As an athlete, there will inevitably be a time when your body tells you it’s tired, in pain, and has had enough. Learning how to help your body recover is just as important as how hard you train and practice. Proper recovery helps you bounce back from fatigue more quickly, and even more importantly, will help prevent injury – yes, you can prevent injury if you recover the right way!
As a young athlete, proper recovery after training may not be a priority if you’re at an age when you may still be able to eat poorly and get little sleep without it affecting your performance too much. However, it is important to build recovery habits at an early age, especially if you plan on playing at an elite level. Compared to high school or youth club sports, college athletics are often a completely different playing field when it comes to the amount and intensity of training – proper recovery is a necessity.
Here are some tips for recovery to reach your optimal performance:
- Take at least 10 minutes to actively cool-down after training, including stretching
- Rehydrate with both water and carbohydrates and electrolytes – many colleges weigh athletes before and after workouts to make sure they haven’t lost too much fluid
- Eat a combination of high-quality carbohydrates and proteins within 30-45 minutes after exercise – chocolate milk is an excellent choice recommended by many sports dietitians
- Make sure you are following a healthy eating plan overall, not just right after exercise. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, it’s a good idea to consult a licensed professional at your school or in the community to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs to recover
- When necessary, take ice baths within 30 minutes of exercise completion to avoid muscle soreness – two-a-days during preseason are a great time to take advantage of ice baths
- Use a foam roller, tennis ball, or other massage device to relieve tension when you’re at home or resting
- Take rest days when needed to avoid over-training – but make sure to still get a stretch in!
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night – too little sleep increases fatigue, poor focus and slows recovery
Following these tips at any age is important, but at an early age it will help you prepare for life as a college athlete and remain uninjured and able to compete at your highest level. You can’t always control what happens during competition, but you can control how you treat your body afterwards!