By Dan McCarthy//National Team High Performance Consultant | Monday, October 12, 2015
This past summer, the USA Swimming Medical Staff and High Performance Staff supported three international meets over the course of 35 days. It was an amazing opportunity not only to watch and assist Team USA, but also a chance to see how our athletes go about their business of swimming fast and recovering for their next race.
After a cool-down swim, our athletes use three recovery practices at the pool:
- Post-race snack (food and drink)
- Massage/compression (Therapists/Normatec units)
- Cold Water Immersion (Cold Tub)
Once the athletes were back at the village they had three recovery choices:
- Massage (limited)
After a race, hopping in for a good cool down and grabbing a snack and a recovery drink are nearly universal practices. Massage is more common at the elite level for older athletes, and cold water immersion is growing in popularity. There is a hierarchy of recovery practices, and it is probably never a good idea to sacrifice something at the top of the list for something on the bottom.
After a post-race cool down, making sure there is enough time to grab a good meal and maximize sleep is more important than getting a massage or jumping into the cold tub. Massage, compression and cold water immersion are excellent tools that can enhance a great post-race recovery plan, but they cannot replace food and sleep.
The tight schedules at finals for awards, interviews and drug-testing placed a premium on our athletes’ time. Our most successful athletes prioritized their recovery time between a post-race cooldown and waking up for warm-ups the next day in the following manner:
- Time for a nutritious and relaxing meal
- Sleep time
- Massage/compression time
- Cold Water Immersion Time
Massage and the cold tub might have only been available at the pool, but if they sensed it was going to cut into their nutrition or sleep, they did not make the compromise.