Recovery allows for adaptation to training and is therefore extremely important!
Over training occurs when an athlete does too much too soon without adequate recovery. Training should stretch you and push your limits. This allows for overload. But it is essential that there is recovery time, as it is with recovery that your body has time to adapt to training, and recovers enough so it is ready to go again. But if recovery is compromised, this is when problems can arise.
There are numerous strategies that can be used to enhance recovery. These strategies range from simple tasks that everyone should use, to more complex strategies that athletes who are training everyday should be using.
So at the most simple level, after a session athletes should always: conduct a cool down, and then as soon as possible get some recovery food and fluids on board.
Foods should replace the fuels and fluid lost during training and should help repair the muscles that were damaged during training by adding adequate amounts of protein. Sleep should then follow to allow for complete recovery.
For athletes who train more frequently, after training, as well as doing the above, they should also aim to wear compression garments and use self massage techniques such as using a foam roller.
In addition, to recovery strategies that should be carried out after sessions, training plans should also include passive and active rest days. For example, including one complete rest day per week, then one light week every 6 weeks would be very beneficial.
For competitive runners, recovery should be more organised and planned. Sports massage should be included at least once per month, pool recovery sessions should be used for active recovery or as training during injury, and in addition to this, contrast bathing should be done after tough training sessions.
Then for the most elite athletes, in addition to all of the above recovery strategies, the athletes should also have frequent, proactive physiotherapy sessions, and blood tests for analysis of general health and nutrient depletion.