Periodizing Restoration

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Restoration methods are typically in place for an athlete to be able to tolerate an increase in training volume, increased intensities, or a simultaneous increase. When it comes to restoration, there are many methods to choose from:

  • Hot tub
  • Cold tub
  • Contrasting hot/cold tub
  • Saunas
  • Various pool activities
  • Stationary bike
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Light weight room activities

There are many other methods that are not listed, but it shows how many potential options there are.

Regeneration methods have long been used to reduce soreness, likelihood of injury, and to allow athletes to feel stronger and more powerful before training and competition.

“When used correctly [recovery methods]will effectively stimulate the nervous system improve heart function and the resistance to stress and accelerates the restoration process after training loads. The use of such methods will reduce fatigue and improve recovery which results in the fastest gains possible.” (1)

Periodization is an integral part of the process in the weight room and on the track. So much so, that restoration sometimes takes a back seat to training. Restoration is just as important, and arguably, more important than the training itself. A sore, sluggish, athlete does not make for an ideal training environment.

The main focus of periodization in the weight room is to select exercises, sets, reps, speeds, rest intervals, intensities, etc. to elicit a specific outcome. Generally, most people will tell you that the ideal outcome is to train the athlete in such a way that they become stronger, faster, and more powerful at the end of a respective cycle. I would agree.

If periodization works so well in the weight room, why not use this same concept for recovery methods?

The Overload Principle is one of the guiding principles of periodization. For adaptation to occur, the body needs to be stressed in a way that is progressive or in a way that it is unaccustomed to. The body will then adapt to a new level of stress capacity. Think back to a weight that was once hard to lift when you began training… you can now lift it in your sleep. If all you did was lift that weight and nothing more, your progress would surely halt. If you There is some carryover of this concept to restoration methods as well.

You can sit in a cold tub for fifteen minutes every day after training, but eventually your body will adapt to the time and/or temperature and may end up not working as well as it once did. It is important to occasionally increase specific recovery variables, such as time in a cold tub or sauna, but there is point of diminishing returns. Just because you sit in a sauna for ten minutes and feel refreshed and relaxed, doesn’t mean sitting in there for 60 minutes will make you feel any more relaxed. In this case, it will have a negative impact on your recovery. Don’t try and be Mr. Contrarian and sit in a sauna for 60 minutes… you will lose that battle.

“Lack of physiotherapy often means performance below potential, while the miss use or overuse of such meetings can be destructive, and more is not always better.” (1)

Think about all the variables you can potentially change about a restorative method. When using hot and cold tubs you can change the plunge times, temperature, and even how much of the body you decide to plunge (full body or certain appendages). In using yoga as a restorative method, you can change poses, times poses are held, or the temperature of the room. It’s certainly not necessary to change every single variable (and sometimes not even appropriate to alter some variables), but this can give you a glimpse of what variables you can potentially alter. You can be as detailed as you feel necessary.

As in training, these changes don’t need to be huge. An increase in plunge time over the course of phase may just do the trick. Or build up from once a week to three times a week over the course of a month and then change the recovery mode.

John Grace

John Grace

Sport Performance Coach at Athletic Lab
John is a Sport Performance Coach at Athletic Lab. He earned his Master's degree from Ohio University in Coaching & Sport Science. John holds his CSCS, USAW-L1, and USATF-L1. He is the former Assistant Fitness Coach of the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
John Grace

@john_r_grace

Orlando City SC | S&C | Sport Sci | I tweet about all things sport science, coaching, training, and athlete development.
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