DoñanaOver the years, training more, training longer and harder has been the main recipe for elite athletes and coaches to keep improving and get ahead of the opposition. For those interested in finding out how much and how hard elite athletes actually train, just have a look at my past posts entitled Swim training camps, Athletes and coaches on a mission, or my recent publication Olympic preparation of a World-class female triathlete.

But some of us do not view training just as the time an athlete is exercising physically and mentally, but as a cycle that includes both, the time of exercise and the time needed to recover from and assimilate the stimuli provided by the exercise. In other words, training is a cycle including training time and recovery time. In the past decade or so, the importance of recovery for elite sports performance has been widely recognized, and reference training centers and sport federations have invested significant financial resources in recovery facilities and expert personnel. Such facilities usually include cold and hot water pools and baths, as well as relaxation areas, and recovery experts continuously emphasize the importance of sleep for recovery, as you can see in my post Sleep, the key to recovery and training adaptation.

Last year, my friend Christophe Hausswirth and I published a book entitled “Recovery for Performance in Sport”, another indicator of the importance of recovery for elite performance in modern sport. The book discusses the physiological and psychological effects of recovery, the modern methods used to stimulate recovery, the periodization of recovery, etc. But after reading these texts from Hitchcock & Hitchcock’ 1860 book Elementary Anatomy and Physiology for Colleges, Academies and Other Schools, I wonder if there is anything new under the sun besides modern facilities and technological gadgets…

“546.-7. Service of a Daily Cold Water Bath.—We infer again that a daily cold water bath is of great service for all students and sedentary persons who are in health. Not only is it desirable on account of cleanliness, but a serviceable shock is thus imparted to the nervous system. It, however, should be taken as speedily as possible, the essential thing desired being, that pure water should be spread over the whole surface of the body, and after it that the skin should be speedily and vigorously wiped dry. The secondary effect, however, the stimulus imparted to the nervous system by the shock, is by no means an unimportant issue to be gained.”


“643. It needs Action.—2. The nervous system, like all other parts of the body, requires action for its health. If a person has nothing upon which he can exert his nervous energy, he is liable to disease ; and no class of people are so subject to nervous diseases as the wealthy, who are obliged to make little exertion to procure the necessaries and luxuries of life. Hence we infer that employment of some kind is indispensable to the health of the nervous system.”


644. Sleep indispensable to its Health.—3. This system requires sound sleep. For this alone can return to the brain its expended energies. It is as necessary to the brain as steam to the locomotive. And no person can enjoy the perfection of health to old age, who does not gain a due supply of sleep. Hence the very ambitious student, or the man eager to make money, whose time, energies and thoughts are so engrossed that he can not, or will not, find time to sleep, violates one of nature’s principal laws, and sooner or later will receive the penalty. And, according to insane hospital reports, one of the principal causes of insanity is put down to a want of sleep.”


“645. Needs Rest and Recreation.—4. The mind not only needs sleep, but also recreation or an occasional change of its objects of thought. Long-continued trains of thought are to the brain what working one set of muscles incessantly all day is to them—complete exhaustion. He then that would last the longest, must occasionally turn his thoughts from his ordinary avocation completely, and so give the brain rest. This applies to every one, whether he is the business man, student, or the hard-working farmer or mechanic. And every one also needs a vacation, or at least some change of employment, once or twice during the year, when, for a few weeks or days, he may break up the ordinary routine of life.”

Share this post


Related posts