By Kiersten Gilberg, Coach JRs.
It’s the point of the season where the end of school is fast approaching, practices are getting tougher, and the first wave of meets is upon us. With all this happening, it is also the time when many swimmers find themselves bogged down, fatigued, and frustrated. With this in mind, it is important to do a refresher covering the different aspects of recovery, so that you are able to get back to practice, ready to work hard!
Warm Down and Stretching after Practice
After a long, difficult practice, there is usually a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles. This lactic acid causes muscle fatigue and soreness. Warm down, in which you lower your heart rate slowly, helps remove the lactic acid from your muscles. This then leads to decreased soreness and better recovery so you are ready to work at your next practice.
In addition to warm down, stretching can also reduce soreness. Static stretching should be done post-workout and helps by lengthening the muscles. It also increases flexibility, and this increased mobility often helps prevent injury and can benefit your swimming!
Healthy eating is an often overlooked aspect of recovery. It is well known that we should be eating a combination of unrefined carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats (during recovery, and generally in life). However, as you run from one activity to the next it is easy to forget and instead grab a bag of chips or a donut to fill the void. This is why I suggest having some healthy snacks prepared and on hand to avoid reaching for the wrong foods. My favourites snack ideas are: a whole wheat wrap filled with hummus and raw vegetables, cheese and wholegrain crackers, a peanut butter and banana sandwich on multigrain bread, and trail mix. These foods tick all the boxes for recovery foods without a lot of added sugar. Need more ideas? Check out Coach Alex’s Coaches’ Corner for more healthy snacks!
Another part of healthy eating is staying hydrated. Dehydration has been shown to decrease physical and mental performance. This is why it is important that everyone bring a water bottle with them to practice! Plain water is preferred over sports drinks, as they contain large amounts of unnecessary sugar and salt! Your electrolytes are better replaced by consuming a healthy snack post-workout. Even 100% fruit juices are loaded with a lot of simple sugars. It is better to eat a piece of fruit and drink water than to rehydrate with juice.
Lastly, sleep is very important for recovery. It is too easy to skip sleep in favour of homework, another TV show, or to scroll through Instagram for a while longer. But sleep is needed for both physical recovery as well as mental recovery, so that the heavy training doesn’t wear you down. The recommended amount of sleep for those under 13 is 9-11 hours, while 8-10 hours is recommended for those ages 14-17. Proper sleep hygiene can help you get those much needed hours. The most important of these tips is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. While this may be hard with early morning practices, sticking to a schedule allows your body to enter a routine and can help you fall asleep faster.