I stress recovery fairly often, but that’s because I think it’s important. In order to most efficiently improve the human organism, it’s important to provide a stimulus and then allow the body time to adapt and improve against that stimulus. As far as athletic performance, it’s important to provide stimulation via training and then allow for recovery, repair, and improvement.
For the most part, the degree of improvement or adaptati on is related positively to the intensity of the stimulus. However, on the other side of that equation, the recovery time necessary is also positively related to the intensity provided. Basically, the harder the workout
There are some great methods of improving an athlete’s recovery methods, however. These can result in a shorter necessary recovery time which will in turn allow the athlete to train more frequently and with greater intensity. The more frequent and higher intensity workouts, with proper recovery, will force the athlete’s body to adapt to a greater degree and improve more than it would with less frequent workouts.
Here are three of my favorite recovery methods. These methods are all fairly quick, easy to implement, and can produce great “bang for the buck”.
1. Contrast Showers
Hydrotherapy, using water to promote healing, can have a fantastic effect. In a contrast shower an athlete, while in the shower, alternates between cold water and warm water. The usual protocol is thirty seconds of water as cold as the athlete can stand alternated with 30 seconds to one minute of warm water. Make sure your athletes don’t scald themselves!
They should focus the water jets either on the body parts that require CC (ie legs after a heavy lower body workout) and/or the scalp, back of the neck, and upper back. This cold/warm protocol makes use of the body’s vasodilation effect of contracting and expanding blood vessels. This will help flush damaged tissue out of the muscles and provide nutrients and improved blood flow. The alternated temperature focused on the head and upper back area will provide a tonic effect on the nervous system.
Seriously, make the athletes go to bed and sleep more. The body heals itself much more quickly and efficiently while in deep sleep as opposed to a waking state. If an athlete can manage a post-training nap, even for 30 minutes, they will experience a great recovery effect. If a nap is not feasible because of their schedule, then they need to block off time to go to sleep early. Athletes who are training hard cannot burn the candle at both ends.
3. Massage and Foam Rolling
Heavy and hard training is very difficult on the body. That’s the point, given that you are trying to force the body to adapt and improve itself. Over time, even in a well regulated training program, athletes will start to experience adhesion’s, knots, spasms, and small tears in their muscular systems. These irregularities and damage zones will reduce the muscle’s efficiency, range of motion, strength, and healing ability.
Regular massage and foam rolling (a form of self-myofascial release) will help break up these “trigger points”. Most athletes are walking around all bound up and they don’t even realize it. The first few times they try an athletic massage or a foam rolling session they may feel a great deal of discomfort and pain. This will get better with time as their muscle tissue quality improves. They’ll also notice rapid improvements in flexibility, pain, and power.
There are a ton of ways to improve athletes’ recovery and most of them aren’t particularly complicated. With a structured recovery plan your athletes can train harder and longer. That will result in improved performance on the field!