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Mercy Sports Medicine: Recovery and Regeneration in Athletes

By Brian Bounds, MPT, ATC, CSCS

Certified Athletic Trainer, Mercy Sports Medicine – Head Athletic Trainer, Saint Louis Football Club

Why Recovery is Important – Recovery and regeneration is just as important to a training program as the actual training sessions. Combining quality training with quality rest results in an overall improvement. The better a  recovery, the more quickly the body is prepared for another high intensity workout. Recovery and regeneration allows the body to adapt to demands placed on it during training to become stronger and faster and to perform at a higher level.

Finding a Balance is the Key – Throughout my career, I have worked with a majority of athletes and coaches who believe the more they do, the better they will become. This is partially true as an athlete must properly overload his or her body in order to improve; however, there must also be a balance. Do too much and risk fatigue, burnout, and potential injury. Do too little and an athlete plateaus and sees minimal improvements. Therefore, a proper balance must be achieved to see results.  An important part of this balance, which many athletes neglect must include a proper recovery and regeneration.

Being Active in a Modified Way – Recovery should be seen as Active Rest. Light activity on days off facilitates recovery as it improves blood flow and circulation to spread important nutrients into your muscles and therefore accelerates the regeneration process.

Ways to Achieve Active Rest:

  • Walk your dog
  • Shoot hoops (lightly such as playing HORSE)
  • Walk or swim in a swimming pool
  • Dribble or juggle a soccer ball

Active rest should not be strenuous but should simply get blood flowing and doing an activity you enjoy will also make active rest fun. In addition to Active Recovery, Passive Recovering can also assist the regeneration process.

Ways to Passively Recover:

  • Cold baths/showers
  • Alternating between hot and cold showers (contrast baths/showers)
  • Hot tub or whirlpool
  • Stretching in a sauna
  • Massage
  • Deep, diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing)
  • Relaxation, meditation, and mental imagery techniques

Always Sleep & Hydrate Too – Adequate rest is also crucial to recovery and regeneration. Your body needs at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night. The majority of your adaptations occur while sleeping.  During periods of heavy activity, your body may even require more than 8 hours of sleep.

In addition to proper rest, it is vital to hydrate your body. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sports drinks are best for during training and events; however, try to drink mostly water. Fuel recovery by taking in nutrients immediately following a workout or match. This could be a meal or in liquid form. Chocolate milk is proven to stimulate recovery. Try to keep a ratio of 4-6 carbohydrates to 1 protein during your post-workout meal or drink. You may also eat a light snack about an hour before going to sleep. This could be yogurt, fruit, a snack bar, or protein shake. Having nutrients in your body before you fall asleep allows your body to utilize those nutrients during its regeneration process.

Incorporate these simple active and passive methods from Brian to aid in your recovery and regeneration!

Mercy Clinic Sports Medicine offices are located at 15945 Clayton Road, Suite 210 (Phone: 636-893-1360) and 633 Emerson Road, Suite 20 (Phone: 314-325-3068).