The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way athletes and athletic trainers manage recovery, healing, and performance optimization. Supporting athlete wellness is as important as ever, but now it comes with additional challenges and urgency, including ensuring limited contact during treatment, respecting social distancing guidelines, restricting interpersonal interactions, and the increased need for sterilization and sanitation.
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Most young athletes believe that if they simply lift weights more often, they will automatically get bigger and stronger. A high-quality session followed by optimal recovery will lead to much greater adaptations than non-stop lifting.Additional ways to gain an edge over other athletes is by having the intent to recover better than them. Most young athletes, and many elite, do not eat well, sleep enough or generally think about how they can help their body feel and move better.
We know that reaching for a six-pack instead of a protein shake, or that big ‘ole serving of fries instead of the roasted chicken, could interfere with our gains. And we know that our bodies need some extra TLC in the form of an Epsom salt bath, extra sleep, and a little bit of foam rolling after an especially hard training day or week in the gym.
Over the last decade, NBA players are enjoying longer successful careers, and this could be attributable to Trainers and Physical Therapists now being proactive instead of reactive — focusing on monitoring fatigue, reducing injuries, and recovery.
"The game is faster now, and more explosive athletes like basketball players need more recovery time because there's more muscle damage, so it's what players do between games — when they travel, when they train — that has the biggest impact."
Once again, sleep is in the headlines as a critical component in sport performance recovery. It is a focus of Bulls director of sports performance, Chip Schaefer, who also utilizes several forms of monitoring tech to maximize performance.
Sleep has both a psychological and physiological benefit including alertness, immune function, metabolism, memory, and learning. Sleep plays a huge role in athletic recovery, alleviating muscle soreness, as well as controlling appetite hormones and blood glucose levels.
There is a huge pressure on kids and their families to choose their best sport earlier and earlier, in hopes that the extra time they dedicate to it will return to them more success, maybe even get them a college scholarship or professional payday. However, by specializing early, a young athlete misses out on the many benefits of Sport Diversification including, but not limited to: mental and physical fatigue reduction, overall athleticism, mental toughness, and injury reduction.
"Performance equals potential minus interference" is the motto of David Hamilton, Assistant Athletic Director for Applied Health and Performance Science at Penn State University and previous Director of Performance Science with USA Field Hockey. The biggest and most obvious interference is injury which can be affected by a multitude of factors, namely fatigue and recovery, for which he has strong protocols for addressing.
As a huge proponent of firefly™, Courtney Watson, Head Athletic Trainer for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and founder of Court's Corner LA, strives to educate her athletes on the importance of recovery. That in order to improve their performance and longevity on the court, it is what they do and don't do off the court that has the biggest impact.
As a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I work with my clients to establish and lead healthy lifestyle through proper fitness, nutrition, and rest and recovery. These components apply to everyone — regardless of their age, fitness level, or goals. My clients are both local and online so I rely on methods and products that are transferable from in-person relationships to internet-only relationships.
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