Finding the Right Balance – Training Vs. Rest and Recovery

4 min read

Last Modified 19 April 2021 First Added 16 April 2021

Training for the Olympics puts athletes under huge pressure, both mentally and physically, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. We spoke to Jade and Greg about some of the best techniques that Team GB draw on as they prepare for the big event.

Training and teamwork

While taekwondo is an individual sport, when it comes to practising, Jade likes nothing better than a good training session with her male teammates:

Boys are naturally a bit faster and stronger but I really enjoy the challenge, because if I win against the boys or if I get a good spar, I know I can hold my own and feel so much more confident when I’m going in against people my own weight and size.

This team spirit in training reflects Team GB’s culture and philosophy, which focuses on mutual support. “We really encourage our athletes to support their colleagues, whether that’s the boys sparring with the girls or cheering on teammates from different sports,” Greg says. We all know that when you’re pushing yourself to the limit, having other people backing you can really help get you over that finish line.

The importance of recovery

After training, when she’s not sparring, Jade makes sure she gives herself time to rest and recuperate. It’s now understood that building in active recovery time is critical for athletes striving towards peak performance – rest isn’t for wimps! Jade’s top tips for recovery are putting her feet up, along with the occasional ice bath. Greg is also keen to emphasise the benefits of recovery: “We teach athletes the importance of downtime and switching off, so they can return to training physically and psychologically fresh. To be honest, physical and mental recovery time is one of the most important aspects of performance.”

Part of Greg’s role is to work alongside the athletes’ day‐to‐day support staff to help with their needs throughout competitions. For example, Jade is one of many athletes who like to take an ice bath after competing, as the cold water is thought to ease sore muscles and speed up recovery. So, Greg makes sure these are available for those who need them during an Olympic Games. Athletes will also have a team of physiotherapists, psychologists and coaches on hand to help with injury, pre‐competition nerves and last‐minute tweaks to performance. Greg adds:

One of things we work hard to do is to make the physical environment as familiar as possible, as that can be very different and strange in certain competitions such as the Olympics, so we try to prepare athletes in advance to expect that excess “noise” and all the stuff happening around them.” If athletes feel comfortable and relaxed, they’ll be able to rest and recover better.

The different elements of a recovery programme

While not every athlete can nap, Jade is a big fan:

When I’ve got 2‐3 training sessions in the day, I usually nap after the first one.

However, what works well for one person may not suit another, and Greg explains that recovery strategies are as individualised as warm‐up or competition strategies.

We find that for many athletes like Jade, napping is an effective way to help them switch off for 20‐30 minutes, allowing them to come back refreshed and ready to focus. Others find meditation great for clearing their brain and coming back refreshed. It’s whatever an athlete knows works best for them.

Athletes will also be facing the everyday pressures of life alongside their training, so they need to be able to deal with those while keeping their eye on the prize. “They are normal people with the same stresses and strains that we all have,” Greg reminds us, adding that the main difference is how they manage those stresses and try to tune out any unnecessary noise during their recovery time. This allows them to return to training revived and revitalised.

While ice baths might be a bit extreme for most of us, we all need to make time to recuperate from the strains of daily life. Whether it’s taking a quick nap or doing some breathing exercises, finding something that restores and refreshes your mind and body will ensure that you stay in fighting form.