Recovery - it's so much more than just a cool-down swim. There needs to be a routine integrated within your schedule so, as Masters swimmers, our bodies can more easily adapt to the work being demanded of us as we age along. This doesn't mean you have to eat or drink expensive supplements or buy your own compression chamber - it simply means that, to make the most of the work you're doing in the pool, it is in your performance's best interest to incorporate some well-researched guidelines into your own post-workout and overall daily recovery routine.
RECOVER ROUTINES (in no particular order)
1. STRETCHING/FOAM ROLLING - mobility is such a key asset for swimming and can take your stroke to the next level across each discipline. Making a point to stretch daily, even on non-swim days, will pay in dividends both in and out of the pool. As far as foam rolling goes, this has been especially helpful for me, personally, after lifting. I lift heavy, so I'm sore more often than not it seems :) - performing methodical foam rolling on the muscle groups worked the previous session (last night, earlier this morning, etc) can help relieve the tightness and just overall "fatigued" feeling your body can emit post-lifting. There many reputable sites you can visit to get a quick routine, but I prefer yours truly's swimswam with a routine from blueseventy.com to get started.
2. NUTRITION - Studies conducted suggest that eating protein both BEFORE AND AFTER a workout can be extremely beneficial. Per bridgeathletic.com, swimmers need a combination of protein and carbs to get through lengthy workouts, but consuming protein especially BEFORE a workout can supply the necessary amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis in the muscles that will be engaged during resistance training. *bridge athletic is the strength and mobility program administrator for Cal's swimming program.
Also on this note, usms.org published a piece by partner Hammer Nutrition on the recommended daily "dose" of protein. Just something to think about the next time you grab some marshmallows after practice. :) Might want to reach for the turkey breast instead.
3. ICE BATHS - Ok, so this one is certainly not as convenient and not as "harmless"-sounding as the first two. And, there are conflicting studies that questioning if this post-workout ritual even doles out enough benefit than it's worth. But, that doesn't stop some of the best programs in the country from installing ice bath contraptions on deck or in therapy rooms for swimmers to jump in for 8-10 minutes post-practice.
As Masters swimmers, NKSM trains where ice baths aren't available, so our option would be to run home and make our own - literally throwing ice/cold water in a tub and soaking in the hopes of reducing inflammation and flushing out lactic acid. Running home to do this when most Masters leave practice immediately for a full day at work isn't the most convenient option. If one wanted to incorporate this, one could do so when it perhaps IS convenient - say, after a Saturday morning practice or an evening session, if your program offers one. Another idea I've read about is freezing pants....literally....get a pair of pants damp and freeze overnight. When you get home, put them on for just 8-10 minutes to try to get the same benefit as a traditional ice bath. Fun? Not exactly. Fun-ky? YES!
4. SLEEP - Most swimmers are expert nappers but, as Masters with jobs and kids, etc., we typically don't have the luxury of putting away a power nap each and every day. As such, it is ever more crucial that we plan our nightly sleep and make the most of it. No watching shows till midnight, only to get up 5 hours later....we need at least 7-8 hours sleep and, if you're engaging in some strenuous weight sessions on top of in-pool, then you most definitely need time for your muscles to recuperate. That is what happens overnight - your muscles "repair themselves" (non-technically speaking) and the more time they have to do this while not simultaneously being asked to work, the better. Make a point of having a bedtime routine and STICK TO IT! Your body and mind will both thank you - waaaaaaaay more valuable than catching up on the latest tv show.
5. JOURNALING - I know this sounds out of place in a swimming recovery article, but there is absolutely value in journaling how you feel after certain workouts, certain foods, etc. Not that you have to do this for the rest of your life, but it is interesting to draw some correlations if you track things for, say, a month. Have you been sleeping better since swimming more days in a row? Do you seem to recover better with a day off in between team practices? Do your legs tend to feel run-down after a certain type of set over others? Things like this can only be detected by tracking workouts, sleep, eating and taking an overall personal assessment over a period of time. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or formal - something in your own handwriting (as long as you can read it) in a spiral notebook is completely fine. Just dedicate yourself to seeing it through for at least a month or two so correlations can indeed try to be identified with your coach.