Recovery for (High School) Athletes
I have gotten a number of email questions recently about recovery strategies for high school athletes so I felt that it would be easier to address these questions in a blog post as many may have similar questions and my replies are typically very similar. I put the words “high school” in parentheses because the this information does not only apply to high school athletes but really to all athletes in general.
“What are some recovery techniques I can use for my high school athletes to help them recover faster following training?”
I think the important thing to remember about recovery strategies is that you want to use them when you need them. Obviously there are times when recovery modalities are needed (after games, as the season goes on and athletes tend to get beat up, or during phases of training where there is a particularly high level of intensity and/or volume) but it shouldn’t be something you need to do all the time. You have to consider the fact that the whole process of training is to increase some stress, disrupt homeostasis, and then allow the athlete to adapt and improve. The increased inflammation, changes in hormonal state, and break down of tissue, while often thought of as being a “negative” thing, is actually a normal process and can be beneficial as it is these sorts of markers which tell the body to adapt to the stimulus just placed upon it.
Another thing to remember is that the more fit an individual becomes the better prepared they are to tolerate the rigors of training, the higher their stress resistance will be, and the less they will need to rely on recovery modalities.
Too often athletes want to rush to the ice bath, massage table, or sauna because they want to “recover”, when often times they are out of shape and not able to tolerate the training volume/intensity. Either that or they are not doing the little things well – eating healthy meals, consuming adequate amounts of nutrients, and getting a proper amount of sleep.
One of the best things you can do for recovery is having a good training program with sound progressions. Coaches and athletes are often quick to rush through the general physical preparation phase of training to get to the more sexy progressions like intense plyometrics, max strength work, and high volumes of intense sprints. While there is certainly nothing wrong with these training methods it is important to take the time to allow the athletes to develop a high level of fitness so that they can handle this sort of stress and effectively adapt to it and prepare their body to handle more advanced and more intense forms of training (this is especially important for younger athletes who are less developed). This means placing a high emphasis on general preparation.
Some key things to consider:
- Are you setting up your training program to ensure that the athletes spend a sufficient amount of time in the general preparation phase of training?
- Do your athletes need recovery or are they just out of shape? Have they earned the right to use recovery modalities?
- Do your athletes need recovery or are your training progressions t0o advanced to allow them to make the necessary adaptations, causing them to get overly fatigued and/or breakdown?
- Are your training days through the week balanced with regard to intensity to allow for active recovery to take place within the training program?
- Are your athletes doing the basic things first like eating well and sleeping enough? There is no need to talk about elaborate supplement schemes or other recovery modalities if they are not doing the basics well. For younger athletes this is an especially important time in their lives where the coach can have a positive impact on them as far as instilling healthy behaviors and habits that they can carry with them throughout their entire lives.
Recovery is more than just foam rolling or getting a massage every week. It should be a part of the entire training process not just something you do on Sunday morning.