Elite athletes train differently at the club / high school, collegiate, and professional levels. Training also fluctuates within each season, ranging from heavy conditioning phases to strength phases to speed and power phases. Your recovery methods at any given level or time of year should reflect your current training. In this series of posts, I will discuss the primary differences in recovery methods for high school, collegiate, and professional athletes based on factors such as training habits, lifestyle, age, and body composition.
A major factor that distinguishes high school or club training and recovery from that of collegiate or professional athletics is the “youth” factor. While female athletes tend to physically mature earlier than male athletes, all athletes at this age are still developing as a whole. The athlete’s body is still growing and muscle and fat compositions are constantly adjusting. Additionally, fewer athletes participate in weightlifting during high school, so muscle mass can be highly variable from one person to the next. Most of the muscle soreness athletes experience can be attributed to sport-specific training and bodyweight exercises rather than from heavy lifting.
Club and high school athletes can inherently recover faster than collegiate or professional athletes. They are simply younger and their bodies are incredibly efficient at bouncing back from mechanical stress. This is part of why you can endure grueling workouts day after day in your teenage years, with fewer exclusive “recovery” days in your training. However, these youth athletes should maximize their recovery by addressing their primary needs: adequate sleep and balanced nutrition.
The majority of your growth and recovery occurs while you are asleep. Teenage athletes are growing and training heavily, requiring more sleep than the average high school student. Shoot for 8-9 hours of shut-eye. Be consistent with your bedtime because the quality of your sleep will have as great an impact on your training and well-being as the quantity you obtain. Athletes with morning workouts should try to find a window of time to take short naps during the week or on the weekend if their schedule is too hectic.
Proper nutrition is also critical here. Home cooked meals are preferable to school lunches and take-out dinners. Prepare your lunches at home and bring healthy snacks to school so you can maintain your energy levels throughout your classes. Always bring a water bottle to school with you as well. Your hydration during the day will have a large impact on how your body feels as you head in to your afternoon workout. Remember to re-fuel within 30 minutes of finishing your practice—especially if you won’t be having dinner right away when you get home. You can pack a chocolate milk drink, an energy bar, or another preferred post-workout snack in your bag to have as soon as you finish.
Teenage athletes are particular good at recovering quickly on their own. Good habits in sleep and nutrition will enhance your ability to recover by providing your body with the rest and energy it needs!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out 5 Ways to Accelerate your Recovery.