When you perform exercise in particular high intensity exercise, athletes are placed under high amounts of physiological and psychological stress. Therefore, after the bout of exercise is imperative that the body is allowed to recover to return to an optimal performance state (Faigenbaum, 2004).
The body cannot continually perform high intense training every day therefore it is important the rest is incorporated into the athletes training plan. We do want the athlete to over train or be in an under recovered state. The ‘more is better’ is better attitude can be counterproductive and can place young athletes at greater risk of injury, burnout and poor performance (Faigenbaum, 2004).
Emphasis should be placed on quality of training rather than quantity of training. Ensuring there are an adequate number of rest days (ideally 1 – 2 minimum) should reduce the likelihood of injury, reduce the amount of fatigue and allow better training performance between sessions. Rest is where the body is going to adapt from the training, subsequently increasing athletic performance.
Research suggests that adult athletes who less than 2 rest days per week were 5.2 x more likely to attain an overuse injury (Ristolainen et al., 2014).Highlighting the importance of rest.
After a bout of intense exercise there are several ways of helping the recovery process which focuses on some basic fundamentals:
- Cool down – performing some form of active recovery after the match/training – light jogging followed by some stretches and mobility work. Foam rolling can also be performed.
- Post exercise Nutrition and Nutrition overall – After a bout of intense exercise (i.e match or training session) ensure you consume sugary snack or beverage to help energy stores (glycogen stores) and help aid protein synthesis. Ideally a sugary drink containing protein is ideal for recovery processes such as flavoured milkshakes (chocolate/ strawberry etc) which will aid in the replenishment of energy substrates and repair of the body.
- Maintaining hydration and nutrition throughout the day
- SLEEP! – is fundamental for recovery! Ensure you achieving aprox 8 hours and power naps can also be advantageous.
Research from Mileski (2012) suggest that adolescents who slept ≥8 hours were 68% less likely to get injured than those who did not achieve those hours. Therefore it is important that you are achieving a good consistent number of hours of sleep (aprox 8 hours) as this may reduce the likelihood of injury and will improve the recovery process.
Focusing on the fundamentals of good amounts of sleep and good nutrition will aid the recovery process. However do not neglect other aspects of your life such as:
- social life (friends and family,
- relaxation (music, reading, art, computer games etc.)!
Unfortunately everything cannot always revolve around sport therefore is it fundamental you create the optimal balance as health is the main priority!
You may exercise for a few hours a day, however you are in control of what you do in the remaining hours of 24 hour a day. Ensuring you do the mentioned things above (sleep, nutrition, stretch/mobility/foam rolling) should improve the recovery process, reducing the risk of injury and allow optimal performance for the next training bouts.
Faigenbaum., A. (2004). Maximize recovery. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 26(4), 77-78
Milewski, M. D. (2012, October). Lack of Sleep Is Associated with Increased Risk of Injury In Adolescent Athletes. In 2012 AAP National Conference and Exhibition. American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ristolainen, L., Kettunen, J. A., Waller, B., Heinonen, A., & Kujala, U. M. (2014). Training-related risk factors in the etiology of overuse injuries in endurance sports. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 54(1), 78-87.