This is an article I wrote for the athletes and parents at the Volleyball Canada Center of Excellence (VCCE) in Langley. The athletes have a pretty demanding schedule that involves weight-room and on-court training at 6am, in addition to normal high school and club sport commitments after school. The potential for over-training exists if the athletes are not taking correct steps to aid in recovery. This turned out to be longer than I wanted it to be, but if you have the time to read it, it contains some of the best keys to decreasing recovery time and preventing injuries.
Keys to Taking Care of Your Athlete this Semester
With the additional training that comes with being a part of VCCE, there is an increased risk of ‘burn out’ or ‘overtraining’. This is enhanced with the fact that most VCCE sessions occur early in the morning before school. Your son/daughter is likely participating in a number of high school, and club sports in addition to their VCCE training. I fully support the multi-sport athlete; however, collectively as coaches/parents/athletes we must be wary of overtraining. Young athletes should have no problem coping with the volume and intensity of practices in multiple sports if appropriate emphasis is placed on recovering properly. Here are some things you can do to help your son/daughter recover properly, and increase energy levels.
- One of the most important factors in recovery is nutrition. Both pre-practice and post-practice nutrition are vital. Below are some key points regarding nutrition.
- Eat Breakfast Everyday: With the early mornings, the temptation will be there to skip breakfast. It is important to send your son/daughter to VCCE training sessions with a good breakfast in them in order to give them the best opportunity to succeed. Even on days that don’t involve an early morning VCCE session, a good breakfast is vital to providing energy for the day. A good breakfast includes a source of protein (such as eggs) and a carbohydrate source (oatmeal, toast, fruit, muffins, etc). Please note that a bowl of cereal is NOT a high performance breakfast, and does not provide the nutrients needed to fuel an athlete.
- Eat a Post Exercise Snack/Meal: Eating immediately (0-15 minutes) after exercise has been shown to reduce recovery times. Reducing recovery times will allow a busy athlete to train more often without suffering symptoms of overtraining. Have your son/daughter throw some snacks in their bag to eat right after practice. Chocolate milk is a fantastic post exercise snack that is widely available. Some other good choices include: fruit, granola bars, bagels, etc.
- Eat 4-5 Meals per Day: This one is pretty self explanatory. Participating in many events requires you to take in more food. The body is also unable to store the protein required to repair muscles for later use, so eating smaller amounts at regular intervals is much better than gorging yourself at one large meal. Athletes should aim to eat a meal every 3-4 hours.
- Early morning practices require you to alter sleeping patterns. Sleep is vital to performance and recovery. With growing young athletes sleep is even more important. The more sleep the athlete can get, the better they will recover.
- Get 8+ Hours of Sleep per Night: Most of the recovery in muscle tissue that occurs happens while we sleep. While there are infinite ways of making an athlete more tired, there is one proven way to make an athlete less tired. Give the athlete time to sleep and recover from all their hard work.
- Take Naps/Sleep in: Research is showing that sleep is cumulative. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, or don’t get enough night time sleep for another reason, hope is not lost. Missed sleep can be partially made up for by taking naps. Find a napping schedule that leaves you waking up refreshed and energetic (I personally need to sleep for less than 20 minutes or for more than 2+ hours, otherwise I wake up groggy and less energetic than before my nap). Sleeping in on the weekends is another fantastic way to ‘catch up’ on sleep.
- The athlete needs to take ownership of their own recovery in between training sessions. This will require some work off the court in addition to developing proper eating and sleeping habits. You can help your son/daughter by encouraging them to follow the activities prescribed to them during training sessions. Each athlete has already undergone a functional movement screen to determine any problematic area’s that could lead to injuries down the line. Corrective exercises have been assigned to those who need it. Other exercises and other recovery techniques are often assigned throughout the semester.
- Complete Assigned Exercises: The assigned corrective exercises are designed to keep them healthy and at peak performance levels. They could vary from basic stretching to intense plyometrics depending on the athlete and time of season.
- Foam Roll 5+ Times per Week: The athletes will also be encouraged to foam roll. A foam roller is a fantastic tool to aid in recovery. Introduction to foam rolling will occur during training sessions, and should be done whenever possible! Foam rollers were offered as an option upon registration with VCCE. They can also be purchased at any fitness or running store. If you want to purchase a foam roller please let me know.
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping people reach their health/performance related goals. Leave a message in the comments if you have any questions about what you read, or have any recovery tips you would like to share.
EDGE Strength & Conditioning is a training company committed to developing elite level athletic performance in Langley and Abbotsford, BC. Contact Us if you would like help reaching your goals. To stay up to date on new articles follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.