BUCS Regatta: how can you maximise your recovery over the race weekend?

It’s almost time for BUCS Regatta: the three-day rowing extravaganza is at Nottingham on 4-6 May! The GB Rowing Sport Science Team provide advice


Multiple race recovery (c) Jo Scales

The early May Bank Holiday could be a long weekend in more ways than one. Three days of racing at BUCS Regatta will require improved performances as the competition develops. Your ability to deliver maximal effort without a reduction in speed will largely depend on how you recover between races in the limited time available.

In Rowing & Regatta magazine articles that focus on training and maximising adaptation to it, we have often discussed allowing the body to respond in its own time to the ‘damage’ caused by an endurance, sprint or resistance stimulus. This has led to prescribing caution with methods suggested to accelerate and enhance recovery.

However, gains in fitness are not a priority deep into a regatta. This is the time when the capability to return to resting conditions as soon as possible can make a big difference to subsequent performance – especially as the number of races increases.

Gains in fitness are not a priority deep into a regatta
What are the factors affecting recovery, and how can they be influenced?

Multiple physiological mechanisms combine to return a fatigued body to resting conditions, ready to race again, including:

  1. The combination of muscles and the nervous system – i.e. the body’s message delivery method.
  2. The ability to clear metabolites – these are by-products of the change in a muscle cell’s condition, related to exercise.
  3. The speed at which cortisol clears is also important – because this hormone has wide-ranging effects related to physiological stress.
  4. Finally, the reactivation of the cardiac parasympathetic system, which works to return the body to resting conditions following the dominance of the opposing sympathetic system, allows the body to concentrate on preparation rather than recovery. To maximise the strength and speed of your recovery, a combined approach will work best.

The three rs: rest, refuelling and recovery for rowers

For more recovery advice, read how you can reap more rewards from your training sessions here.


The key is to focus on the ‘high-value’ basic areas of recovery, rather than the gimmicks that – funnily enough – seem to come at a great financial cost with limited evidence.

An active recovery – i.e. low-intensity exercise – will accelerate the removal of any by-products and maintain an increased blood flow for nutrient delivery.

Recovery tips
  1. With active recovery the first approach, nutrition is the second of the ‘big-hitters’. Consuming a carbohydrate and protein-rich snack as soon as possible after exercise – ideally within an hour – will take advantage of an optimal refuelling window that is only open for a limited time.
  2. Rehydration will also play a part. Restoring fluid and electrolytes will improve the body’s ability to work efficiently, particularly in hot conditions when sweat rates are higher.
  3. To combat neuromuscular stress, massage or jostling (a muscle-shaking technique) can ease soreness, while a good old stretch post-race will minimise muscle tightness.
  4. The evidence supporting compression garments as an effective recovery tool is limited (in a difficult field to assess success) but, anecdotally, many elite athletes swear by them. The same goes for cold-water immersion and contrast therapy, which alternates cold water with hot water immersion.
  5. Finally, do not neglect mental recovery and recharging. Guided breathing, visualisation and meditation will help provide pockets of calm, clear a mind full of racing thoughts and allow you to focus on preparing for the next race.

You can read the full article in the latest Rowing & Regatta magazine. The magazine is free in print or digital to all British Rowing members. Find out more here.

The entirety of the weekend’s racing will also be livestreamed on the BUCS Facebook page – be sure to tune in to stay up to date with all the racing and results!