immune system
  • Stress management

The study Effects of Water Immersion Methods on Postexercise Recovery of Physical and Mental Performance, showed cold water immersion and contrast water therapy (hot and cold) improve the acute feeling of relaxation; which can play a positive role in performance and well-being of athletes, as it is widely accepted that psychological effects are inherently linked to performance.

In regards to muscle soreness, cold water immersion has been found to prevent muscle soreness after endurance and team sport exercise protocols compared with active and passive recovery and other water immersion techniques.

athletic recovery cold plunge bath

Using these tools you can optimize athletic recovery better than ever before. With continued use as well as implementing various modalities, you can bounce back faster, stronger and become more resilient to injury.

If you are in the San Diego area, come check out the benefits our recovery suite can offer. You can choose to just use our recovery tools, but we know you’ll want to participate in ALL we can do for you!

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