As sports kick into high gear with more practices and games being played, an emphasis on recovery will be a key element to maintaining performance while staving off injuries. As much as we think playing sports builds muscles, they actually break them down when they don’t get enough time and rest to repair. This breakdown leads to fatigue, which can leave an athlete susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries. There are numerous ways to recover, but the big thing is not to just go get in the car and go home after activity. Use these four tips to recover faster, play at your best, and stay injury-free.
- Cool down after activity: Following games, practices, or heavy training, cool down with a light jog for approximately 5 minutes. Foam roll tight and sore areas such as your hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves, followed by stretching those same areas. Though dynamic or moving stretching is preferred before activity, static stretching works well following activity.
- Eat and hydrate: Increased activity burns more calories that need to be replenished so muscles can recover, so you may need to increase the amount of food you eat. Proper hydration is also critical to recovery. Even just a 2% loss in bodyweight due to sweat loss (i.e. 3lbs for a 150lb athlete) has shown to decrease performance.
- Sleep: Proper sleep allows the heart to rest, as well as promotes cell and muscle repair. An athlete needs 8-10 hours of sleep at night, and sleep patterns should remain consistent.
- Aided recovery: These include modalities and therapies such as massage, cold tubs or ice baths, electric stimulation designed specifically for muscle recovery such as the Compex or Marc Pro units, and compression boots such as the Recovery Pump or Normatech.
Recovery techniques don’t have to be lengthy, difficult or expensive to be effective, but they have to be done consistently. Back to back games and practices can take a toll on your body leading to decreased performance and injury. Take the time and make an effort to recover faster and perform at your best.
Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over 20 years experience in professional hockey, football and soccer and has worked with numerous hall of famers and Olympians. He is the owner of Compete Sports Performance and Rehab located in Orange County, CA and can be reached through his website at www.competeperformance.com