In order to perform at a high level, it is essential to train hard as well as recover from the training stress. The quicker you are able to recover from the workouts, the faster your progress will be. Inadequate recovery can lead to slow progress, overtraining, and/or injury. Active recovery, contrast showers, and self myofascial release can all increase the speed of recovery and lower the chance of injury.
Active recovery is low intensity exercise between high intensity training sessions. These workouts will increase capillary density and general fitness. An example of active recovery is when a sprinter does tempo running (ex. 15x100m at 70%) between his speed days. Other examples include medicine ball circuits, long warmups, or light weightlifting circuits. Since the intensity is low, it is recommended to keep the rest periods low as well.
Contrast showers increase the rate of recovery by improving blood circulation. The increased blood circulation will help increase the amount of nutrients to the muscles. One way to perform a contrast shower is having 3 minutes of hot water followed by 1 minute of cold water. Repeat this cycle three or four times.
Self myofascial release is more commonly known as foam rolling. Foam rolling can get the knots out of tight muscles. This will lead to increased mobility as well as a decreased chance of muscle tears. The IT band and lats are especially painful but it is important not to neglect painful areas. Foam rolling will hurt at first, but the pain will decrease as the tissue quality improves over time.
These activities can help you recover in between training sessions. Paying attention to recovery and will distance yourself from the competition. It can help increase your work capacity, fitness, and reduce the chance of injury.