San Diego Training Systems
Focus on Recovery
It’s no secret that multi-sport athletes enjoy advantages that single-sport athletes might not. Being a multi-sport athlete, especially at the professional level, generally means you don’t experience performance fatigue, you enjoy a balanced psychological and physical approach to sport, and because you’re not always focusing on one muscle group, you’re less likely to exhaust or overly-injure one area of your body.
However, when injury does occur or if you’re just trying to recuperate in between sports, how you recover has a direct impact on the time it takes to get back on the bike, on the road, or into the pool. Here are a few ways to return your body to its top performance.
Monitor Your Hydration Levels
This should always be the first step you take whether you play three sports or ten. Hydration levels should be measured and monitored before, during, and after a competition. During the recovery process, compare your pre-competition body mass with your post-competition mass. During training and competition, your body is losing electrolytes, fluids, and glucose while simultaneously battling cortisol levels increases. Depending on your body mass, you should be consuming a combination of water and a significant amount of sodium. Hydrated tissue and muscle translate into increased oxygenation, which speeds up recovery.
Take Cold Baths
For those who choose active recovery (which is often considered the gold standard for multi-sport athletes), cold water immersion could have some credible benefits. Some research suggests that cold water immersion can significantly decrease inflammation, which can delay muscle soreness and pain. Most professional coaches and trainers suggest submersion for approximately 5-10 minutes, in temperatures ranging between 54 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Replenish Glycogen Levels
An absolutely crucial step to successful recovery for any multi-sport athlete is to restore depleted glycogen levels. Glycogen is one of the most important fuel reserves for the body and is almost solely responsible for maintaining blood glucose levels to feed the brain. Any and all forms of aerobic fitness are directly impacted by the levels of glycogen stored in your muscles. While it was long thought that carb-loading before a competition was the key to maintaining, research has shown that glucose gels and a low-carb, ketogenic diet are not only more effective but better for your overall health.
Try Tai Chi
During active recovery, it’s important to keep your body moving, the blood circulating effectively and the mind clear. Tai chi is an exceptional low-impact martial art that increases balance, builds strength, and evokes complete body awareness. The slow, flowing movements bring a sense of calm to the body as well as reduce stiffness and soreness. Tai chi also activates the parasympathetic nervous system which increases digestion, slows your heart rate, and decreases respiration. It puts you into a meditative state while keeping your joints and muscles in movement.
Get Regular Massages
Active recovery in combination with massage can be a great strategy, especially for runners and cyclists. Massage in isolation (specific muscle groups) can not only encourage more efficient blood flow to a particular area, but also provide relaxing psychological benefits. Massage should be a measure that you include in your recovery plan, as well as your injury prevention plan.
Consider Using Compression Gear
For those who are prone or concerned about circulatory and lymphatic conditions, compression can reduce the intramuscular space that swells during overuse. Compression garments also help to consistently align muscle fibers, which also reduces overall muscle soreness. While in active recovery, wearing compression gear not only serves a medical purpose but can also be a psychological reminder to take it easy on your body while it’s trying to heal itself.
Get Actual Rest
It’s hard to admit, but there will be times when you just can’t exercise your way through an injury. In those cases, you may need to take time off completely from any form of active recovery. Muscle tissue, while resilient, is also prone to, let’s call it, “sickness.” If it is repeatedly stressed, with little to no time to rebuild, you’re not only setting yourself up for prolonged recovery but increasing the possibility of continuously injuring the same muscle group.
Rest doesn’t just mean getting enough sleep (which is absolutely vital). It also means resting the mind. Injuries can cause disruption to our sleep patterns for a number of reasons, but it’s often the psychological impact of recovery that is the most disruptive. Consider meditation techniques and calming activities.
Remember to keep the lines of communication open with your trainers, coaches, and counselors about the state of your mental well-being.