Do you think they might need some recovery time after a season of plays like this?
I’m a huge believer in athletes getting a chance to rest and recover after a season is over. I’ve seen too many times when kids go directly from one season into another season or into hard off-season training. Most often this happens when the kid goes from a school sports season right into a club season. Many times people don’t see the reason for kids to take a break. The reasoning is that the kid is young, they can handle it. Many times they don’t handle it as well as we think that they do. Giving them a break between seasons can help in numerous ways. Why to the kids need a break:
Physically banged up – after a season, an athlete is physically banged up. They have aches, pains, and injuries that they have played through. Before they move into their next season (or heavy training), a short break can help them to heal up these aches and pains. They won’t be able to perform or train at 100% if they don’t get well.
Mentally/emotionally tired – a sports season is also tiring in non-physical ways. Several months of being on the go with practices, games, travel, homework, and everything else can wear on an athlete mentally and emotionally. We often forget all of the stresses that happen during a season. If you have a bad game or practice, it can be hard to just forget about it and move right into doing homework or whatever else you have to do. Just like with adults, “bad days” can go home with kids and affect other areas of their life. Add in the constant emotion of games (and the occasional “team drama” that occurs) and it can wear athletes out (and coaches and parents too).
To enjoy life some – I remember talking to one athlete who played her sport year round. She loved her sport and wanted to get a college scholarship. To accomplish her goal, she played on her high school team as well as several travel teams. She had to ride 1 1/2 hours each way to travel practice twice a week and then play on weekends. Part way through the school year she was exhausted, had numerous aches and pains, and wasn’t having much fun. Look, even pro athletes take a break after the season to spend time with family and friends, travel, and relax. If they can do it, why should we expect younger kids and teens to go year round without a break? Let the kids have a little fun sometimes.
Now that we know why athletes need to recover, the next questions are things such as how long? What should they do during this recovery period? What shouldn’t they do? This will all be answered in my next post.
Hopefully you read part 1 of the series on active rest. Today, in part 2, I thought that we would discuss some of the science behind the idea of active rest.
The concept of active rest originally came from the system called periodization that was developed by Russian sports scientists. The system was primarily used with weightlifters. It was used with great success during the Soviet Bloc years and led to many Olympic medals. The basic idea was that a training plan was laid out for an athlete that adjusted the volume and intensity of their workouts over time. By going through these different training phases it was believed that the athletes would get better results and be on track to peak in time for competitions. The phase after a competition was called the “transition” phase. In the American terminology this began to be called the “active rest” phase.
Now to the real details about the science behind it. I know, if you really hate lots of scientific stats and info you just want to get to the conclusion. Guess what? As much as people including myself believe in the concept of active rest, there isn’t a lot of scientific proof that shows how effective or ineffective that it is. There have been some studies done testing the results of active rest right after a workout. While these have shown a improvement in the amount of lactate in the blood after exercise, the studies were only looking at the immediate effects. Two studies have been done that look at possible longer term effects – one on rugby players and one on soccer players. The results of both studies found that active rest didn’t really help the athletes to recover any better than complete rest. The rugby study noted that the players who participated in active rest did feel better psychologically than their teammates who rested completely.
Since there isn’t a lot of evidence to prove the benefits of active rest, should you still include it in your program? I think that you should for three reasons:
Active rest will help to circulate blood through the body. This helps to clear waste and deliver more oxygen to the cells, which is always good.
Active rest will help you to feel better psycholgically
Active rest will allow your body to heal up many of the little sprains, strains, aches, and pains that we all pick up while training hard
So, there are some definite benefits to active rest. I encourage you to give it a try. Just pick a 1-2 week period and try some lighter workouts. Your goal should be to do about 50-70% of your normal workout. That percentage should apply not only to the amount (volume) that you do, but also to the intensity. When planning your training, try to do exercises and activities that you don’t normally do. It’s a good opportunity to change things up. It’s also a good chance to spend a little time rehabbing an injury or focusing on a “weakness” (e.g., flexibility, core strength, etc). Let me know how it works for you.