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  • Instil Physio

Post-Exercise Recovery and Performance

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Your recovery practices can either enhance or mitigate the effects of your training. A good training program is lost without proper peri-training practices. Your body needs time and resources to support recovery. Sleep and nutrition are the two biggest requirements for post-exercise recovery and the key ingredients required for the adaptive processes necessary to improve athletic performance.

This month we are talking all about how to properly fuel your body: to promote recovery, to prevent injury and to promote optimal performance. Part 1 will focus on SLEEP and Part 2 on NUTRITION. Let’s dive in to all things sleep related!

Sleep is a critical factor in the ability of the body to recover after exercise. Numerous studies have demonstrated that sleep serves as the foundation for post exercise recovery. During sleep, there are several metabolic, immune, and cognitive processes that occur(1). These processes are essential in our ability to recover and thus our injury resilience and ability to perform.

Sure, we all sleep, but most of us could stand to do it better. You can evaluate your sleep by looking at the quantity, quality and timing of your sleep.

QUANTITY: How many hours of sleep do you get?

The following sleep recommendations are from the Canadian Sport for Life Society.

Females 11-15, Males 12-16: 9 hours per night + 30-minute nap between 2-4pm

Females 15-21+/-, Males 16-23+/-: 8 -10 +30 min nap between 2-4pm

Using the weekend to make up for lost hours will not have the same effect.

QUALITY: How restorative or restful is your sleep?

When you turn out the lights you should be able to fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, stay asleep through the night and wake spontaneously in the morning. After waking, you should feel refreshed within an hour of waking.

To help improve your sleep quality you should:

· Ensure that your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and completely dark. A sleep mask, blackout curtains and/or ear plugs can help decrease sensory stimulation.

· Schedule 1-2 hours of downtime prior to bedtime that includes low light exposure, relaxing activities and no screens.

· Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and humidity.

· Make sure your mattress is comfortable.

It is important to be able to identify any issues you might have with sleep quality and seek professional advice if you continue to have issues after implementing the above changes.

TIMING: Are you a night owl or an early bird? Your sleep schedule should revolve around your biological sleep preference.

The timing of your sleep affects the quantity and quality of your sleep. Did you know that your preferred sleep timing is partially genetically determined(2)? If your sleep schedule does not match your preferred sleep timing, this can impact the quality and quantity of your sleep. For example, a “night owl” who prefers to go to bed at 1am and wake at 10am will have trouble falling asleep at 9pm and waking at 6am for practice, thus robbing them of enough good quality sleep. Once you have determined your biological sleep preference, you should go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Yes, even on weekends.

The potential consequences of altered sleep include poor concentration, memory loss, irritability, decreased coordination, decreased strength, decreased endurance and mood disorders(2). This can impair an athlete’s ability to train, recover and perform. Improve your sleep, improve your training. If sleep is a constant battle, seek help from a professional. What changes can you make to improve your sleep routine?

By Kristin Bignell, PT


1. Samuels, C. H., & Alexander, B. N. (2013, January). Sleep, Recovery, and Human Performance. Retrieved December 2019, from

2. Samuels C. Sleep, recovery, and performance: the new frontier in high-performance athletics. Neurol Clin 2008;26(1):169-180.

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