Recovery: Don’t Ignore It

Stretching is great for your recovery… Pic: Tom@HK

You finish your game, you lost, the coach is mad, you are mad, some idiot tells you to stretch and have something to eat…you get even angrier, grab your bag and storm off to your car and get home as quick as possible. Sound familiar? It’s happened to me numerous times and I always regret it. Recovery is something many Volleyballers, and athletes in general neglect. What they don’t realise is that recovery techniques have many more benefits for athletes than simply rehabilitation and recuperation. This article is a bit of an overview on recovery and not so much specific to Volleyball, but we’ll start with it and do some more detailed posts later.

What is it and why do I need to do it?

Good question eh. The main idea behind recovery is to help athletes adapt faster to training by reducing their fatigue. This means they can be back earlier and stronger for the next session, allowing you to train harder, and thus get more out of it. Both the training and recovery are important parts a training programme. Check out this graph…(yes I made it and it’s a bit rough but you get the picture!)


So, you do the work, which is the training or game stimulus. Your body gets fatigued, performance and physical capabilities drop. As you recover you body gets back to its normal state (there are many different kinds of fatigue, these will be covered in a separate post) and with recovery you will get an adaptation. Which means you are getting gains from training. If you recover well, these gains will come earlier, and you will be ready to train earlier. Recovery can allow you to actually get more gains from that single training stimulus and also train harder and get more gains by simply having done more work.

It also should be noted that by not recovering, and having a reasonably high training load, you don’t even get back to your previous state and never get the gains. If this happens repeatedly, overtraining can occur. Basically you do not get your gain from training, because you did not give your body enough time to recover and regenerate. Again, this will be covered in a later post but is just another factor emphasising the importance of recovery.

Recovery Techniques

Here I’m going to give you an overview of techniques. Each one will be discussed in much more detail in later posts. Recovery is not just immediately after the game, it occurs for days after. This is simply just a list of techniques; timelines and more detail will be discussed later.


Eating is simple, but your body needs to replace what it lost and to refuel the muscles. It is recommended that you consume some food, preferably high carbohydrate food with a high glycemic index within 30 minutes after a session or game. This is the optimal time for the body to uptake the fuel and will promote better recovery. By not giving your body immediate fuel, you will slow the rate and quality of recovery. In the hours after the session or game food consumed should also be high carbohydrate. Care needs to be taken to rehydrate. Replacing fluid and electrolyte losses will speed up your recovery and needs to be immediately addressed.


Stretching, the simplest form of recovery…yet many of us fail to achieve it. Just do it! After a game, after training, have a stretch. It relaxes your muscles, lengthens them and helps get them back to where they were before you killed them.

Hot/Cold Shower

Can be done right after trainings or games. The theory around it was to cause vasodilation and vasoconstriction (opening and closing your blood vessels) hoping to flush out the crap from your muscles. Also to stimulate your nervous system, reduce post exercise swelling and basically increase blood flow to the muscles. There is still debate on the mechanism, but it is a popular technique and does leave you feeling refreshed.

Ice Bath

A good idea. Get in one. They hurt, they are uncomfortable, but you will feel better. Same principles as above. We’ll discuss the theory around it in a later post. It can also be done alternating with a hot shower.

Active Recovery

Ride a bike, go for a walk, go for a swim (pool recovery), have a stretch. Active recovery is doing stuff. Simple. If you do stuff, you are moving your muscles, helping blood circulate and push through all the crap that’s built up in your muscles. Regain mobility and movement, increase blood flow to your muscles, promote recovery…and feel better. Can be done in the days after the session.


Wearing Skins or something similar is a popular recovery technique these days. The theory is similar to the above means, aids blood flow through the muscles, hence recovery.


Getting a massage helps to relax your muscles, and flush out all the toxins. Its basically a deep stretch and is a very good recovery means in the days after your session.


Very underrated as a recovery means. Lack of sleep messes with your hormones big time. Sleep promotes recovery, as it promotes normal body functions. Growth hormone is released during sleep. Growth Hormone, promotes muscle growth, bone formation and much more stuff you need to recover. Growth Hormone release is diminished when you don’t sleep. A lack of sleep will hinder your recovery. This is one of the easiest things to do right…so go to bed.

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