By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

Welcome back to part four of our series on high performance recovery. As a quick review:

Part one: sleep

Part two: nutrition and hydration 

Part three: training 

Today, we are talking about the fourth and final level of the recovery pyramid: Recovery Modalities for Optimal Performance.


From the previous three articles, we know that we need the foundation of sleep/rest, nutrition and hydration and training to allow our bodies to recover and repair from the stress we put on it as athletes. 

Now, we want to optimize that recovery with some specific methods and tools. This blog covers different kinds of modalities, like foam rollers or cold water immersion, and their potential benefits and limitations in helping you recover like a champion.


Massage Therapy

Massage therapy involves applying manual pressure and manipulation techniques to the soft tissues of the body. It helps increase blood flow, relax muscles, reduce tension, and relieve muscle soreness. Massage therapy can be done through various techniques, such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, or sports massage.

The timing of massage therapy sessions can vary, but here are some recommended timings and the benefits:

  • Pre-training – It increases blood flow, enhances muscle flexibility, and prepares the muscles for exercise. It can help loosen tight muscles and improve range of motion, potentially reducing the risk of injuries.
  • Immediately post-trainingThis timing allows for quick recovery and can help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness right away. Immediate post-workout massage can also help promote relaxation.
  • 24-48 hours post-training – During this time, the body is in a state of repair and recovery, and massage can aid in reducing muscle soreness, promoting circulation, and accelerate the removal of metabolic waste products. 



Self-Massage Tools

There are various self-massage tools on the market. Here are some common ones and their potential benefits:

  • Foam rollers/massage sticks – These offer a portable and inexpensive way to massage, which involves applying pressure to release tightness in the muscles and allow the fascia (connective tissue around the muscles) to slide over the muscles with ease. This can help improve flexibility and relieve muscle tightness.
  • Massage guns Also known as percussive therapy devices, these are handheld devices that deliver rapid and repetitive pressure to the muscles. They use vibrations to stimulate blood flow, loosen tight muscles, and reduce muscle soreness. Massage guns are often used as a convenient self-massage tool for targeted muscle recovery. We were lucky enough to be able to test out two different massage guns from Erkin Athletics: the Erkin Bantam and the B37S models. 
    • The Erkin Bantam is a smaller and more economical massage gun with three speeds and four different attachments that can help to increase or decrease direct pressure as needed. 
    • The Erkin B37S is a bigger, more powerful unit that comes with five speeds and six different attachments. We have gotten very positive responses from our athletes for both of these units. They have been nice enough to offer Sport Manitoba a discount code: SPORTMB20 where you can get 20 per cent off the online purchase price from their website.  
  • Pneumatic Compression Sleeves – Pneumatic compression sleeves, such as the Normatec system, use air pressure to massage the limbs. The sleeves are placed around the legs or arms and are inflated and deflated in a sequential pattern, helping to enhance circulation and accelerate recovery. The compression promotes the removal of metabolic waste and reduces muscle swelling. We have been using Normatecs with our athletes for the past six months with great results and feedback on how good they feel after using the units on a regular basis. They are on the pricey side, but if you can afford to have them, they have proven to be a useful recovery tool in the modality tool box.


Cold Water Immersion and Heat Therapy
  • Cold water immersion – Also known as ice baths or cold therapy, involves immersing the body in cold water or using cold packs to reduce inflammation and promote recovery. It helps decrease muscle soreness, reduce swelling, and constrict blood vessels. Cold water immersion is commonly used after intense workouts or competitions. If you remember back to last summer, we did a recording on Handling the Heat with an infographic on various forms of cold therapy. Click here for guidelines on various forms of cold therapy.

Please note if you are trying to build muscle (hypertrophy), cold water immersion after training can have a negative effect on the muscle building process as it restricts blood flow, which is necessary in the recovery and muscle building process.

  • Heat therapy – There are various forms of heat therapy that include hot packs, hot tubs, and saunas that promote sweating and heat therapy. Sitting in a sauna, for example, raises the body temperature, dilates blood vessels, increases blood flow, and induces relaxation. Saunas can help with muscle recovery by reducing muscle tension, improving circulation, and facilitating the removal of metabolic waste products.



Stretching involves elongating and lengthening muscles to improve flexibility, range of motion, and overall muscle function. It can be performed both before and after exercise. Stretching helps reduce muscle tightness, improve circulation, and prevent injuries. Static stretching, dynamic stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are common techniques.

  • Dynamic stretching – Commonly performed as a part of a dynamic warm-up and as the name suggests, involves more dynamic forms of stretching where stretches are held for shorter periods of time (five-10 seconds max) and involve taking the limbs through a full range of motion.
  • Static stretchingRecommended more so after training or competition as a way to lengthen the muscles and relax the body as a part of a proper cool down. We recommend holding static stretches for 60-120 seconds to improve flexibility. 
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) This is a form of stretching that involves lengthening a muscle to its end range of motion and holding for a period of time, then contracting the stretched muscle for five-10 seconds, and then relaxing that muscle while stretching into a new and deeper end range of motion. 
  • PAILs/RAILs – Popularized by Dr. Andreo Spina, the founder of Functional Anatomy Seminars, PAILs (Progressive Angular Isometric Loading) and RAILs (Regressive Angular Isometric Loading) are similar to PNF in that you stretch the muscle to its end range of motion, but stretches are held for up to two minutes. Then you perform a PAILs contraction for 10-30 seconds. This contraction is a build up of tension on the progressive tissue (the tissue you are stretching) from 10 per cent effort to up to 100 per cent effort over the course of the 10-30 seconds. The next part of the process is the RAILs, a contraction of the regressive tissue (opposite side of the limb or joint) for 10-15 seconds. Finally, you lengthen the muscle to a new and deeper end range of motion and hold it for 30-60 seconds. Breathing is critical in this process. If you remember from part three, we talked about using the four second inhale, two second pause, and six second exhale to take the body into a parasympathetic state to promote recovery.


Optimizing Recovery

We have covered a lot over these past four posts and hopefully you’ve found them helpful in developing your recovery strategies to help you perform at an elite level and recover like a champion.

Some things to consider are the costs and the practicality of some of these modalities.  Certainly, many of them work to help improve your recovery, but may not fit your budget or your ability to carry these tools around with you. Consider these things before spending hundreds of dollars on these tools or find a place to test them out before purchasing them.

Good luck with your competitions, training, and developing the recovery strategies that work best for you in your goals to become an elite competitor!

If you have any questions, reach out to us at