10 Ways To Optimize Performance and Improve Injury Recovery
Today’s athletes benefit from scientific research about nutrition, movement, training, and recovery. Because of this, the athletes of today have surpassed performance standards from previous generations. Consider the feat of breaking the five-minute mile. At one point in history, that was the goal of runners. Now, runners are completing mile runs in under four minutes.
Researchers are continuing to look for ways to improve performance and speed up recovery. They’ve already found several tips that any athlete can use to work on performance and recovery.
Tip #1: Build Muscle Memory
Athletes tend to specialize in one sport. To become the best they can at that sport, they repeat the movements that they do regularly. Consider a baseball shortstop. He has to repeatedly practice fielding balls and throwing to the bases. Anyone who has tried to play shortstop without any practice knows how challenging that position is. But, after training the muscles, practiced shortstops make the tasks look easy.
Tip #2: Get Regular Treatments
Research finds that athletes often benefit from regular chiropractic treatments. With regular adjustments, the spine and joints remain supple. Some athletes choose massage or chiropractic adjustment first because they understand how important recovery is for their physical successes. If you get your massage first, your joints will be better prepared for adjustments. And, if you choose the adjustment first, your massage therapist will have an easier time getting your muscles to relax.
Tip #3: Vary Your Workouts
While muscle memory is vital to any athlete’s success, it is also necessary to move in varied ways. If athletes only work their necessary muscles, they can have repetitive-use injuries. When athletes change-up their workouts, their muscles get surprised and build strength and flexibility.
As you vary your workouts, be sure you are doing things that are useful. For example, the baseball shortstop needs to build flexibility and fast-twitch muscles. So, it can be helpful for the shortstop to do yoga for flexibility and to do box jumps or other plyometrics for fast-twitch muscles.
Tip #4: Get Functional
Athletes need activities that will help them reach their goals. For example, the baseball shortstop should do some weight lifting, but not in the same way a football lineman would. The regular regimen should match the movements the athlete will be doing on a regular basis. By focusing on functional moves, the athlete is less likely to be injured, because the necessary muscles are strengthened. But, those moves should be changed occasionally to keep complementary muscles moving, too.
Tip #5: Eat Nutritious Food on a Set Schedule
Top athletes often work with nutritionists who can develop meal plans for training, performance, and recovery. We are what we eat, so top athletes tend to only eat healthy foods that help their performance. Athletes at any level can improve their performance by improving their food choices.
Eating a healthy breakfast is a must for athletes. Breakfast has proven to speed up metabolism and can give athletes the fuel they need to get moving. Athletes also time their meals around their workouts. Nutritionists will help athletes choose how to fuel their workouts and how to recover after them.
Tip #6: Track Your Workouts and Diets
To understand how their bodies are changing, they track their workouts and meals. They can do this with online tracker apps or with traditional pen-and-paper methods. They track how much they lift, how far they stretch, and how fast they run. They also track what they eat and how they feel after eating and exercising. Tracking is one of the few ways to learn about growth and progress. Athletes can also learn what isn’t working for them so they can look for an alternative.
Unfortunately, athletes will have injuries, so it is important that they learn how to speed up their recoveries. Workouts that include conditioning, variety, and muscle-memory movements, athletes are less likely to suffer from injuries. But, they do happen, so it is helpful to be prepared.
Tip #7: Use the RICE Technique
Soft tissue injuries always seem to take too long to heal. One way to help the body heal is to use the RICE technique. The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation. Athletes should use this technique as soon as possible after their soft-tissue injuries.
RICE can help speed up recovery, reduce pain and swelling, and lower the chances of complications. Some athletes will pack instant ice packs in their gear bags so they can quickly get going with the RICE technique if they are injured. Athletes should do the RICE technique for 30-minute periods.
Tip #8: Don’t Wait to Get Help
Athletes who are injured should meet with a trainer or other health care provider as quickly as they can. The health care provider can tell the athlete how much rest they need or if they can continue training. They can also order X-rays or other diagnostic tests or treatments based on the injury. Waiting too long can create more problems, especially if the athlete does not get proper rest before hitting the field again.
Tip #9: Learn from the Injury
Athletes should take time to learn about what happened to cause the injury. New technology can help health care providers and trainers learn what caused accidents. Some injuries are caused by impact injuries or fluky accidents. No matter how the injury happened, it should be studied. For some athletes a small change in muscle memory movements can prevent different types of injuries from ever happening again.
Tip #10: Work with a Professional
If the athlete needs rehabilitation, she should work with a professional physical therapist or sports trainer. Often, teams will recommend their athletes work with highly qualified sports physical therapists because they understand the specific physical needs of elite athletes. Working without a therapist can add more injuries, especially if moves are not analyzed and done properly. Athletes need to respect their injuries, not neglect them. A qualified sports physical therapist will be able to help the athlete get back to competition safely and effectively.