Recover to Win
We’ve all heard that recovery is important, but what constitutes as recovery and how to achieve it is another matter altogether. Recovery, as it pertains to sports performance, allows the body’s central nervous system to regenerate and skeletal muscle to repair and flush out lactic acid and inflammation. Taking a day off alone isn’t going to provide full recovery, there are many more components that need to be addressed to improve the level of performance and health.
Sleep – Studies show that athletes from grades 7-12 are 61% more likely to be injured if they do not reach 8 hours of sleep on weeknights. Sleep is when your body has the ability to produce a majority of it’s human growth hormone, which allows the muscles, ligaments and tendons to repair and strengthen. It is also the time that the brain gets to solidify movement patterns practiced during the day, which will increase skill levels and reduce the likelihood of being injured.
Nutrition – The right fuel, and plenty of it, allows athletes to heal at a higher rate. Protein is what muscles, tendons and ligaments are made out of and therefore what they use to rebuild. The athlete recommend daily intake for protein is 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Now fruits and vegetables are crucial as they help with absorption of vitamins and minerals, reduction of inflammation and increase in bone mineral density. Three to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a great starting point.
Active Recovery – Active recovery is an often misused tool. Active recovery is low intensity exercise (defined as having the ability to carry on a conversation while working) that increases blood flow, muscle elasticity (the muscles ability to stretch) and range of motion. This can easily be accomplished with an extended warmup, mobility circuit, tempo runs (about 70% of max effort) or the use of cardio equipment. This allows more blood to be pumped through the muscles, pushing out inflammation and lactic acid, as well as bringing a greater volume nutrients to the muscles for repair.
Foam Roll – Foam rolling is a great tool that can be used to restore pliability (reduce stiffness) to the muscles and help increase blood flow to different muscle groups. It can also be used to restore range of motion to joints that have locked up.
Compression – When you wear a piece of clothing, which is noticeably tighter than regular pants, socks or sleeves, the garment exerts a tightening force on the muscles and internal tissues on the limb or body part. The pressure improves blood flow to that site. It might seem counterintuitive; logically, squeezing your veins and arteries should cause the blood flow to slow down, but what really happens by putting external pressure on the walls of these structures is that the flow of fluid (your blood) is increased. Essentially, it’s pushed along more forcefully. What this means for your performance is that your muscles are given a little boost. This helps to push the inflammation out of the circulatory system and back into the lymphatic system where it belongs
Ice – Ice is quickly becoming less popular as a recovery tool. Because it causes stiffness and squeezes the veins and arteries down, which slows the movement of blood through the muscle and therefore slowing the recovery process. Ice is primarily used to reduce body temperature and to help control swelling on significant acute injuries.
There are numerous other gadgets and tricks for recovery. However, as an athlete it is important to have tools in your toolbox when it comes to accelerating the healing process. The faster your body can heal from a workout, the better your body will adapt to intensity and/or the amount of work completed in that workout. The closer your body is to 100% recovery; the higher level your performance can be.