Through my experiences, both good and bad, I have learned and gathered various techniques and tricks to help me stay strong and prepared during my skating career. This includes a complete wide-ranging team of therapists (Osteopath, Massage, Acupuncture, Physio), proper warm-up routines, a wholefood, plant-based diet and a precise recovery method. Today I wanted to share with you some of my recovery methods that I have gathered over the years.
Speed of recovery is very important for athletes. Reducing recovery time has a big effect on performance because it controls whether you can train hard again or not. I find that recovery is one of the things that athletes ignore the most until something serious happens and they have no choice but to stop and take the time to rest and recover. If you follow a dedicated plan and routine you can control your recovery by allowing your body the time to repair and strengthen itself. Maintenance is key. By maintaining a regular recovery routine you will keep your body healthier and most likely avoid major problems in the future.
Foods to Help Recovery
- Pineapples with Hemp Seeds: Pineapples are filled with bromelain which helps break down proteins, aids in digestion, reduces swelling and improves blood circulation. The hemp seeds are an anti-inflammatory protein that reduces muscle ache and fatigue thanks to it’s natural magnesium and iron. I like to combine these superfoods after my daily training sessions to enhance my recovery.
- Sweet Potatoes: Rich in natural sugars, sweet potatoes offer tryptophans, an amino acid that relaxes the body and reduces stress hormones. Sweet potatoes are also filled with potassium which restores lost electrolytes from sweat.
- Watermelon: Watermelon has natural antioxidants that are powerful anti-inflammatory agents; reducing free radical production in the body and improving the rate of recovery for athletes.
- Pumpkin Seeds: The protein, iron and magnesium that are found in pumpkin seeds help in repairing muscle cells. They also work to reduce inflammation in the muscles.
Nutrition Tips for Recovery
- We have all heard that protein is essential after a workout. I see athletes drinking protein shakes and eating protein bars that are basically sugar filled chocolate bars and I get a little chuckle. Remember that we only absorb 20-30 grams of protein at a time so make sure to have smaller amounts of protein all day long – not only after a training session.
- Make it easy to digest! Your muscles need blood to deliver nutrients to them. The more your body has to waste energy digesting solid foods or foods filled with sugar or artificial ingredients, the less blood that gets to your muscles. Hydrate plenty after a workout and eat simple wholefoods.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Water is the key to everything. Replace those lost electrolytes from sweating with fruits or a bit of sea salt in your water.
Last winter Arnica became my best friend! Arnica comes in gel, cream or chewable tablets that helps to relieve muscle soreness, cramping and fatigue from training. Arnica comes from a plant in the Daisy family and it is completely homeopathic. When diluted it is known to reduce swelling and pain, help circulation and it is a natural anti-inflammatory. Arnica is a good substitute for Advil or Ibuprofen. Advil and Ibuprofen can damage your intestinal tract and kidneys, while homeopathic Arnica is a natural alternative that will help to heal the body, instead of just covering up the pain like a bandage. Arnica can also be used to reduce bruising.
Magnesium is an important mineral for athletes and is one that most of us are deficient in. The magnesium in Epsom salts helps to improve muscle and nerve function, reduce inflammation, improves blood flow and oxygenation. Since stress and exercise deplete the body of magnesium, athletes are more susceptible to muscle cramps. Increasing your magnesium intake will help reduce muscle cramping. Having an Epsom salt bath after a long training day is an essential part of my recovery routine!
Another important part of my recovery routine (and it should be for most athletes) is having professionals take care of my body. I work once a week with a massage therapist, osteopath, physio and acupuncturist to maintain a healthy body. My weekly (sometimes twice) sports massage is as important as my on-ice training. I need these therapists to keep my muscles and joints limber, movable, pain-free and strong. Acupuncture helps to restore my bodies natural state of balance. It helps encourage neurological and cardiovascular balance which will support homeostasis in the body, thereby preventing injuries. Having regular acupuncture treatments also helps a deeper sleep, permitting muscle tissues to rebuild and energy to be restored. I always try to encourage younger athletes to take care of their bodies and use services such as these. You can prevent so many injuries from happening just by regular treatments with a great therapist. Don’t wait until you are injured to see a therapist, see one on a regular basis to PREVENT an injury from happening.
Foam rolls, recovery rolls, lacrosse balls, and foot-wakers. These are a few of my favourite things! I always have these objects with me everyday at training and again in my living room. It feels so good after a training session when my feet have been inside my skates to open them up on my foot-wakers.
Sometimes I do it in the morning before skating as well, just to bring mobility to the bottom of my feet and wake up my neurological system. I use my recovery roller all day long for my legs. The wheels are made out of roller blade wheels so they are very strong and enable me to get a really deep massage on my quads, IT bands and hamstrings.
Using foam rollers is a good way to do a self myofascial release and relieve muscle tension, increase range of motion and improve flexibility. But sometimes foam rollers and recovery roll can’t quite hit the sweet spot for you, and that’s when a lacrosse ball or tennis ball comes in handy. These balls can target smaller areas like the neck, shoulder, chest, glute, groin, etc. Use a small ball such as one of these to release tough to reach spots!
Sleep is absolutely crucial for athletes to performance at an optimal level and for their long-term health. While you are sleeping, your mind and your body are in full recovery mode. It’s important to keep your sleep patterns as consistent as possible, your temperature cool, your room dark and the noise surrounding you at a minimum in order to reach an optimal deep, restful sleep. It is scientifically proven that rested athletes are faster, more accurate and have a quicker reaction time. So put some lavender on your pillow, disconnect from your phone or computer and get some peaceful shut eye so you’re ready to give it everything you’ve got at training in the morning!
I truly believe that one of the most important factors in terms of improving and maintaining performance is recovery. Athletes need to be sure to control their rest the same way that they control their work. Balance is key. I am 30 years old and my body is in better shape now than when I was a teenager due to how I now approach things. This list of recovery tips could keep going, but I believe this is a good starting point. I hope you learned something new to incorporate into your training plans!