Now that you are aware of the importance of body-weight competency (Part 1) and flexibility through full ranges of motion (Part 2), it is time for what is the most important and overlooked aspect of any athlete’s regimen, recovery strategies. You can train and practice hard as well as be active in your school and social activities, but if you aren’t making sure that you are taking care of your body and “recovering hard”, you will not be able to sustain a high level of activity and performance. There are 3 main things that all young athletes, or any athlete for that matter, should be doing on a daily basis to ensure that they are able to perform at a high level both on the field and in the classroom.
The first of those 3 things is sleep. Sleep is where our body gets primed and ready for the following day. It is something that we absolutely can’t do with out and is essential for many of our bodily processes. With quality sleep, growth hormones are released which help us repair and build lean muscle. A good night’s sleep also restores our energy, or ATP, and improves our lymphatic and immune system function. Lastly, sleep improves our cognitive functions which include decision making, memory and reaction time.
The numerous health benefits of sleep are no secret to the general population, yet sleep is ignored or neglected by a majority of parents and kids. We choose things like the television and computer/video games over allowing our body to rest and recover for the day to follow. Lately, there has been a wide variety of studies on sleep deprivation that show many detrimental effects to our health. The most staggerring research study that I have seen compared a sleep deprived person to someone who has been drinking. It was found that after a certain amount of sleep deprivation, the individual’s reaction time would be comparable to someone who is close to the legal limit for blood alcohol levels. It is obvious that anyone who wants to build muscle, be full of energy and be mentally able to perform, should take their sleep habits very seriously.
Another aspect of recovery that is very important to our daily lives is nutrition. Now this is an area where there is a lot of controversy in terms of what is good, and what is bad. I can tell you one thing though, the last place I would look for advice is our government. After years and years of the food pyramid, which was publicized in 1993, diabetes and obesity is at a record high. In fact, the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes has almost TRIPLED since then. Many experts in the nutrition field point to what is widely known as the food pyramid.
With this food pyramid, the government was suggesting that Americans consume about 11-20 servings of carbohydrates, with 2-3 servings of protein while avoiding any fats and oils like the plague. A majority of these carbohydrates being grains and starches which if in excess, are converted to saturated fat in the body!
Now there are many different nutritional plans out there that have proven to be effective, all with significantly less carbohydrates than the food pyramid. We could go for days about the pro’s and con’s of each one, such as Paleo, Atkins and Mediterranean, but there are many “big rock’s” that each of these nutrition plans includes:
1. Emphasis on unprocessed and single ingredient foods. In other words, the more natural the food is, the better it is for your body. If it was boxed and packaged in a factory and it’s ingredient list includes things you’ve never heard of, find a new favorite food. Yes, this includes things such as cereal which litter most people’s pantry.
2. Emphasis on increased protein uptake. The majority of people do not get nearly enough protein and whether it comes from a 4 legged, 2 legged or no legged animal, increasing the amount of protein you eat on a daily basis is important for a wide variety of body processes. Nutritional plans higher in protein have been shown to improve body composition, curb food cravings, improve the amount of good fats (no, thats not a typo) in the body and improve cardiovascular health.
3. Emphasis on only drinking water. Think your body can survive on soda and Gatorade? Think again. This really should go without saying but water is what our bodies run on. Our body about 60% water and our brain is almost 70% water. Without water, every major process within our bodies becomes less efficient. Water is also completely natural and free of sugar, preservatives, additives and other -ives.
The third and final recovery strategy that is essential to allow athletes to perform at a high level on a regular basis, is self-myofascial release. Self-myofascial release (self-MFR) has grown increasingly popular in the athletic community over the last decade and is definitely not a fad when it comes to recovery. Self-MFR involves the athlete using an object, such as a foam roller or lacrosse ball, to massage or tenderize a muscular portion of their body.
Self-MFR has been reported to break up adhesions and scar tissue as well as improve the resting tone, or tension, of the muscle. Also, self-MFR just plain feels good! Try to massage the bottom of only 1 of your feet, as shown in the video above, for about a minute and then walk around. The majority of people will notice a big difference in the way that not only their foot, but their entire leg feels! In summary, self-MFR will improve the tissue quality of the muscles that you work on. This is important not only to help improve the recovery of that muscle, but limit the likelihood that an overuse injury (think ”-itis”) occurs.
If you have been training hard on a regular basis, have you done what is necessary to recover hard? How many of these strategies do you use on a daily basis? Whats 1 thing you are going to do to improve the way that you recover? Let me know in the comment section below!
Josh Funk, DPT, CSCS is the Founder and President of Lax Factory (www.LaxFactory.com), which is a comprehensive lacrosse program based in Western Maryland. With Lax Factory, he specializes in individual player development and is a club team coach throughout the year. Outside of skill development and coaching, Josh works as a physical therapist and performance coach. With his background he is able to work with athletes on a broad continuum of rehabilitation, training and skill development.
Josh’s lacrosse career began in Montgomery County, Maryland where he starred as a midfielder at Poolesville High School. After earning County Player of the Year Honors, Josh took his talents to The Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, Josh earned All-Conference honors and was a captain on the 2008 team that went to the Elite 8 for the 1st time in school history. He then continued his playing career in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) where he played 2 seasons for the Minnesota Swarm. While playing professionally, Josh was a graduate student at the University of Maryland-Baltimore and earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.