By Steve Shadle
Young children always have had the best method for athletic training. The night-time ritual at our house consisted of a regular sleep time, getting a drink of water and getting tucked into bed for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, most middle school/high school athletes, parents and coaches have forgotten these most important components of athletic training: hydration, rest and recovery.
No additional skill acquisition, or physiological or psychological adaptation, will take place until the body’s motor neural or muscular system has fully recovered from the previous training. Coaches and some parents have been responsible for the ever-increasing “year-round” training programs with little or no consideration of the role that rest and recovery plays in athletic development.
Understanding the role that rest and recovery play is extremely important for a number of reasons – the first being athletic injury. An injured athlete cannot compete, and often wants (and tries) to come back before being released and can easily be re-injured. If injury recognition and rehabilitation is not supervised by professionals, the rehabilitation will be incomplete with long-term consequences.
In most athletic training programs, there is a concept called “periodization.” This impressive-sounding term refers simply to the specific time scale and format for all the various parts of a training plan, including the role of recovery.
According to Training Distance Runners (Martin and Coe), training for sport is broken down into four primary aspects:
- Introduction of skill or initial breakdown and reduction in immediate performance capabilities;
- Adaptation to the stress of training or skill improvement as a result of the physiological and psychological changes in the direction of improved performance potential;
- Retention of such performance characteristics following a tapering of training; and
- Reduction in performance if training volume is decreased for too long a period.
The Sportsmedicine Book (Mirkin & Hoffman) suggest the following as to why muscles need to recover:
- Muscle fiber is damaged by hard exercise and, like any other body tissue, requires healing time proportionate to the amount of injury.
- Muscle fuel, called glycogen, is used up. It takes the body 10 hours to 10 days to replenish it.
- Potassium, a mineral released from the muscle cell to control heat, is also depleted. It takes up to 48 hours to restore the supply.
Coaches and athletes are proficient in developing training programs that include the latest in research, film analysis or development of technique. Coaches develop extensive practice plans primarily for skills acquisition and development. In fact, they never have enough time to include all the items in the practice plan. Often, however, rest and recovery are absent from the plan.
Every day, coaches need to identify those other demands placed on the student- athletes they coach, including the out-of -season athletic demands being placed on student-athletes. There is no question that athletes are willing to do what coaches and teachers ask. The goal is for athletes to remain injury free and to continue to develop, and development depends on coaches and athletes making the right training decisions.
Get a drink and go to bed may be the best practice plan.
About the Author: Steve Shadle is the boys track and field and cross country coach at South Sioux City (Nebraska) High School. He is a member of the NFHS Coaching Today Publications Committee.