The Best Recovery for Swimmers

The Best Recovery for Swimmers

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Cool down for 10 to 25 minutes after a hard swim.

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Whether they have just completed a tiring workout or finished a draining race, the best recovery for swimmers involves cooling down properly and eating the right foods. You should eat shortly after a tough swim, and make sure you swim, stretch, get a massage or otherwise perform light exercise that helps remove metabolites that build up in your muscles after hard exercise.

Post-race Swim

Swimming hard causes such metabolites as inorganic phosphate, hydrogen ions and lactate to build up in your muscles. If you don't take steps to remove them, you'll continue to feel tired and listless long after your workout or race. The best way to remove them is with an easy-to-moderate cool-down swim of 10 to 25 minutes, taking care to swim hard enough to enhance circulation but not so hard that you add to the lactate accumulation.

Stretching and Exercise

If you can't do a cool-down swim, you can remove metabolites by increasing circulation to your muscles in other ways, such as light jogging, active stretching and arm rotations. Almost any activity that uses your swimming muscles is better than doing nothing at all. Stretching helps repair muscles and improve recovery by helping deliver amino acids to muscles. It can also reduce your risk of injury.


While most swimmers don't have a masseuse waiting for them poolside, a good sports massage nevertheless aids recovery by stimulating blood circulation and helping clear out metabolic wastes that can leave you sore and tired after a hard swim. Massage can also help prevent injuries related to the repetitive motions used in swimming.


Improving circulation to tired muscles won't be as effective if you haven't given your body the nutrition it needs to replenish or repair tired muscles. If your recovery diet doesn't include carbohydrates and protein, you may notice an elevated resting heart rate and general fatigue when you get back in the water. So make sure that during your recovery that you eat a substantial carbohydrate snack with some protein.

The Right Snack

The best way to replenish your energy stores during recovery is to eat as soon as you can after exercise - within 20 to 30 minutes. Include colorful fruits and juices, milks, yogurts, breads, cereals, meats and such sources of protein as peanut butter. Low-fat chocolate milk provides two key sources of protein - whey and casein - and cottage cheese with fruit provides the amino acid leucine, which may help muscle protein synthesis. In addition to your snack, try to eat one of your main meals of the day within two hours of your race or workout.