By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist
We all know the importance of training when you’re an athlete. Whether it’s individual or team practices that allow you to work on your sport-specific skills, or strength training in a gym that helps you improve all areas of athletic performance, training is a key piece to performing your best.
But there’s a key piece of the performance equation that is often less talked about: recovery.
Why prioritize recovery?
Our body rests, repairs and strengthens itself between training sessions. When we put in the hard work, we need to take a pause in order to reap the benefits.
When we exercise, the physical stress on our bodies creates necessary tissue damage, depletion of our energy stores, and a loss of nutrition and fluids. This stress creates a temporary dip in performance from our baseline, and with proper rest and recovery, we can bring ourselves not only back to that baseline, but above and beyond!
This phenomenon is called supercompensation and is something that we aim for in the strength and conditioning world, because this is what creates results.
For example, to gain strength, we need to provide our body with enough stress that we create some level of tissue damage in the muscles. Following that, we should eat properly, rehydrate, get a good sleep, and do any muscle or soft tissue work needed to allow the muscles to repair, grow, and gain size and strength.
When should you work on recovery?
- After your workout, training session, practice or game. This can be as simple as taking time to do a proper cool down after your game, stretching the key muscles you used during your activity, and using your foam roller to help prevent muscle soreness. Be sure to get proper sleep, eat a post workout meal and rehydrate with lots of water.
- Set a day in your week/training schedule that is dedicated to recovery practices. Give yourself a chance to listen to your body and what it needs, and focus on maintaining or bringing yourself back to your “feel good” baseline.
- Plan recovery weeks into your schedule after training blocks. Decrease your volume and allow your body to recover with lighter loads and be ready to hit the next block in top form.
What are some strategies I can use to enhance my recovery?
- Foam Rolling
- Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release. Rolling helps to work out knots in tight muscle, adhesions between our muscles and fascia, and helps to prevent muscle soreness after a hard effort. It can increase range of motion, improve blood flow to the area being rolled and reduce your chance of injury.
- Be sure to rehydrate after your training session. An easy way to determine how much water to drink is by weighing yourself before and after you train, and aiming to replenish any weight lost during the workout with water.
- Be sure to replenish your energy stores after training. Your body not only needs energy for hard efforts, it needs energy for recovery too. I always say Replenish with carbs, and repair with protein. Our muscles need protein in order to repair and grow, but our body also needs to replenish lost energy from our workout. Without a good dose of carbohydrates, our body will use the protein for energy and our muscles will be left wanting more. Be sure to ingest a post workout meal that includes both carbs and protein.
- Adequate sleep is critical for athlete recovery. Try to get 8 or more hours of sleep a night in order to reduce injury risk, keep a healthy immune system, improve focus and concentration, give your muscles a chance to regenerate and grow, and increase energy, reaction time, memory and decision making.
For more information on recovery and best practices or if you have any questions, feel free to contact our Sport Manitoba Performance staff at firstname.lastname@example.org