Recover Like An Olympian, So You Can Train Like One Too

In Recovery by RITTER Admin2 Comments

Swimmers and coaches are all searching the SECRET SAUCE, like the 3 KEYS to SWIM FASTER and RECOVER BETTER. And let’s be honest, you’re probably looking for the same thing too. So in order to deliver YOU the best strategies, we sat down with Sports Chiropractor, Dr. Matt Lowe of USA Swimming’s Medical Staff and DC of Dynamic Sports Medicine in Austin, Texas– to discuss the ways to recover like an Olympian, so you can train like one too!

Let’s dig into our conversation:

As the sport of swimming continues to develop and swimmers continue to get faster, the conversation surrounding training is evolving to address the ever-changing landscape. It was not too long ago that coaches used to ascribe to the schools of thought that preached “more is better”, “swimmers shouldn’t participate in strength training”, “no-breathers equal greater lung capacity”. By and large, these concepts have been set aside to make way for more sophisticated training practices. However, one aspect of training continues to be routinely overlooked and one question remains:

“How do the best in our sport recover effectively to get the most they can out of training?”

In a blog we published last year, one of our strength coaches briefly explained some of the fundamentals of training that are critical components to performing at a high level–over a long period of time (think swimming the same times you did as a 25 year old, but competing in the 40-44 age group)! If you haven’t had a chance to read this post, we highly suggest doing so before continuing! Here’s the link.

But in addition to those tips, we need to dive deeper into one aspect of recovery that is VERY important regardless of if you are an Olympian or not and that is: SLEEP. During my discussion with Dr. Lowe, he considers sleep the FOUNDATION of recovery and suggests that swimmers put time and effort into improving their quality of sleep.

Sleep should be the one component of everyone’s life that they try to limit the LEAST. Sleep allows our muscles and minds time to recover/repair. Also, it can MAKE or BREAK training sessions–depending on how rested or exhausted swimmers are before they hit the water. On top of all of this, the best part about sleep is it’s one of the training resources that is basically FREE.

Here’s what the research says on what LACK of sleep is linked to: 

  1. Larger amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, circulating in the body – this translates into decreased muscle mass, poor cognitive function, and more… you want less of this, people!
  2. Increased risk of injury
  3. Higher chances of developing cerebral degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s

In summary, you CANNOT go wrong with getting more sleep–but for it to really work its magic– you want to try and get it in the same amount of sleep at the same time each night. Here’s an example of how to do this: think a bedtime of 10pm, where you wake up at 5am every morning–so you’re consistently getting 7 hours of sleep.

Shout-out to all the swim parents out there, because they do a great job of creating a foundation for sleep in our younger swimmers. Most parents won’t allow phones or computers in their swimmer’s bedrooms and after a certain time (i.e. 9PM). This helps swimmers develop the time management skills they need to take on their busy training schedule, and start prioritizing sleep at a young age. So even if you aren’t home with your parents anymore, carving out the time to get the sleep you need, in order to train towards your goals is 100% necessary!

With this, I know there are lots of swimmers out there that may come home exhausted and struggle with sleeping with sore shoulders. Our Technique Coach, Abbie Fish, wrote a great blog last year with some awesome tips on how to sleep with sore shoulders. Be sure to check that out, here.

Another great piece of advice on recovery that Dr. Lowe and I chatted about was the importance of nutrition–specifically, “improving nutrition for performance”. Lowe states that “one commonality [he sees] amongst elite swimmers is that they take the time to prepare their meals and address post-workout nutrition.”

At RITTER, we could spend a TON of time going over this topic, so we’ll save the majority of that discussion for Part II of this series. However, if you are interested in learning a little more about nutrition for swimmers right away, follow this link. At RITTER, we’ve partnered with Mike Molloy from M2 Performance Nutrition to bring you 1:1 and Team Nutritional Coaching programs. Mike is the BEST at what he does, so if you ever need a nutrition coach, for your team or individually–here’s the link to his coaching packages.

Overall, once you’ve decided to seriously address these two key components of recovery: sleep and nutrition–we highly encourage you to take a proactive step in addressing YOUR performance and/or movement limitations.

What does this mean?

It means finding a trusted sports physician or performance coach, that can work with you to identify biomechanic dysfunctions or imbalances that could negatively affect performance–both in practices and meets. It is 100% true, that you won’t know what strategies to implement–unless you are equipped with the right information.

After all, the average Masters Swimmer typically seeks out the guidance of a swim coach, so why shouldn’t we first make sure that our shoulders, knees, and hips move properly? For example, in the video below, we ask swimmers to take themselves through a quick shoulder mobility test – go ahead, give it a try, and see what you can do!

Now ask yourself: What do I do with this information? Why are we doing this test in the first place? What exactly does it measure? Do I know how to score it? If so, what do those scores mean and how can I improve them?

Those are a lot of questions to answer– and yea, you can try Googling them, but the more accurate and less time consuming approach would be to work with a qualified sports physician and/or performance coach. So unless you live in the state of Texas, and you can get an appointment (in-person) with either Dr. Lowe or myself– that’s why  RITTER is here.

At RITTER, we offer online strength & dryland training opportunities for swimmers and teams. To learn more about what we offer and which program may be best for you, click here.

So in summary–if you’re looking to take your swimming to the next level and learn how to recover like an Olympian. You need to make sure these 3 key areas are addressed:

  1. Sleep–it MUST be a priority!
  2. Nutrition–Sign up with Coach Mike to help improve your diet and recover faster between workouts.
  3. Strength & Conditioning–Join our community at RITTER with personalized strength training plans to ensure you have the proper mobility, flexibility, and strength to finish your races like an Olympian!


  1. Pingback: Easy Nutrition For The Goal-Oriented Swimmer - RITTER Sports Performance

  2. “If you haven’t had a chance to read this post, we highly suggest doing so before continuing! Here’s the link.”
    Well… The link doesn’t work

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