In everyday life, there are multiple factors that will affect an athlete’s ability to participate at his or her highest possible level. It is important to treat the athlete as a “psychosocialphysiological entity.” This includes all the areas in which an athlete is stressed. Stress, or fatigue, is categorized in four groups that make up the “psychosocialphysiological entity” that is the athlete. These factors can be mental, social, emotional, and physical stresses. An athlete may be affected with one or all of these at any given time. In student-athlete’s lives, for example, it is not uncommon for them to be physically stressed due to the demands of their sport, mentally stressed from the demands of school, socially stressed from peer pressure, and emotionally stressed from involvement in any relationship, whether it is good or bad.
Stress is not always a negative aspect of life. Some stressors are good for the body and promote growth, others prevent growth. Too much bad stress causes increased levels of cortisol, which has a catabolic effect on the body, and prevents muscular hypertrophy and minimizes or stops strength. This is where the importance of restoration and recovery come into play. There are a multitude of rest and recovery techniques including sleep, massage, thermal modalities including hydrotherapy and electronic modalities.
Adequate sleep is probably the first thing most people think of when rest is discussed. When sleeping, your body is completely at rest. During sleep, your muscles are finally given a break from the constant support that they provide through out the day. Your body’s energy systems get a chance to restore (provided proper nutrition). Although important, sleep may be the hardest of the restoration techniques to achieve. Think of all the factors there are to prevent someone form a good nights sleep. There are constant distractions all around us, especially the student-athlete. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all of the distracting factors from our lives so other tactics may need to be implemented.
Although nothing can replace sleep, there are relaxation techniques that will help decrease the stresses of everyday life and help your muscle relax. A massage can be just as restoring or more to your muscles as a mid day nap. Massage techniques can promote blood flow and stimulation to muscles which will bring in more nutrients to the muscles.
Another restoration technique is the use of thermal modalities. Examples of such are the use of heat, ice, and water. The use of ice and heat are commonly used preventative means of restoration and recovery. Utilizing a heating pad before a warm up to help draw more blood flow to an area can be beneficial. Using heat throughout the day as a means to prevent the “stiffening” of a muscle can also be implemented. Ice is perhaps the best way to prevent tomorrow’s potential injury. The use of ice as a modality is important for minimizing and preventing swelling in muscles and joints post work out. Ice can be applied directly to the skin in a bag, as an ice cup, or as an ice bath. All of which will help to with vasoconstriction of the blood vessels preventing excessive amounts of blood flow to an area thereby decreasing swelling.
Hydrotherapy can also be classified as a thermal modality. The use of “Scotch showers” are a favorite means of recovery among weightlifters post work out. A “scotch shower” is using hot and cold water to vasodialate and vasoconstrict the blood vessels repeatedly to increase and decrease the amount of blood flow to the muscles. It is essentially bringing in more “good” blood (oxygenized blood) to an area and removing the “bad” blood (deoxygenized blood), promoting faster recovery. The temperature range of the shower varies throughout the shower becoming hotter and colder with each cycle. The shower will usually start with a high temp of 98 degrees F and a low of 80 degrees F, ending with a high temperature of about 104-106 degrees F and a low of 34 degrees F. Alternate the temperature, beginning with hot water for about 1 minute, followed by cold for ten seconds intervals.
For the injured athlete in a clinical setting, the use of Electrical Stimulation, or Estim and Ultrasound are frequently used. Esitm can be used to decrease swelling and muscle re-education through the use of electrical currents running through the targeted muscle. Ultrasound promotes blood flow through sound waves that travel through the skin and into the musculature. These modalities are generally seen in the rehabilitation process of an injured athlete.
Without proper rest and recovery, an athlete may never reach their fullest potential. There are a lot of athletes who do not give their bodies enough rest between exercise bouts, and in the long run end up cheating themselves, or worse injured. Rest and recovery is just as important to a strength and conditioning program as the program design itself, and should always be included.
Baechle, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning: Second Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000.