How to Optimise Swimming Recovery after a Hard Workout


Most people who take part in intense exercise know that feeling after a hard training session. The aching, burning feeling that you get in your muscles the day after. This is caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles which needs to be removed.

Most people don’t know how to remove lactic acid from the muscles, so what are the best ways of recovering after some strenuous pool time?

Tips to help you optimise swimming recovery

Warm Up and Cool Down

While this might sound obvious, warming up and cooling down need to be done properly. Lots of people don’t know the difference between warming up and cooling down. Different exercises are better for each. Warming up should be done using dynamic stretches. These work to release lactic acid from previous sessions. They also get your muscles warm and ready to train. Static stretches should be done post training. They stretch out the muscles and stops them from being tight.

An effective cool down involves periods of easy swimming. This could be between 200m and 800m in order to remove the lactic acid in the muscle which is given out by the body, or changed to energy again. If you finish a hard swim and just stop, the lactic acid in the muscles is not fully removed. This will leave you feeling stiff and sore, slowing swimming recovery.


Hydration is important, especially for swimmers. Many people don’t realise how much the body sweats during swimming. In everyday life you must ensure you keep yourself hydrated by drinking water. If you are exercising it is even more important to do so too. If the taste of chlorine from the pool makes fresh water taste a bit off, you could try some light diluted squash.

We’re not Olympic athletes training for many hours per day. Don’t take on too much sugar as it will have a negative effect on your blood sugar level.


You might not fancy a heavy meal before you go to the pool (it’s also not recommended). But make sure you have eaten something to fuel your body for your workout. Try having some slow release complex carbohydrate and protein like porridge. After training, why not try a protein shake with a banana to start to maximise the recovery process. This will build muscle, improve immune system function and increase body metabolism to burn more body fat. You could either blend in a banana, or eat it as you drink your shake. Protein always needs an energy source in order to enter the muscles efficiently. It helps them to repair, grow and recover. The energy from a banana is ideal to maximise the synthesis process, aiding swimming recovery.

Get plenty of sleep

Of course, hard swimming workouts will encourage you to sleep more deeply. There are lots of thoughts on just how long you should sleep per night. Research suggests you should try to get an about seven to eight hours per night to make sure your body has time to recover.

Try a massage

After a hard swimming workout your muscles micro-tear and small knots develop. A sports massage is a great way of speeding up your swimming recovery. Massage can help get rid of metabolic waste from our muscles and other tissues. This leaves us feeling refreshed from swim workouts. Aim to get a massage at least once a month.

Research has shown that ‘trigger point manipulation’ can also help with swimming recovery greatly. These trigger points often slow down muscle contractions, blood flow and speed. It is now used by many elite athletes and involves using a foam roller or massage stick. You roll this over your limbs and body after a session in the pool. Try to do this once or twice a week and see the results.


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