Mythbusting with ASM - Recover faster, perform better.
Do I stretch? Do I jump in an ice bath? When do I get a massage? All this and more below….
In this edition of the blog, we look at recovering from bouts of exercise. This blog is based on the recent scientific review of post-exercise recovery techniques and their effectiveness on muscle damage, soreness, fatigue and inflammation after exercise. This review was published by Dupoy and colleagues in the Frontiers in Physiology Journal in 2018 should you wish to give it a full read. Don’t worry if that is not your thing, because we have and here are the main take home messages.
Massage Therapy, wearing compression garments, Immersion (in varying ranges of cold water), cryotherapy (cold chambers), Active Recovery (traditional cool down), Contrast Water Therapy (alternating between hot and cold baths) and static stretching.
· Massage Therapy should be considered the gold standard for athletes and sedentary individuals looking to recovery as best as possible from exercise sessions.
· Compression garments should also be used post-exercise to optimise recovery.
· Immersion in water of 11-15degs for 11-15mins is next effective option but to a lesser degree than massage therapy.
· Active recovery for around 7mins is a free a moderately successful option that should be universally adopted.
· Static stretching post-exercise should not be carried out and more effective methods of recovery selected.
1. Massage Therapy
The strategies compared were;
This was as the most successful modality in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue in athletes and sedentary individuals following exercise. The most effective time period for this was within 2 hours of competition or the training session. Benefit can still be seen 4 days after treatments as short as 30mins. Therefore, it may be beneficial to plan your long runs / heavy training sessions / long work shifts where you think you will experience most fatigue around a massage session.
2. Compression garments
Successful in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue but to a lesser extent than Massage. Compression garments worn for 24 hours after exercise seem to produce the most beneficial effects, sometimes up to 4 days later. Therefore, it would seem that regular use of these after all training sessions is a good investment.
This also seems to be successful in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue but again, also to a lesser extent than Massage. The optimal temperature appears to be between 11 and 15degs, for 11-15mins. Good news for those that hate ice baths but bad news for convenience. It does seem a good option if you cannot access your friendly local massage therapist but might require some faffing about getting the temperature right. 11-15degs is still quite an uncomfortable sit for 15mins too!
The rise of these facilities appear on the surface to be vindicated by results showing a positive impact on muscle soreness. The research done is predominately using cryochambers with temperatures ranging from -30 to 195degs. However in comparison to other modalities, it is less effective on soreness and not effective on fatigue. This is also quite a costly option and it seems to only be effective for 6hrs post exercise. Not much. Bang for your buck there.
5. Active Recovery
This has been shown for some time to have a positive effect on muscle soreness. Most beneficial results were found doing a 7min low intensity exercise session. This should really form part of every recovery session as it is quick and free!
6. Contrast Water Therapy
A similar outcome in providing a positive impact on muscle soreness was shown using this modality, with the added benefit of reducing perception of pain post-exercise in the body. It should be noted however, that muscle soreness was less affected than active recovery. There was also no apparent optimal timings for this quoted by the authors.
There was no benefit on muscle soreness or fatigue using static stretching regimen as a recovery strategy. There may even be evidence to suggest an increase in muscle soreness from stretching post-exercise. It would seem the evidence suggests we stop this and concentrate on more effective measures.
We hope this summary helps clarify things in terms of how best to recovery after exercising so you can utilise your time and money more effectively in the future. If you are already doing something and it helps, for God’s sake don’t stop. Everyone is different and respond to things in their own way. The above can serve as a guide to any additional strategies!