What Is The Difference Between Recovery And Adaptation?

Whether you're recovering from an injury or just trying to get back into your regular routine, the path to recovery is often a little bit confusing. On the one hand, you want to feel better - It's not fun to be hurt! But on the other hand, you also want to get back out there and do what you love.


We know that recovery is important. It's how we get back to our baseline performance after an intense workout or injury. We also know that it takes time for our body to recover fully, sometimes even longer than it did before the injury!


That's where recovery and adaptation come in. These two concepts are often used interchangeably but they are not the same thing at all. Recovery refers to the acute restoration of performance capacity (short term) and adaptation refers to the changes that happen over time such as improvement in muscle capacity, and the cardiovascular system.


Over the last few years, studies have shown that what may be good for short-term recovery may not necessarily be good for long-term adaptation.

Let me give you an example. If you're recovering from an Achilles tendon tear, icing the area may help reduce inflammation and help with soreness by removing the signal of pain, but in the long run, it may reduce adaptation by delaying the healing process because inflammation is an essential part of recovery and anything that reduces inflammation also delays healing (Wang & Ni, 2021).

Work Cited:

Jeukendrup, A. (2015). Rapid recovery versus long-term adaptation. Retrieved from:

Wang, Z. R., & Ni, G. X. (2021, June 16). Is it time to put traditional cold therapy in rehabilitation of soft-tissue injuries out to pasture? Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information:

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