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It’s important for anyone who is training for an event or sport to allow time for recovery in between training sessions. Recovery time reduces muscle soreness, tightness and reduces the chance of injury.

Rest days, ice baths, and foam rolling are all modalities that have been suggest in literature and online as being the thing that will allow you to train at your maximum every time you train.

However I don’t think one method works best for all, I know from experience that if I have a heavy day training legs, for the next two days I’m better off doing light leg exercises and foam rolling to help relieve DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and maintain my flexibility.

But just because this works for me it doesn’t mean it will work for you.


Active rest or recovery is the idea that continuing to move (even at a reduced load) helps stimulate blood flow through the recovering and repairing muscle and helps increase compliance of newly formed tissue.

So I can reduce the ache in my legs after a heavy session with a walk, or getting into the pool and doing a few laps and exercises for example. The increased activity stimulates increased blood flow to flush out inflammatory markers that accumulate after heavy exercise.


Ice baths are another modality that is popular within elite sports teams and athletes as a recovery method. The idea being that the ice reduces post exercise inflammation and therefore reduces the DOMS an athlete feels, allowing them to continue to compete or train at a high level.

This is good in theory for competition, but for training, some researchers have suggested that ice baths may reduce the athletes’ ability to adapt to load and therefore decreasing the effects of training.


Foam rolling is another modality that has been suggested to reduce the feeling of DOMS and assist recovery post exercise. Basically the idea is that foam rolling is similar to a deep tissue massage, to help stimulate blood flow, reduce tension in tight muscles and increase range.

However at this stage there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of strong evidence to suggest foam rolling is any better than stretching post exercise for tissue length/compliance. From personal experience I have found foam rolling to reduce DOMS post workouts and it allows me to walk up and down the stairs the day after with minimal waddling/grunting.


There is no one perfect recovery method, as we are all different and respond to different treatments in different ways. Trial and experiment with techniques to find a few that work for you, and incorporate them into your training plan.

Consider the Four Corners of Health approach to increase your recovery and maximise your gains: eat well, sleep well, think well (positively, de-stress etc), train well and incorporate recovery sessions into your routine to reap the benefits to your wellbeing.

Mark Sherley
Physiotherapist, Proactive Porirua

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