In the last article, Why High School Athletes Should Build Recovery Habits Now, we explored some of the reasons why high school athletes should be building a foundation of proper recovery habits with the goal of promoting longevity and injury prevention. Now that the why has been identified, it’s time to address the how.
Injury prevention is always a topic of interest and a driver for constant improvement in the sports performance industry. The biggest concern for team and staff during the season is never how well the team can perform or improve. New developments in injury prevention are an industry of constant turnover and those who want to stay competitive are in a constant race to be up to date with the latest and greatest. Unfortunately the latest GPS athlete tracking system is not feasible at the high school level, and often coaches are too busy to fully address the importance of proper recovery and injury prevention. So to follow up on the why, here are three easy injury prevention how-to’s for high school athletes to recover like a division I athlete. Keep in mind, this is presented as being used within 24 hours after competition. You can use these methods in the 24 hours immediately following a workout as well.
Just because your high school doesn’t have the state of the art, $100,000 hot and cold pool setup that the bigger D1 schools do, doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the recovery benefits of utilizing manipulation of blood flow for recovery benefits. The basis of alternating between a hot and cold water is to cause dilation and constriction of the blood vessels to speed up recovery. Hot water causes dilation of vessels and speeds up the heart. This makes the heart pump a ton of blood out to the body. Blood is the source of nutrition, oxygen, hydration, and the cells that respond to muscle cell damage from the breakdown of training and competition. So with heat, we are feeding and repairing muscle and joints. Cold water causes constriction of blood vessels and slowing of the heart. This causes the blood vessels to squeeze all the blood in the area back towards the heart. This is important because just as the blood carries nutrients and cells to sites of damage, it also needs to carry waste away and return back to the heart and stomach to replenish their nutrients for another round. It also carries any inflammation in the area away, leading to less pain and soreness afterwards.
Contrast showers area great way to get the same effect of the hot/cold pool in your very own bathroom. First start by turning the shower up to as hot as you can stand for three minutes. Once the three minutes is up, immediately switch the water to as cold as you can stand it. Alternate between the two for three cycles, ending on cold. Let the shower spray down on you so it covers your body as it drains. If you have specific areas that are really sore, or hit a specific area in training that you want to recover, focus on those. Bottom line, contrast showers will leave you feeling like a million bucks, increase your recovery, allow you to handle increased training stresses, and help prevent future overuse injury. Set up a few speakers in the bathroom and blast some music to help pass the time. If mom and dad complain about the water bill or noise, just tell them you need to recover so you can be a total bad ass on gameday. Doctors orders.
Steady State Cardio/Walking
Building on some of the concepts from the contrast showers, steady state cardio is another great activity to boost recovery and prevent injury. Cardiovascular health is usually not a problem for athletes in this age group, so the main goal of this is two part: Get blood to the places that need it by moderately increasing heart rate, and to get the muscles contracting and pumping. We want blood flow out away from the heart to the rest of the body for the same reason as the contrast showers. Utilizing the movement from steady state cardio allows us to address a few other things as well.
In order for the body to heal correctly, it utilizes information it gets from the muscles while they are moving to tell it where to grow and direct the most new tissue. To get that information, we need the body to be moving, even if it is something simple. The stretching and contracting of the muscles in the body during steady state cardio allow for the body to direct new tissue production. This information is very essential as it also tells the body what type of tissue to produce and how much.
So how do you implement steady state cardio? A quick stretch and shake out jog is a great way start. Make sure you do enough mobility and stretching to warm up, and then go on a 20 minute jog of low intensity. Walking is also an easy way to get some neurological input into the body as well as provide just enough increase in heart rate. You could simply wake up the morning after competition or a heavy lift and take a 20-30 minute walk around your neighborhood. What if you’re a football player and just played Friday night but don’t have time because you are going to your favorite college football game bright and early? Perfect! Walk around with your friends or family for 20 or 30 minutes and take in all the great scenery of college football tailgating. You’ll be having fun while also building solid recovery habits to keep you healthy and pushing yourself forward towards your goal of playing on Saturday’s one day too.
Here it is. The S-word. The thing that no one wants to ever do and even less value. The most boring thing possible in the athletic world. Stretching. There’s nothing sexy about it and nothing entertaining about it, but guess what. You absolutely need to do it. Do you want to be the best athlete you can be? Do you want to push yourself to the limit to find out just how good you can perform? I can tell you with out a doubt that if you never spend any time on your mobility you will fall incredibly short of this and eventually end up hurting. Guaranteed. If you enjoy stretching and mobility work, then great. Good for you. But if you are like the majority of athletes in the world, you don’t enjoy it, and no one cares. Do it anyways. No one ever said everything you will do in athletics will be fun, but this is absolutely essential.
Mobility and stretching allows for some of the same things that walking does. It provides the right type of stimulus to the body to help direct healing and make sure that your body does not become a giant knot. There are many different mobility exercises available that improve movement of the hips, ankles, shoulders, etc at a basic level. The Essential 8 by Mike Boyle and the Limber 11 by Joe DeFranco are great starters for basic mobility drills. NBS Fitness’ Youtube channel also has a variety of mobility and warm up drills available as well. The key here is consistency over time.
Stay tuned for more information for high school athletes. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.