This is the last of a 5-part series on injury prevention for sports.Recovery is another area of injury prevention that is often overlooked. Although training is a very important part of sports and injury prevention, recovery itself is of high importance. Recovery consists of many different areas.
Here are some ways to help your body recover between training sessions and to help your body perform at its peak:
Limit Training Days – Most of the top athletes in the world train six days a week. Some may even want to train seven days a week. However, if you are training seven days a week, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover, as it is constantly stressed. This can make you more prone to injury and lower your performance levels in practice. Your body needs a day to recover each week. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything on that recovery day. Refer to some of the items listed below that you can do on your recovery day.
Stretching – Stretching is a great form of recovery for your muscles, and this is something that can be done on a recovery day or on a training day to help you recover better for the next day.
Foam Rolling – Foam rolling can be used as a type of personal massage if you don’t have the time to get a massage or would like to save the money you’d spend on a massage. Again, this can be used on a training day or on a recovery day.
Massage – Deep-tissue or sports massage is the best kind of massage to get for an athlete. If you have any areas of your body that particularly carry tension, those areas can be focused on in the massage. A full-body massage is great to help your entire body release tension, quicken the recovery process, and lengthen muscles. Massage can be done on a training day or on a recovery day. I’ve always preferred to get a massage after training is finished for the day or on the recovery day.
Rolfing – If you aren’t familiar with Rolfing, it is similar to a deep-tissue massage, but the pressure is extremely deep. Whereas the massage therapist will often have you determine how deep you like it, Rolfing goes as deep as you need it. It’s also a form of postural reconstruction, so the more Rolfing sessions you have, the more your posture improves and your body performs better in its new alignment.
Meditation and/or Yoga – Many athletes love to use a way of relaxation and becoming at peace with themselves. Meditation and/or yoga can be used before a training session, before a big event, or at any time you feel the need to release stress of the mind and/or the body.
Nutrition – Good nutrition is extremely helpful for good performance and helping your body recover quickly. If your body has the nutrients it needs, it will repair itself. If your body is lacking nutrients, this will delay the recovery process and leave you feeling more sluggish. A well-balanced diet is important to include in your training plan. It’s helpful to focus on vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Athletes often need more protein than the average individual. Speak to a nutritionist for your ideal sports nutrition.
Sleep – Getting consistent sleep and enough sleep each night is important for you to perform at your best and recover fully each night. 7-8 hours is often recommended each night. Many athletes need more sleep, though, because of the strain sports put on the body. So experiment with how much sleep you get to find the best number of hours for you. A tip I’ve often heard is to try waking up without an alarm clock for a week and average the number of hours you slept per night. That’s supposed to be what your body needs.
Walking – Walking is not only a great form of exercise, but it is also helpful for recovery. It can be relaxing and peaceful for the mind as well. This can be used as a light form of activity on the recovery day or if used in addition on a training day.
Hot and Cold Therapy – Heating and cooling the body help with increased circulation and repair muscle tissue. They can be used on their own such as an ice pack used on or around the knees if you are experiencing knee pain or heat therapy such as Jacuzzi to help relax the muscles and release tension in the body. The heating and cooling can be combined such as Jacuzzi, then going into a cold pool or ice bath, waiting, and then repeating the process. (Heat, cool, wait, and then repeat.) It’s best to end with cooling. The heating and cooling combined will quicken the muscle-repair process.
As you can see, there are many ways to recover. You may find other personal favorites that you like to use. Anything that is healthy and helps you relax is a good form of recovery. Remember, if you treat yourself and your body well, your body will thank you by performing at its best and staying healthy. It’s often said that recovery is just as important as the exercise itself. So enjoy … you’ve earned it! 🙂