Ever witnessed a teammate appearing sluggish and worn out towards the end of the season? You watch and wonder where their lost step went. Or maybe you've experienced this yourself. Today's athletes are more active than ever, but overtraining is unfortunately becoming a more prominent issue.
(What exactly is overtraining? Find out here.)
It's usually the most devoted athletes who overlook the need to heal after rigorous workouts. But this can lead to a drop in both motivation and performance.
As an athlete or a strength coach, you want to get better. Recovery just sounds so passive. But if you want to aid in sports injury prevention and treatment, you need to move past that attitude. Active rest and recovery—e.g., reducing workout intensity throughout the week, or mixing in light exercise—has been shown to help the rebuilding of athletes' bodies after strenuous training. (Recovering after daily workouts is important too.)
Here are three reasons why it's crucial to implement active rest and recovery in your training program:
The proper amount of rest and recovery allows athletes to replenish their energy stores of muscle glycogen and hydrate thoroughly to perform at their peak level.
Muscles grow when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown. Without rest, the muscle continues to break down, and you risk overtraining or possible injury.
Lack of adequate recovery time and overtraining can affect an athlete's psyche. Some symptoms of overtraining are depression, irritability and flu-like symptoms.
The difference between them is simple: active recovery rids the body of toxins and kick-starts the muscle rebuilding process through light activity. In passive recovery, we hope the process happens naturally with time away from activity.
It's easy to add active recovery to your training program. Ensure your recovery and recapture that early training spark with these tips:
During sleep, human growth hormone is released throughout the body to promote muscle growth and recovery.
This is the "active" part of active recovery. For example, play catch, go for a light jog or swim some laps. Just engage in some form of movement that does not tax your body.
Lifting heavy all week stresses the body, and the constant breakdown of the muscles inhibits their ability to grow. Reducing the load in your lifts toward the end of the week gives you an opportunity to focus on speed of movement and gives your body a chance to heal.
This can come various forms, like lowering weight loads, decreasing running distances, or lessening reps and sets. I have found that doing this every three to four weeks gives the body a chance to come back fresh and ready to take on increased loads and intensities in the weeks that follow.
This is a great way to activate and stretch muscles while releasing bodily tension.
A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of equipment that you lie on to apply pressure by rolling back and forth over sensitive areas. A substitute for deep tissue massage, it is designed to smooth out any knots or trigger points that have accumulated over months of training, allowing you to stretch easier and increase your range of motion.
Studies have shown an increase in performance following cold tub immersion and cold/warm tub contrast. Cold therapy also has a psychological benefit in that it improves an athlete's mental readiness to compete in the following days.
This summer, I traveled to four high schools to teach a rest and recovery circuit. The following four-station circuit, each about 15 minutes long, increases an athlete's performance both psychologically and physiologically leading up to the day of competition.
Please see the short video below of our Rest and Recovery Program.