Recover Like An Elite Athlete: Affordable Resources For Training
Isn't it almost unfair that non-elite athletes need recovery tools just as much as the pros, but have to pay exorbitant rates to do so? I'm talking about massage, chiropractic, physical therapy, yoga classes, foam rollers, bands, cryo treatments, vitamins/supplements/electrolytes/protein powders, the list goes on. Most try-athletes can't afford to keep up weekly sessions with sports medicine professionals. But those sessions are still very much needed. So what can you do?
Sometimes things aren't so simple, but the answer to this one is: Think preventative. If you are on a budget, check out the suggestions below for some tools to keep your body high-functioning and highly resistant to injury.
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Aren't you sick of hearing this tip as much as I am? Of course you stretch. You've been to yoga. You even have that friend that referred you to a "life changing" pilates instructor. Or maybe you don't stretch. Whatever your situation is, today is the day you should start caring A LOT about what you stretch and how much. Think of your body like a glass of water. When you do a yoga class, pop your leg up on a fence and grab your foot after a run, or quad stretch post-ride, you are filling your glass. How much are you filling it? Well, it depends on the stretch. For runners, stretching/rolling out your deltoids isn't the most efficient use of your time. It also doesn't help out a muscle group that is extremely fatigued by running. If you are a swimmer, that delt stretch is going to fill your glass A LOT more.
So we understand that the quality of the stretch is sport-specific. Now for the frequency and duration. Every time you go for a run, ride, or swim, you are emptying your glass. I don't mean to say that training and exercising is detrimental to your health. But I AM saying that it adds additional fatigue, stress, and often regression to your muscles' flexibility and suppleness. You need to refill your glass after every workout. One 50-mile bike ride with hills might take 20-30% of your water out of the glass. Add in sitting in a chair, driving a car, crossing your legs for long periods of time directly afterwards........H2NO!!! (get it? lol). Try to factor in a stretching routine for the appropriate muscles groups to your workout(s) of choice within 30min of ending the training. And how long? For every hour you are in motion, take 10-20% of that time to stretch, roll, and mobilize.
I wanted a sports massage SO BADLY before a 70.3 race I did in 2016. I thought to myself "the pros get these ALL THE TIME, and I want someone who understands intimately what my body needs as an athlete." But the truth is you guys, most massage therapists understand your body. And if you are stretching and mobilizing after your workouts (ahem), you will also have a really high-level intuition of what your body does/doesn't need. Speciality massages cost a lot of money. The sports massage place near my home charges $90-$100 an hour. The Thai massage place near my house charges $40 for an hour. What am I sacrificing by opting for the cheaper massage? The massage therapists may not have worked exclusively on athletes. They might not be familiar with chronic plantar fasciitis. Am I so bold to say, who cares? This is where you can step in and inform them that you are an athlete with XYZ pain in ABC areas. Ask them to be gentle, ask them to be firm. If you are extremely sore in a certain area, ask them to avoid that area or use extreme caution. I do not recommend seeing ANYONE who is not a certified therapist or doctor if you are in true pain. But that rules out the sports massage place too. So book yourself two $40 massages a month instead of one sports massage if that is what fits in your budget. Your body will thank you later.
This category can be an overlap with stretching, but it additionally includes strength training and dynamic movements you might not find in a static yoga posture. You will see professional athletes all across the board (not just triathletes) "mobilizing" their joints before training, races, and/or games. Some pieces of a mobility routine require zero equipment and are free of charge.
Standing leg swings
Lunges with twists
Jump squats (plyometric benefits here)
Walking butt kicks
Tucked-toes sit for ankle mobility
These are just some of the many mobility exercises you can practice, for free, in 99% of locations. Do them in your bedroom. Do them at the track before you run. Do them before you check into the pool or next to your car after your long bike ride.