It is pretty evident that the demands of your sport change throughout the calendar year. While you are in season for your sport, the amount of competitions, practices, and stressors are at an all-time high while postseason, you may be experiencing a bit more free time and less physical activity required from your sport. Although, in times like this it is becoming more and more common to have youth athletes jump from one sport season with their respective school team to their next competitive period with a club or travel team without any breaks or recovery period. What many parents and athletes forget is the fact that it wasn’t until about 20-30 years ago that club teams became more prevalent, almost to the point now where high school kids will often skip out on their school season to make time for their club team season. This is obviously a big topic of discussion and we won’t necessarily go down this rabbit hole here. What this article will serve as is a resource for techniques that will allow your body to keep growing and adapting in a positive manner for not just 1-2 years but for a lifetime.
OVERTRAINING + STRESSORS:
What motivated me to write this article is the volume of questions I have been receiving from youth to professional athletes about how their training and recovery should evolve throughout their season. What has been the norm up until this point is the same training someone may be undergoing leading up to their main competitive season looks the exact same as their training during their competitive season and postseason. Another factor that is unfortunately very common is the amount of time allowed for your body to recover between games and practice sessions. What we can expect with this approach is a lack of physical and mental growth, and an increased chance of overuse injuries..
- Lack of sleep
- Going to bed late
- Eating processed and fast foods
- High amounts of exposure to laptops, phones, TV’s
- Consistent training days in a row without rest
- Arguments with teachers, friends, parents
- Stressing over school work & relationships
- Similar training workouts
- 8 hours or more of quality sleep
- Going to bed at an appropriate time (8-10 pm)
- Eating whole, natural foods
- Eating enough of the right foods
- Moments of quiet and lack of thoughts (meditation)
- Slow, restorative movement sequences (mobility + yoga)
- Cold showers
- Foam rolling
- Leisure walks
These examples above are just some of the things that you can be doing on a daily basis that will help either fill up your tank or deplete and run your tank dry. It is important to understand that you do not need a bunch of fancy equipment or memberships to help you recover. Your body reacts in a similar way to you being stressed in traffic or having a hard training session; stress is stress. To further highlight the importance of balancing your stress levels, the graph below describes how a lack of recovery and variability in your training can hinder your performance.
What we see in this graph is that after each training session, your body is actually in a worse position to perform and the only way for our line to move above the baseline is through recovery. You are not equipped to run your fastest 20-yard sprint after a long, hard practice but rather, after a period of rest and recovery. What many people don’t realize is that in order for us to actually see a positive adaptation and change to our physical performances, we shouldn’t just continue to train hard everyday but we should instead complement hard training with recovery modalities like sleep, nutrition, and mobility techniques. Look at this idea in the context of a car; you need gas in order to run and jump and you only have so much gas in your tank before you need to fill back up. If you are constantly filling your gas tank back up, then you will be better-suited everyday to drive your car at a high level.
STIMULATE + RECOVER:
As we mentioned above not having the right balance of exercise and recovery can lead to an overall decline in our performance. If we are smart with the amount of rest time we allow ourselves in between our training sessions, and fill those rest periods with the right active recovery stimulants, then we put ourselves in an optimal position to keep progressing for years to come. The graph below shows what an ideal routine and schedule would look like for someone who is looking to get better, year after year.
What you see in this graph is the natural process that takes place throughout our body before and after training. Remember the car analogy: Before you train, your body is filled with gas, and after you train, your gas in the tank is lower then when you started; but if you allow yourself the time and space to recover from a hard training session, you not only fill your gas tank back up but you allow your tank to now carry more gas each time you drive; this is called “Supercompensation”. This means that when you pushed your body during your training session, you were asking your body to become better a certain drill (which we will call drill #1). Your body had to work extra hard and used energy from your body’s reserves to complete drill #1, and when you allowed your body time to recover, it actually became more equipped and better prepared to do drill #1 during your next training session.
Now, another thought you may have is how long exactly does it take to fully recover and see “Supercompensation” occur? This is a process that is highly variable and individualized for each person. There is some research that says it takes about 1-3 days to recover from a high intensity training session but there are multiple factors that come into play. Remember that everything in this world is considered a stressor, so the more we build up our negative stressors, the more our line continues to go further and further down and the more we are able to expose our body to positive stressors, we give our body the chance to rise above our baseline performance.
I continue to refer to the importance of recovery in the context of athletic performance. You see, everything in this world is considered a stressor, from the arguments with your parents (negative stressor), to the time spent foam rolling (positive stressor), to the workouts you encounter in your sport (negative stressor). Each one of these stressors has the ability to fill up your gas tank or deplete your gas tank; if you are consistently exposing your body to negative stressors, then you allow your body no time to fill the tank back up. The word recovery can be used in many different ways to describe many different techniques but in this article, we will refer to some of the biggest recovery tools that do not cost a single dollar.
Sleep: it is the single most important stressor (positive stressor) that you can expose your body to, to assist in recovery and filling your gas tank back up. This is the one factor that I did not respect in middle school, high school, or college and it was probably the most limiting factor into my development and evolution as an athlete. Now, as a kid you may think that sleep is not important and it is very common to see kids run off of 4-6 hours of sleep per night. What many people forget to mention to athletes is that when we workout, whether it be lifting weights, sprinting, shooting 1,000 shots, or taking 1,000 ground balls, we break down muscle fibers and make them weaker and more fatigued. The only way for our body to come back stronger, faster, and overall a better athlete is through hormones! Hormones like dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and growth hormone have a significant impact upon your mental and physical performance. It is ideal to get at least 8 hours of sleep and go to bed at an optimal time every night. Science has proven that being able to go to bed before 10 pm ensures that your body has the best chances of recovery through the power of your hormones.
Nutrition: as we previously mentioned how important our hormone levels are, you’ll want to consider how nutrition has the ability to optimize your hormones as well as sleep. Every time we consume food, that food is being utilized to build up the gas in our gas tank and if you are really respecting the amount and quality of foods you eat, you give yourself the best chances to build that tank up to hold more gas and run more efficiently. The basic building block of energy we often use for our performances are carbohydrates, they ensure that your body has enough fuel to not only physically perform but mentally as well. If we do not eat enough carbs or quality carbohydrates, then we are definitely not putting ourselves in the best position to be successful and perform at a high level (and if you are someone who is already considered a high-level performer, try eating quality types of food as a trial).
Mobility: strength and performance training are absolutely essential for us to get faster & stronger but what is often overlooked is the importance of joint-by-joint mobility and decompression. Just like rest & recovery compliment the negative stressor of performance training, ensuring that our joints can move through their full ranges of motion with active control compliments your strength and performance training. To not only make sure our performances continue to build at a high level but that injury mitigation is taken into account. Each sport has their movement patterns that are done over and over; I am sure you have done thousands and thousands of reps of shooting, running, swinging, etc. As humans our joints and bodies were not made to withstand such patterns at such a high rate. Mobility gives us the best chances to stay healthy and durable throughout your career; it ensures that our joints continue to move the way they were designed to move and withstand the constant wear and tear of training. Remember, the best ability is availability.
Hopefully if you are an athlete or a coach reading this article, you have been able to resonate with a couple ideas mentioned above, whether it’s the constant, daily grind of practice, or the desire to push in your training space to get better everyday. I know that as a kid, I was always told that whenever I was resting, or not training, someone was out there practicing and getting better. This made me feel like I was losing ground to my opponent and not improving my game in some capacity. What I would say to this is: 1.) Understand the way the human body responds and recovers to stimulation and stressors and 2.) Understand your bigger picture (goals) and create your plan (process) centered on how your body responds to practices, games, training, and recovery. If you are interested in learning more about how to approach your training/performance schedule for the whole calendar year, make sure you check out our article that describes how you should be training throughout your season, pre-season, and postseason.
(If you’d like to learn more on how you can be optimizing your training and recovery routine, feel free to reach out to us at (firstname.lastname@example.org)