Fit to Play: Post Training Recovery Tips

You’re gasping for breath, the sweat is pouring off, your muscles burn and joints ache. You have practiced hard and trained even harder. You need to recover fast for your game or workout the next day. Improve your ability to perform well tomorrow with proper physical and psychological recovery techniques. The following strategies are used by the traveling tennis pro’s and World Cup skier’s to optimize recovery and improve training potential and performance.

1. Re-Hydrate Drink plenty of water or clear fluid. Try clear juice or sports drinks cut with water. The goal is to have light coloured urine. Minimum is 1⁄2 – 1 liter per hour of training. The harder, higher and hotter conditions you train or play in, the more you need to drink. Pre-hydration and immediate re-hydration are key since once you become de-hydrated it may take 24 hours to top up your tank. That means 24 hours of potentially impaired training or competition.

2. Re-Fuel Ensure adequate nutrition (carbohydrate fuel) as soon as you can post-training. Try eating 50 grams of carbohydrates within 20-30 minutes post-training or competition. You can achieve this by eating a small potato, 1/2-cup raisins, cereal (e.g. 1/2 cup raisin bran) & milk (1 cup) or a variety of sports drinks or sports bars (if available). Be sure to check the labels. Slower carbohydrates (such as whole grains, apples, bananas, yogurt) are best and even better if mixed with a little protein (thirty percent).

3. Re-Align Many activities and sports (such as tennis) are asymmetrical in nature and can torque the body’s muscle and skeletal systems leading to an imbalance in length and strength of muscles and tendons. As well, the flexed posture of many competitive sports further adds to this imbalance. Simple symmetrical stretches for the low back and hips will help keep you aligned. However if you are experiencing low back, sacral iliac joint or hip pain, tightness or discomfort, talk to your therapist to see if your pelvis is mal-aligned. They can give you some simple hold relax exercises followed by some key stretches to remedy the problem.

4. Recovery Workout To help flush out the lactic acid and other waste products that built up in the muscle during training and play, try the following stationary cycling routine.

  • Cycle at 75-80 RPM (revolutions per minute) and a HR (heart rate) of 100-115 BPM (beats per minute).
  • Two ways to achieve this are:
    1. Cycle 30-40 minutes followed by stretching or
    2. Cycle 2 x 15-20 minutes with some light stretching in between.
  • You can substitute pool running, a fast walk or the elliptical trainer for variety.

5. Re-Connect the Core The core is the 3 dimensional corset made up of your lower (transverse) abdominal, pelvic floor, diaphragm and low back muscles. If you have any mal-alignment, lower back, hip or abdominal discomfort, this 3 dimensional core can become dysfunctional. Normally it fires in pre-anticipation of any movement. With dysfunction, there is a timing delay. Doing some ‘Fire the Core’ exercises helps re-connect the core and get it firing properly before your next activities. This will help maintain alignment and ensure you have a stable platform or base for the arms and legs to work off during activity.

6. Re-Set Your Balance Clock When joints are sore and fatigued, the natural balance and protective reactions that the muscles have can be inhibited. Your body will not be able to react as well to unexpected events or stay protected during repetitive motions. Re-set your balance clock with some drills using wobble boards, foam rolls, rolled towels or the “Fitness Edge”. Ultimately you are helping to improve your posture and decrease your chance of injury.

7. Re-Play Your Training or Game After your practice session, it is important to replay your critical and excellent training or playing situations again. This way you can store all the important information in your muscles and brain for a long time. Do not focus on any negative aspects, it is time to move on and look at the positive aspects of your game. Start a training diary and write down short notes on what you practiced, what went well, what was critical and what do you have to work on in the next days or weeks. You can only improve your game if you recognize your weaknesses and stick to your strengths.

8. Relax After or between practice sessions and matches give the body a chance to relax. This will help you regain your physical and mental strength to train or compete at a high level again. This allows you to recharge the batteries or refill the tank. The most natural way to relax physically and mentally is to sleep. But there are a lot of different ways to relax and everybody has individual preferences. It is best to combine a couple of the favourite relaxation techniques and get into personal routine.

  • Physical relaxation can include sauna (see recovery below), slow running or walking, massage, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and/or stretching or sleeping and napping
  • Mental relaxation can include breathing exercises, meditation or autogenic training.
  • Emotional relaxation can include listening to music, lighting candles or daydreaming.

9. Recovery Menu Try one or more of the following recovery techniques that are successfully used on the Professional Tennis Tour and World Cup Ski Circuit. Alternate stimulation with hot/cold makes you feel perky, helps wash out waste products and metabolites, and brings oxygen to the fatigued muscles.

Showers: use them to clean pores.

  • Repeat often- specially on warmer days)
  • Hot & Cold(A)
  • Hot (comfortable) x 2 min.
  • Cold (as possible) x 10 sec.
  • (repeat 6-10 times)
  • Hot & Cold (B)
  • Cold (as able to stand) x 1min.
  • Hot (as comfortable) x 30 sec.
  • (repeat 8-10 times)

Water Pressure (Hose)

  • Cold Water hose – 45 seconds each leg, 30 seconds each arm. Warm Shower -30 seconds each leg, 20 seconds each arm. (repeat 5-7 x)

Sauna/Cold Plunge(use at least one hour after training)

  • Shower warm -cool 3-5 minutes (towel dry)
  • Sauna x 7 min (Relative humidity 10-30% and temperature 80-90 degrees centigrade)
  • Cold plunge or shower x 15-30 seconds.
  • Rest (feet up) x 5 min
  • (Repeat x 3 before a day off play or training)
  • (Repeat x 1 before training or competition day)
  • Finish with warm shower 3-5 minutes.

Try incorporating these strategies into your training and competition programs. They will help you recover quickly from your playing or training and help keep you “Fit to Play”.

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