Welcome to our third post in the series on customizing your recovery! In our previous two posts, we addressed the best recovery methods for high school and collegiate athletes. Now let’s take a look at the recovery options that professional athletes can take advantage of.
1. Massage Therapy
Professional athletes may have greater access to massage therapy as another component to their recovery. By this point in the athlete’s career, an extensive strength program is an integral part of training. While incredibly valuable, strength training can cause substantial soreness, thereby reducing the athlete’s range of motion. Massage therapy counteracts this by breaking up tension in the layers of muscle and other soft tissue. Fascia is a layer of tissue that surrounds and attaches to all structures in the body. When you are at rest, fascia is relaxed and pliable. Following intense training, inflammation around the fascia and muscle tissue can cause the two layers to adhere to each other as the fascia becomes tight and restricted. A masseuse can apply gentle pressure to these areas, which will elongate the layer of fascia and release the tension. Athletes can incorporate a massage session into their weekly routine. By restoring your range of motion, you can bring as much intensity to the workouts at the end of the week as the beginning.
Whether you work full-time, participate in sports clinics or sponsorship duties, or simply focus all your energy on training, you need to remember to rehydrate following each workout. Beyond collegiate athletics, your hydration and nutrition are exclusively up to you. You are responsible for reminding yourself to hydrate properly and refuel with a bar, shake, or other food source immediately following training. The quickest highway to muscular recovery is through the blood (specifically blood plasma). If you aren’t properly hydrated, the plasma won’t be able to carry nutrients into the muscle and waste out of it as effectively. Weigh yourself before and after each intense training session to assess your fluid loss. Continue to drink fluids throughout the day to replenish lost fluid and to maintain a hydrated state. This is easily achieved by carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go.
By now, you have an idea of some basic stretches that can be done at home to promote recovery. For chronically tight muscle groups, consult your professional athletic trainer. He or she may provide you with more self-stretches or be able to stretch the muscle group for you. Assisted stretching can apply the appropriate pressure and angle to a stretch that you normally could not achieve alone. If you have had soft tissue injuries in the past, your trainer can assign specific stretches to combat stiffness in that region. Check out Nick’s Video Series on Stretching to help you recover from your next workout.
All the previous tips for high school and collegiate athletes still apply to professional athletes. Ice baths, contrast baths, hydration, and sufficient post-workout protein and carbohydrate intake are great tools. Build your arsenal of recovery methods to use at every opportunity you can. Professional athletes cover a wide spectrum of people with diverse lifestyles and demands outside of their sport. Whatever your time constraints, make your recovery a priority so you can reap the true benefits of your training.