February 15, 2015
Good recovery between prelims and finals sessions at a meet has a huge impact on how you race in finals. The second half of the day demands much more energy, excitement, and, most importantly, mental and physical preparedness. To be at your best when it matters the most, here are three ways to maximize your recovery between sessions.
1. Refuel with Food and Fluids
When prelims are over, you’ll need to eat a substantial lunch with carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores in muscle (the stored energy that is released upon exertion), as well as protein to sustain your energy throughout the day. With only 4-6 hours between sessions, you will need primarily carbohydrates and fluids for quick access to energy. Within 20 minutes of your last race for the session, you should eat a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio to kick-start the recovery process. Examples of lunch items include sandwiches with lean meats and grain bread, Greek yogurt with granola and fruit, small salads (side item) with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and nuts or trail mix. You may sweat more than you realize during a prelims session, so it is important to drink fluids that will hydrate you and replenish your electrolytes. Hydration will facilitate blood circulation, and ultimately lactate clearance from muscle.
2. 10-minute Massage for General Flush
If this is an option, hop on the massage table after your warm down to receive a light flush from your masseuse. This 10-minute massage is not to be used as a deep-tissue massage or to focus on any particular body part for risk of soreness and pain. Complete your warm down as usual, and use the massage as a supplemental way to accelerate lactate clearance from the blood following each session. The applied pressure will release fascia from the muscle and boost circulation. Alternatively, foam rolling can give you a similar release if your team does not travel with a masseuse or athletic trainer.
3. Nap (optional…)
Napping provides the athlete with an opportunity to physically recover and mentally reset before finals. It also creates a natural break in the day so each full day feels more manageable. Even if you cannot fall asleep completely, lying down and closing your eyes can help your body relax. For those swimmers who do not like the grogginess associated with waking from a nap, known as sleep inertia, even a 20-minute nap will confer physiological benefits without the lethargic feeling upon awakening. Naps lasting 30 minutes to 1 hour will have longer lasting benefits, but make sure to give yourself enough time to fully awaken before returning to the pool (this time varies depending on the individual).