Written by: Scott Pucek, CSCS, USAW, MS, XPS, MEd
Ok, so you’ve worked your tail off the entire spring and summer preparing for the upcoming season. You’ve spent countless hours spent running sprints, lifting weights, etc… to get into the best possible shape of your life. Football Season is finally here and now you’re excited to show your coaches and teammates the return from all your hard work investment! You’ve gotten a little bigger and faster… and A LOT stronger!
As awesome as that is and how much work you’ve done to improve… how you recover is just as important. The intense demands and rigors during training camp can negatively impact your performance or even make you more susceptible to injury.
There are several crucial methods (or strategies) we can quite easily incorporate to help you recover more quickly between training/practice sessions, stave off fatigue and exhaustion and actually help you improve your performance.
Here are a four strategies to maximize your recovery:
- Hydration! Hydration!
Staying properly hydrated is one of the most crucial steps to make sure you are performing at your best and most importantly, staying safe! As we should already be acutely aware, severe dehydration can be a life threatening situation. Luckily, hydration is completely within our control and one of the easiest strategies to implement.
The scope of this article is focused on performance impact. Did you know that just a slight state of dehydration can negatively impact performance by 5-10% or more?
This would equate to an athlete running a 4.95sec 40YD sprint who runs a 4.5sec 40YD sprint when hydrated! I don’t know a single football player on the planet that would rather run slower by simply choosing to not drink enough fluids!!
A simple strategy to employ would be the following regimen during high intensity, high temperature environment and / or long duration practice sessions during camp:
• 1-2 hours prior to event/session: 17-20 oz
• 15 minutes prior to event/session: 7-10 oz
• Every 15 minutes: 7-10 oz (4-6 gulps)
• Consume 20 oz fluid for every 1 lb of body weight lost
• A 24-HR period of normal eating and drinking should replenish losses *If time does not permit, then rapid rehydration is needed
- Use Food to Re-Fuel
Assuming proper hydration levels have been established, we can now focus our attention on using food to re-fuel our depleted resources.
A combination of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, etc) and quality proteins (around 20-30 grams) consumed immediately after the workout helps the body recover and repair. If food is not readily available, a premade protein shake or bar is ideal for re-fueling energy reserves with quality carbohydrates and proteins. Interestingly, if all other conveniences fail, then good old fashioned chocolate milk is a basic re-fueling agent!
It is then highly recommended to consume a well balanced meal within 45-60 minutes after the workout is vital.
- Use Light Activity to Recover
We learned from the Russians decades ago, that a low intensity active cooldown after a session can significantly reduce post-exercise soreness. Active cooldowns incorporate exercises that gently work the muscles for at least 10 minutes to allow for circulation of blood throughout the body would include an easy jog, bike, swim or light movements to oxygenate the body tissue. This helps to eliminate metabolic waste products (ie. lactic acid) that are produced from the intense training session.
- Hydro-Therapy (ie. cold/hot/contrast baths)
Another effective method to promote recovery immediately after or between training sessions are the use of cold tubs, hot tubs and contrast baths.
Effective cold tub temperatures are approximately 50-60 degrees and exposure should last up to 10 minutes. Cold exposure causes the blood vessels to vasoconstriction – shunting the blood away from the muscles. Upon leaving the cold tub, the blood vessels will vasodilate and bring nutrient rich blood back to the muscles, effectively aiding to flush the metabolic waste.
Hot tubs will cause blood vessel vasodilation, which encourages the blood to bring all its vital nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and body tissue. Temperatures should be between 95-105 degrees. It is recommended to use this modality after the last session or at the end of the day because it has a very calming effect on the nervous system and relaxes the muscles.
Perhaps the best way to manipulate the temperature exposure to maximize recovery is by using a ‘contrast’ approach – alternating between cold and hot.
Ideally to be done within 15-30 minutes after the session. Effective ratio of time spent in each should be 1:3 cold:hot. An example would be to enter the cold tub for one minute followed by three minutes in the hot tub and completing 3-4 rounds (finishing in the cold).
- Rest and Sleep
Oftentimes athletes do not give themselves enough adequate sleep and rest. We cannot minimize this importance. Only during rest can our bodies and mind regenerate or rebuild them. Training, practices and games tear our body (and mind) down and create trauma throughout our whole body. The proper Recovery Cycle balances work and rest to create optimal Performance Adaptation.
WORK + REST = ADAPTATION
Finding this delicate balance depends on many factors, such as intensity and duration of the workout, which muscle groups were utilized, biological and training age, medical history and condition, scheduling, personal life requirements, nutrition and sleep habits are just the starting point.
Ideally, 8 hours of continuous sleep or a combination of sleep and naps each day are necessary to maximize recovery and optimize performance.
About Scott Pucek, CSCS, USAW, MS, XPS, MEd:
Scott has 23 years of experience and has personally trained a host of professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, NBA, Pro Golf, Pro Tennis, NHL and is the Performance Manager for EXOS @ Raleigh Orthopaedic overseeing the delivery of all performance programming, education and coaching systems.
He has acted as a speed and performance consultant to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, North Carolina State University Football and Basketball programs, the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Women’s Soccer and the Texas Legends (of the NBA’s D-League) reflecting his extensive experience and knowledge base across multiple sports and levels. He brings a wealth of knowledge within Combine Prep, NFL Vet training, numerous high profile MLB and MiLB players as well as US Special Forces Tactical and Support personnel, rehabilitating Tactical personnel, the Venezuelan Men’s National Soccer Team (2011) and the Argentinian Women’s National Field Hockey Team (2011).
Scott earned a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology with a concentration in Strength and Conditioning at the University of Virginia and holds certifications as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS – NSCA), EXOS Performance Specialist (XPS), USA Weight Lifting Club Coach (USAW), Fascial Stretch Technique (FST1) and Power Plate Level 1.