AFL recovery

Are you looking for ways to manage fatigue throughout the demanding AFL season? As an AFL strength & conditioning coach, I have developed strategies to help athletes maintain peak performance while preventing burnout. This comprehensive guide will explore the best practices for managing fatigue, focusing on strength & conditioning, high performance, and sport science principles to keep athletes fit and conditioned throughout the season.

Understanding Fatigue in AFL

– Acute Fatigue: Short-term, immediate fatigue resulting from a single session or game.

– Chronic Fatigue: Long-term fatigue that accumulates over weeks and months, often due to inadequate recovery.

Understanding the different types of fatigue is crucial for implementing effective management strategies. Acute fatigue can often be addressed with proper rest and recovery protocols, while chronic fatigue requires a more comprehensive approach, including monitoring and adjusting training loads and recovery practices.

Monitoring and Managing Workloads

– Track Training Loads: Use GPS devices and wearables to monitor running distances, speeds, and intensities during training and games. This data helps in understanding the physical demands placed on players and allows for adjustments in training to prevent overreaching and chronic fatigue [oai_citation:1, Sports | Free Full-Text | Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Basketball](

– **Adjust Intensity**: Based on the collected data, adjust training intensities to ensure players are not overreaching. This proactive approach helps in maintaining performance levels while reducing the risk of injury and burnout.

**Regular Assessments**

– **Fitness Testing**: Conduct regular fitness assessments to monitor players’ physical conditions. These tests provide objective data on players’ fitness levels and help in tailoring individual training programs.

– **Wellness Questionnaires**: Implement daily or weekly wellness questionnaires to gather subjective data on players’ perceived fatigue and overall well-being. These questionnaires can include questions about sleep quality, muscle soreness, mood, and stress levels.

Recovery Protocols


Sleep Hygiene: Emphasize the critical role of sleep in recovery and performance. Adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental recovery, and poor sleep can negatively impact performance and increase the risk of injuries.

– Sleep Strategies: Encourage good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding screens before bed. Educate athletes on the importance of sleep and provide strategies to improve sleep quality.

– Nutrition and Hydration: Ensure athletes consume a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients to support recovery. A diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help meet the nutritional needs of athletes.

– Hydration: Maintain proper hydration levels, particularly during and after intense training sessions and games. Dehydration can impair performance and recovery, so it is important to encourage athletes to drink enough fluids throughout the day.

– Active Recovery:  Incorporate light activities such as swimming, cycling, or yoga to promote blood flow and aid recovery without adding significant stress to the body. These activities help reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery.

– Stretching and Mobility:  Regular stretching and mobility exercises can help prevent stiffness and promote muscle recovery. Incorporate dynamic stretching routines before workouts and static stretching post-workout to maintain flexibility and prevent injuries.


– Cold water immersion (CWI) is a popular recovery strategy. It has been shown to help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, and improve mood and interaction between brain networks [oai_citation:2, Sports | Free Full-Text | Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Basketball]( [oai_citation:3, Managing Mental and Physical Fatigue During a Collegiate Soccer Season in: International Sport Coaching Journal Volume 1 Issue 1 (2014) ](

– Effectiveness: Studies indicate that while CWI can aid in recovery, it might not significantly impact muscle hypertrophy or body composition. For instance, Piñero et al. (2024) found that CWI had no significant effect on muscle growth induced by resistance training [oai_citation:4, Managing Mental and Physical Fatigue During a Collegiate Soccer Season in: International Sport Coaching Journal Volume 1 Issue 1 (2014) ]( However, other research has shown that CWI can be beneficial for reducing the perception of fatigue and improving psychological well-being [oai_citation:5, Sports | Free Full-Text | Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Basketball]( [oai_citation:6, Managing Mental and Physical Fatigue During a Collegiate Soccer Season in: International Sport Coaching Journal Volume 1 Issue 1 (2014) ](

Periodization and Training Adjustments

– Macrocycles and Microcycles: Implement periodized training plans that include macrocycles (season-long) and microcycles (weekly or monthly) to balance training loads and recovery. Periodization helps in optimizing performance and preventing overtraining.

– Deload Weeks: Incorporate deload weeks with reduced training intensity to allow for recovery and prevent overtraining. These planned periods of reduced training load can help in maintaining performance levels and preventing injuries.

– Tailored Programs: Develop individualized training programs based on each athlete’s needs, fitness levels, and recovery capacity. Tailored programs ensure that athletes are training at an appropriate intensity and volume, reducing the risk of fatigue and overtraining.

– Injury Prevention: Focus on exercises that strengthen muscles and joints to prevent injuries, which can contribute to fatigue. Include exercises that target the core, and lower body, and stabilizing muscles to enhance overall stability and reduce the risk of injuries.

Mental Health and Stress Management

– Psychological Services: Provide access to sports psychologists or counselors to help athletes manage stress and mental fatigue. Mental health is a critical component of overall well-being and performance, and addressing mental health issues can help in preventing burnout.

– Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Encourage mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. These practices can help athletes manage anxiety and stress, enhancing their overall performance.

– Positive Environment: Foster a positive team environment where athletes feel supported and motivated. A supportive team culture can enhance overall well-being and performance.

– Open Communication: Encourage open communication between athletes and coaching staff to address concerns and adjust training as needed. Open communication helps in identifying potential issues early and implementing appropriate interventions.

Utilizing Cold Water Immersion in Recovery

Cold water immersion (CWI) is widely used for recovery due to its potential benefits in reducing muscle soreness and inflammation. However, its impact on muscle hypertrophy and body composition is still debated.

– Positive Psychological Effects: Yankouskaya et al. (2023) found that short-term, head-out whole-body CWI facilitates positive affect and increases interaction between large-scale brain networks, suggesting psychological benefits.

– Effects on Muscle Growth: A systematic review by Piñero et al. (2024) concluded that post-exercise CWI might hinder resistance training-induced hypertrophy, indicating that while beneficial for recovery, it might not be ideal for muscle growth [oai_citation:7, Managing Mental and Physical Fatigue During a Collegiate Soccer Season in: International Sport Coaching Journal Volume 1 Issue 1 (2014) ](

– Performance and Body Composition**: Horgan et al. (2024) found no significant effect of repeated post-resistance exercise CWI on in-season body composition and performance responses in academy rugby players, suggesting its limited impact on these factors.

– Comparative Effectiveness: Moore et al. (2023) conducted a meta-analysis comparing CWI with other recovery modalities, finding that CWI effectively reduces perceived fatigue and soreness, making it a valuable tool for recovery.

Managing fatigue throughout the AFL season is essential for maintaining high performance and preventing injuries. By monitoring workloads, implementing effective recovery protocols, adjusting training plans, and supporting mental health, athletes can stay fit and conditioned all season long. As an AFL strength & conditioning coach, these best practices have proven invaluable in helping athletes achieve their peak performance while minimizing the risk of burnout.

For more insights and personalized training programs, visit [Prepare Like A Pro](


– Halson, S. L. (2014). Monitoring Training Load to Understand Fatigue in Athletes. *Sports Medicine, 44*(S2), 139-147.

– Kellmann, M., & Kallus, K. W. (2001). Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes: User Manual. Human Kinetics.

– Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Foster, C., Fry, A., Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., … & Urhausen, A. (2013). Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of the Overtraining Syndrome: Joint Consensus Statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. *Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45*(1), 186-205.

– Luke, R. C., Morrissey, J. L., Reinke, E. J., Sevene, T. G., & Adams, K. J. (2014). Managing Mental and Physical Fatigue During a Collegiate Soccer Season. *International Sport Coaching Journal, 1*(1), 24-32.

– Spiteri, T., Piggott, B., Bonhotal, J., Haff, G. G., & Joyce, C. (2018). Monitoring and Managing Fatigue in Basketball. *Sports, 6*(1), 19.

– Piñero, A., Burke, R., Augustin, F., Mohan, A. E., DeJesus, K., Sapuppo, M., Weisenthal, M., Coleman, M., Androulakis‐Korakakis, P., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2024). Throwing cold water on muscle growth: A systematic review with meta‐analysis of the effects of postexercise cold water

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