6 Expert Tips on How to Recover After Swimming

If you’ve done an intense exercise, you know very well that sore feeling after a particularly tough training session. And swimmers are no exception. 

So, in this article, we’ve come up with a list of recovery tips after some serious swim training sessions, straight from the masters themselves. 

How to Recover Your Muscles After Swimming?

Warm-Up and Cool Down Properly

Swimming is a full-body workout. So yes – you still need to properly warm-up and cool down for every session. 

Stretch and warm up every major muscle group. Hold it for up to 15 seconds.

For cooldowns, do a final lap of 200 meters before going out of the pool. Then, do some static stretches to prevent cramping.

If you stop swimming abruptly, you’ll probably feel sore and stiff. You can also try swimming with a kickboard for easy cooldown laps. In this way, you still promote blood flow into your leg muscles without putting too much effort.

Don’t Forget To Hydrate

Just because you’re swimming doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. You have no idea how much you sweat in the pool. 

The fact is, you’re spending a lot of energy in the water. So, you must rehydrate to restore your strength and help muscles recover.

Drink at least 16 ounces of water two hours before training. Then, another 8 ounces every 20 minutes. If the taste of water puts you off, take a mouthful of sports drink instead, for every 20 minutes.

Think of Food as Fuel – Not Something That Would Ruin Your Hard Work

One of the biggest mistakes that swimmers – and even other people– make is waiting too long to eat after exercise. Worse, some people don’t eat at all. 

They think that eating anything would negate all the hard work they just did in the pool. This doesn’t seem right.

Michael Phelps, the most prolific swimmer of all time, eats a total of 10,000 calories a day. Do you know why? Because swimming burns a lot of calories. Your body needs those to repair itself. 

If you don’t eat food within two hours of your training, you feel weaker, achier, and it would take you a long time to get back to training.

You need something that your body can use as fuel for the workout you are about to put it through. Before and after going on a swim, eat a banana or some porridge for protein and carbohydrates.

Keep in mind that your body goes into self-preservation mode when you skip meals, and your metabolism slows down. You’re putting back all the hard work you just did during training.

Sleep is Important

You’ve heard about this countless times, but it doesn’t make it any less true: you need to get plenty of sleep.

Ideally, get about 8-10 hours a night. If that isn’t possible – make sure that you compensate by taking naps throughout the day. Your body recovers the most while you sleep, so this is an important part of training.

Put gadgets away from your bedroom. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Lastly, get into a bedtime ritual to prepare your body and mind for sleep.

Active Recovery Days are a Must

While there’s nothing wrong with skipping an exercise day for passive recovery, some people find it difficult to get back to training. 

This is why active recovery days are also important.

Active recovery involves low-impact exercises that promote blood flow into the muscles. The goal is to keep those muscles moving so you feel less stiff, but not to the point that it aggravates the pain. 

This type of recovery includes light yoga, a 20-minute swim, going for a walk, or a bike ride.

Use Compression Gear

While there is still ongoing debate if compression makes you a better, faster swimmer – compression does speed up sports recovery for athletes. And why is that?

Compression gear like sleeves, socks, and hand wraps work by dilating the blood vessels. As a result, blood flows more to your limbs. And as mentioned countless times: better blood flow means less swelling, muscle fatigue, and aches.

Moderate the Intensity of Your Training

You can swim every day, but the key is to balance it out. Moderate the duration and intensity of your training sessions. It’ll help you make a better, faster swimmer and prevent you from getting burnt out.

For instance, if you’re doing IM techniques on Mondays, opt for speed work on Tuesdays. Get the idea? Mix training techniques to keep everything interesting and challenging.

Your training plan depends on what you want to achieve and how much time you want to spend on recovery. Set a goal but be flexible enough to adjust to your daily needs.

Get a Post-Workout Massage

After an intense swim, your muscles develop knots and micro-tears. This is normal since water is several times denser than air. It means that swimmers exert more effort when moving compared to runners.

The result? Muscle fatigue, micro-tearing, and a lot of soreness.

Keep your body moving by using a massage gun. This device helps you recover faster by relaxing your muscles and promoting blood flow.

The Takeaway

One of the major appeals of swimming is that although you’re getting a full-body workout every time you hit the pool, it doesn’t cause as much wear on your muscles and joints. 

But – it still causes enough muscle fatigue to warrant a handful of recovery tips from fitness trainers and master swimmers alike. By using the six tips above, pace yourself and make sure to recover fully after a swim. 

Have you tried the recovery tips above? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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