OK ladies, I'm here to give it to you straight. We're all athletes, we've all been forced into ice baths against our will at one point or another. I'm going to break down the recovery methods that I like the most and let you know if they're worth the $$.
(Keep in mind that I'm not educated in ANY of these fields and I'm either speaking from personal experience, a quick Google search, or blatantly out of my ass.)
Benefits: In my book, sleep is singlehandedly the most important recovery method there is. The reason that I think this is because I feel like a zombie when I have ANYTHING interrupt my sleep. I need total darkness, white noise, the perfect temperature, and a completely horizontal position in order to wake up refreshed. But when I have all those things, I'm virtually unstoppable. Sometimes I struggle to get to sleep at night after a late game, and this sucks because it leaves me feeling even worse the next day. The key to getting a good night's sleep is figuring out what you need and creating that environment for yourself every night. And honestly, if you're changing time zones or really having a hard time, a little melatonin never hurt anyone.
Keep in mind: YOU ARE AN ATHLETE. You likely need more sleep than your partner or your friends or your parents. Go to bed early and sleep without setting an alarm whenever possible.
Another thing that my roommate, Lynn, likes to remind me of this this- don't watch TV in bed. When you watch 9 episodes in bed and then try to fall asleep, your body has gotten used to the idea that your bed is the place for watching episodes. Make bed the place for sleeping.
Try Headspace for Sleep by clicking this link. (This is NOT an ad, I use this almost every night and it has really helped me fall asleep easier.)
*I've also been using lavender essential oil before bed and, whether it helps or not, it's VERY pleasant.
2. FOOD (Protein, Carbs, Hydration, CALORIES)
Benefits: YOU GOTTA EAT. You gotta eat the right things at the right times. 90% of the time I am having some kind of protein shake after practice or the gym. I'm not at all concerned with gaining weight or "getting beefy" but instead, I"m concerned with recovering and getting my body the nutrients it needs after training.
A typical day of eating for me looks something like this (not pizza night):
9am- coffee, 3 eggs, 1 chicken sausage, fruit
(practice, workout, etc.)
12pm- protein shake, peanut butter sandwhich (post-practice)
2pm- leftovers from dinner the night before
4pm- snack (could be chips and guac, apple with almond butter, cheese and crackers, etc.)
6pm- chicken breast, 1 sweet potato, roasted veggies
9pm- dessert of some sort because I am human (halo top, cookie dough, popcorn, etc.)
Someone once told me that if you need dessert, you didn't eat enough for dinner (Walter). While I totally believe that's true, sometimes you need a smidge of chocolate and I will never say there is anything wrong with that.
I spend a lot of money on food. I'm also not the smartest grocery shopper. The other day I looked at my receipt from Whole Foods and realized that my chicken sausage package was $9.99. Oops. But one of my favorite comedians, Bill Burr, ranted once on his podcast about how grocery stores are basically giving away healthy food in the produce section. Sure, organic cage-free eggs might be 6 bucks, but go ahead and get some FRESH fruits and vegetables. Grocery stores have to get rid of that stuff before it goes bad, so it's not necessarily as costly. A green apple is a cheaper than a protein bar. Make a salad homie!
Staying hydrated is a key part of fueling your body. So you should prob get a Sporting Chic water bottle.
3. Foam Rolling/Stretching
Benefits: If you're an athlete, you need to utilize foam rolling and stretching on your own. Do yourself a favor- go to Dick's Sporting Goods and buy yourself an Orb from Pro-Tec. This thing is literally like Foam Roller 2.0. It's a small, foam ball that is easier to travel with and it gets your hamstrings and glutes a way that the foam roller can't.
I'll get to the benefits of massage therapy, but if you aren't in a situation where weekly massages are going to work with the budget, a foam roller is a small, one-time investment that will do a lot of the same things for your sore muscles.
Benefits: If you haven't heard of cryo yet, where have you been living? Cryotherapy is basically a "hyper-cooling process" during which you stand naked in a chamber that fills up with liquid nitrogen (white icy smoke.) Athletes who use cryotheraphy can experience decreased inflammation, increased performance levels, increased metabolism, reduction of chronic pain and fatigue, a happiness boost, and a collagen boost. (Thanks HoneyColonly.com.)
Yes, it's cold. And yes, it can be expensive. Cryo can cost anywhere from $25-75 per session, which is A LOT when you consider that it only lasts for about 3 minutes. A lot of places have monthly membership fees that are better bang for your buck.
I'm not going to get into the science here, but if you've hit a wall in your training, I recommend finding a place near you and trying it out. I'm sure the person running the machine will talk your ear off about the benefits if you have questions.
In the Raleigh Area? Try XCEL Movement and Performance and ask about their monthly membership.
Boston? Try CryoMed on Newbury Street.
5. Normatec Legs
Benefits: These puppies compress your legs from your toes up to your hips, pushing blood and lymphatic drainage up and out of your legs (towards your heart means the blood will get re-oxygenated and recirculated. Or something.) For more actual info on this. click here.
I have a pair that I use from home and I love them. I can feel the lactic acid getting worked out of my legs when I use them and they were worth the money for me. They definitely are a huge help with recovery, especially in preseason or during two-a-days. I highly recommend them to anyone who is looking to invest in their recovery. Keep in mind, they got three $$$ on my expensiveness scale.
Click here to check them out.
6. Ice baths/Contrast baths
Benefits: I put one $ because I guess you have to buy ice and maybe go to a gym or facility to use a hot tub. But if ice and/or contrast baths are available to you, I think that it's worth experimenting with. I know that people say all the time that there's no actual science to back them up, but Carli Lloyd takes an ice bath every day and things seem to be working out OK for her.
At the very least, an ice or contrast bath can help trick you into feeling less sore. If it has a mental benefit, it's still a benefit.
When I do contrast baths, I start in the hot and end in the cold, going back and forth 3-4 times for about 2 minutes in each. When they're available, I like them and usually take advantage of them.
Benefits: Soft tissue work has been an integral part of my athletic career. Massages can be expensive, and finding a massage therapist that you like and that has the right pressure and experience for you can be extremely challenging. But it's worth the time and money. I get deep tissue massages once a week during season and I feel that it's one of the most important things that I do. Some massage places also offer cupping, which I am a big fan of. I utilize cupping when I am experiencing pain or tightness in a specific area and I find that it brings me a lot of relief.
Massage is also a great excuse to lay down for an hour and not be on your phone or computer. I know it was a good massage when I walk around afterwards with the face cradle marks all over my face and leave drool on the table.
I love yoga so much, but it's so hard for me to get to classes. A- because I'm busy and B- because they're usually too hard if I've already worked out that day. Talk bout shaky arms and the DREAD of getting stuck in downward dog while the teacher goes on a rant about inner peace. I love a good old fashioned restorative class where you basically just lay on the ground and snooze, but I'm also a big fan of doing 20 minutes on my own before or after practice. It gets the body moving in a positive way and it also is a great way to check in with yourself mentally.
Benefits: Rest up, homie. Get hooked on a season of something and lay the F down. Part of recovery is REST. So grab a snack and a blanket and get going on Season 5 of House of Cards.
Am I missing something? Let a sister know your favorite ways to recover in the comments below.