Ever wonder how the top teams in AFL or NRL prepare and recover from competition? Think it must be a top kept secret programme that each club keeps behind closed doors? It all comes down to something called ‘The Butterfly Effect’. The wind moved from a butterfly flapping its wings over and over carries the potential to build into a gail force, just like the efforts you as an athlete put in behind the scenes. Here are the one-percenters that are often the difference between an average performance and performing at your peek.
Rest is something that can often be overlooked as an important part of performance. A key element of recovery is the body’s ability to repair the breakdown of muscle tissue which occurs during exercise. This happens when we sleep. When we cut sleep short, we’re short changing our body’s ability to repair this tissue damage. A good quality sleep has also been proven to improve accuracy and decision making under pressure. Here are 3 tips to get you up to speed:
- Ensure you’re getting the minimum recommended of hours sleep per night for your age.
- Practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ habits. This includes keeping your bedroom dark and cool, having a wind down period of an evening before sleep, and removing electronic devices from the bedroom.
- Stick to a set bedtime/wake-up time every day.
Cars don’t run without petrol, right? Your body is the same – you can’t expect your body to run if you’re not putting the right fuel into it. Nutrition is an important part of both preparation and recovery from sport and exercise, but the approach for each is very different. When preparing for competition, start focusing on your nutrition the night before with a meal high in carbs, a good-sized breakfast that doesn’t leave you feeling overly full or still hungry and a small snack 2 hours before your competition. When using nutrition as a recovery tool, include meals high in protein as they are rich in the building block your body uses to repair damaged tissue. Remember – nutrition isn’t just about food, staying hydrated before, during and after competition reduces muscle fatigue and the risk of cramping.
3. Physical recovery
Spending a couple of minutes at the end of a workout or game stretching just doesn’t cut it in terms of recovery. Optimal physical recovery is an ongoing process that lasts for 48 hours after the final siren. If we’re not doing it correctly we run the increase the risk of injury occuring by coming back too soon. Varying your approach to recovery not only challenges your body to adapt but can keep it enjoyable rather than a chore. If you’re looking of ways to vary your recovery strategies try the following:
- Contrast water therapy – hot/cold showers
- Hydrotherapy – pool recovery session
- Wearing compression garments overnight
4. Mental agility
Nerves are a by product of passion. When we’re preparing for competition, we can use these nerves as excitement to prepare us for what we’re heading into. Sometimes, these nerves can get the best of us and turn into anxiety. Try using some apps that can guide you through meditation or breathing exercises to reduce your anxiety levels before your next game or competition. Remember that you have the ability to change your inner response to calm yourself down under competitive pressure.
5. Reset the mindset
Being proactive in your physical recovery after a tough game will make little difference if your mind is still focussing on the loss. A very wise lion once said “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it” (for those still wondering which Brisbane player this was you might want to think more along the lines of Disney’s The Lion King). Reflection is an important part of learning. Identify your mistakes, set your goals and reset your focus on your next target.
Anyone can be a pro with the right team around them, if you’re wondering how the team at Alpha can help you with your performance preparation and recovery book in for an appointment today.