A largely neglected aspect of many athlete’s routines is the recovery, Wartburg athletic trainer Kaitlyn Huck said. Stretching is crucial and it comes down to listening to your body, she added.
“Find the pain threshold and stop your stretch right before that, you can push it a little bit but if you push it too far you’re at risk of straining that muscle. You have to know the difference between a good stretch and a painful stretch, find that middle ground,” Huck said.
Huck added that a gentle stretch after a workout allows muscles to stay elastic rather than tighten up.
“I usually tell athletes to stretch four times a day; when you wake up, go to bed and then before and after practice,” Huck said.
Fourth year soccer player Jay Tegge has had back and knee problems in the past. Tegge said if he doesn’t get a good stretch every day he just doesn’t feel ready to go.
“We do a team warm-up everyday, but I have to take a little extra time before practice to get my body where it needs to be,” Tegge said.
Wartburg athletic trainer Allison Schreiner said stretching is very important, but it can be counterproductive if you’re already hurt.
Huck advised attending group classes for those seeking structured stretching because they have good stretches for the general public as well as athletes.
Using a foam roller or ball to roll out muscles should be of use by any athlete or active person, Schreiner said.
“Foam rolling is good before a workout because it turns off endorphins and lets the body relax before a workout,” said Schreiner.
Another important aspect of recovery is allowing the muscles themselves to recover, she said.
“Ice baths are really good, it helps constrict blood vessels which help keep the toxins flowing through,” Schreiner said. “Many athletes say they just feel better after.”
After activity it is crucial to maintain a good diet and be able to replenish electrolytes, Huck said to focus on fruits, vegetables and good fats.
Muscles use water and produce some during exercise, but they need potassium and sodium to balance it out, Schreiner said.
“I’m a big fan of pickles because of the sodium and they taste great,” Huck said.
Schreiner said those nutrient levels differ from person to person. She said it would require removing the muscle and analyzing it to understand what each person needs.
A lot of athletic injuries will not happen in the first place if the right steps are taken so take care of yourself before injury and discomfort appears, Huck said.