10 Ways To Recover After Swim Practice

Every swimmer knows that feeling in their body after a difficult practice, but they know very well the feeling they experience the next day at practice. This is commonly know as lactic acid. Lactic acid builds up in the muscles after strenuous exercise and leaves a burning sensation when the muscles are active. Many coaches, parents, and fellow team mate have different ways of recovery to prevent this lactic acid build up, ranging from how much sleep a swimmer should get each night to the perfect snack right after practice. But what are the best ways? Original published 4/17

  1. Sleep- Research shows that getting at least 8 hours helps the body recover fast and keeps it healthy. But another important thing that comes with sleep is a schedule. Make it a pattern to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning. This will train the body to know when to recover and make it easier to recover.
  2. Hydration- Many people and swimmers don’t know that the body sweats during swim practice. Thought it’s not noticeable because the body is in water, swimmers sweat while in the water. That means that the body becomes dehydrated and a lot of swimmers don’t drink enough water or electrolytes to replenish the body. Water is the best thing you can give your body, but sometimes it can be hard drink water and have the taste of chlorine in your mouth. Drinking Gatorade and Powerade helps replenish the body during practice, supplies the body with simple sugars that give the swimmer more energy in practice, and it also tastes great.
  3. Stretching- There two type of stretching: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic Stretching is a form of stretching that utilizes movement to warm up the body before practice, which helps that body recover and release lactic acid from the practice before. The next stretch is static stretching, which is done when the body is at rest. This type of stretching is a form of cooling down because it elongates the muscles, but is sometimes used wrong. Some people do static stretching before working out, which can injury the body. So, all-in-all, do dynamic stretching practice to warm up the body and do static stretching after.
  4. Power naps- Many teams have double practices during the day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, giving swimmers only a few hours to rest in between. Some swimmers nap too long, making themselves feel groggy when they wake up and during practice while others don’t sleep at all, not allowing their body to fully recover before practice. The perfect thing to do before practice is to fit in a little power nap. These naps usually range from 25 minutes to one hour, but too little of a nap or too long of nap would not be beneficial. If you have time, take a power nap before practice and you will wake up rejuvenated.
  5. Cooling Down- Every swimmer dreads this point during the practice because all they want to do is get out and go home. But what they don’t know is that this is the most important part of practice, besides warm up. Cooling down is a form of active recovery, which releases tension and gets the blood flowing through the body again. Make sure after every practice, whether it was a sprinting day or a long distance day, to get in at least a 400 free in to cool down the body and allow it to recover.
  6. Fueling the Body- What most people don’t know is that you need to get something in your body right after or within thirty minutes after practice. The most common thing to have after practice is a protein drink, but it is not the only recovery snack to have. Any fruit or greek yogurt of your choice are great ways to replenish the body after practice, before you head home for dinner.
  7. Massages- Everyone loves massage and massages love everyone. Getting a sports massage helps relieve any tension in the body and help the blood circulate through the body easier, just like active recovery. Try getting a sports massage at least once a month and you will feel great during your practice, and even your races.
  8. Ice baths- Ice baths are used after a long period of exercise and have great benefits to the body. They help speed up recovery, alleviate muscle pain, stiffness, and soreness, and even repairs muscles. If you can, put a bucket of ice in your bathtub, run a cold bath, and lay in there for five to ten minutes. While there’s conflicting research about what exactly the long-term benefits of an ice-bath are, at least in the short term it can help lift soreness.
  9. Compression clothing- Compression clothing is the latest wear for swimmers. Many other sports wear this particular clothing because it is believed to helps lower the heart rate. While there’s still some conflicting research on the subject, the clothing is believed to be most effective when worn recovery between prelims and finals at swim meets, which will increase your overall performance.
  10. Foam rolling- Foam rolling like a sports message, but you can do it yourself. Rolling over knots that may have developed during practice or dry land will release them, bring circulation back to the body, and your range of motion. Try to foam roll either before or after practice, or both for the maximum effect.


  1. “How to Quickly Recover from Swimming.” SwimOutlet.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.
  2. Rosenbloom, Chris. “Top 5 Recovery Snacks.” USA Swimming. USA Swimming, 23 May 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.
  3. Poirier-Leroy, Olivier. “5 Ways to Recover Fast After a Hard Swim Practice – YourSwimLog.com.” YourSwimLogcom. N.p., 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.
  4. Roth, Stephen M. “Why Does Lactic Acid Build up in Muscles? And Why Does It Cause Soreness?” Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American, 23 Jan. 2006. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.

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4 years ago

Am I the only one who takes power naps in a chair while in the middle of a post-workout meal?

4 years ago

I would cool down all day after a tough practice if I could.

5 years ago

thanks, I’ve always suffered from that feeling the day after a good workout. it gets me disappointed as I can’t even do the minimum of a set and I get out of the pool!

7 years ago

Does compression wear really make a difference?

Chris lee
8 years ago

A proper cool down is imperative to adequate recovery for the next session. Most understand how lactate works incorrectly, in fact lactate is actually used as fuel in the body at a certain point especially during anaerobic bouts of exercise. During a workout there are large amounts of metabolic waste that is produced (see atp-pcr / glycolic / oxidative systems). Especially in swimming the body reaches a point of metabolic acidosis. Now clearance of this metabolic waste is done Via oxidation. Light aerobic exercise. If not one properly lack of cool down will inhibit release of actin / troponin (sliding filament theory ) over time the muscles elasticity will be greatly compromised resulting in lower production of power.… Read more »

8 years ago

Foam rolling is my favourite thing ever!!!

8 years ago

I see no reason to warm down after a practice. People love to talk about “getting rid of lactic acid”. The half life of lactate is around 15 minutes so within an hour you’re back to normal levels. Lactate also has no connection to DOMS. I full heartedly agree with cooling down between sets, but I would love for someone to explain why they believe a cooldown at the end of practice is necessary. I’m not sure that “releasing tension” and “getting the blood flowing in the body” are very good explanations.

Reply to  MaineSwimming152
8 years ago

I’m not saying you’re wrong about lactate, I just wanted to point something out :
‘Half-life’ is used to describe the time in which a substance will literally be halved in size and is exponential and consistent in manner.

So saying (in VERY general terms) that “the half-life of lactate is 15mins so within an hour you’re back at normal levels” is fairly erroneous.

The half-life of lactate in this case would depend entirely on the amount of lactate present (which varies from case to case) and if the half-life is indeed 15mins as you claim, then you could very easily have said that the levels would return to normal probably quite a lot earlier than “within an hour”… Read more »

Reply to  MaineSwimming152
6 years ago

Both warm up and warm down have show to decrease DOMS in studies. It might not have anything to do with reducing acidosis. There is also a lot of evidence that muscular fatigue may not be a result of acidosis at all. It is at most one of multiple factors. You’re not wrong, but warm down is still important.

Reply to  O_O
1 year ago

Is there a non-swimming alternative to warm/cool downs?

8 years ago


The research is pretty strong to suggest tha cold water immersion reduces some DOMS, https://scholar.google.ca/scholar?hl=en&q=cold+water+immersion&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp=
. The research also suggests that subsequent perfo nance is less affected by the previous performance/training. See

About Emilee White

Emilee White

My name is Emilee White and I grew up in Canyon Lake, California. I began swimming at the age of 13 in age group, but with my background of dance, swimming came naturally to me and I excelled in the sport. I swam all four years on my high school …

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