Competitive athletics, at the youth, recreational, and elite levels alike, place incredible demands on the body. Longer, more frequent practices, along with demanding game schedules, can take a toll on the body. That’s why it’s critical to understand and practice recovery techniques throughout the season, as well as in the off season.
Recovery techniques help maximize the body’s repair functions, so it’s critical to make recovery a priority in your training regimen. Here are a few of the most important elements of recovery:
Active recovery is a low-intensity workout that is easier than your normal sport or routine. It can include a slow jog, a bike ride, a relaxing swim, yoga, or a brisk walk.
Static stretching, which is the hold and stretch form of stretching, is ideal for targeting areas that are less flexible or are uncomfortable following a workout. Allow enough time in the stretch to give the muscle some elasticity. A gentle stretch should be held between 20 to 40 seconds.
Staying hydrated during recovery is just as important as hydrating before a game, as it allows your body to adequately regulate its temperature and transports nutrients to resupply energy.
Replenishing essential nutrients following a game or workout is critical. A healthy, balanced diet gives the body what it needs to repair damaged or depleted tissues.
An ice bath following helps cool tissue and slow inflammation. A contrast bath, which alternates warm and cold water, increases blood vessel pumping to move unwanted swelling from an area and brings needed nutrients to the area to mend damaged tissue.
Sleep is important to recovery, and 7 to 10 hours per night is recommended. This passive rest gives your body time to recover, replenish, and mend, not to mention improving energy and focus.
Athletes need downtime to relax, recover, and retool mentally. This is particularly true for young athletes who are often balancing the demands of school, chores, and family. A time out from sport allows athletes to come back more focused and driven to improve their skills.
Making recovery a priority reaps long-term benefits. When you recover, you give your body a chance to adapt to the stress of exertion, heal, repair, and grow stronger for the next game or season.
Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center
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