How to jump higher, run faster and run longer with smarter recovery steps! – Part 1

An often-ignored component of speed training is intelligent recovery. Elite teams know that effective recovery between practices and games can result in fewer injuries, greater speed, strength, and conditioning gains, in addition to greater energy reserves and intensity for that next all-important game. Most coaches and athletes focus on how to jump higher, how to run faster, and how to run longer, by focusing on their strength training base, their power training and their overall conditioning. While these components are critical to maximize our ability to run faster and jump higher (and are well covered in the SPEED-PACKS training program and DVD), an often ignored but critical component is intelligent recovery. The recovery period is when the body actually heals, gets stronger, makes all of the critical training adaptations and thus actually improves.

Recovery should involve a myriad of protocols, including intelligent nutrition, hydration, active rest, flexibility, lactic acid (aka ‘lactate’) flushing, and mental regeneration. This discussion will primarily focus on lactic acid flushing – a concept which is not well understood, but one that can have a dramatic effect on speed development and the health of the athlete. For the elite team, lactic acid flushing shouldn’t be a consideration or option, IT SHOULD BE ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY! With lactic acid flushing, lactate is removed from the body through the increased perfusion of blood flow through the muscles, liver and heart. In plain English, lactic acid is the byproduct of hard exercise and one of the contributing factors to muscle fatigue. As coaches and athletes we need to be smart about utilizing easy-to-follow methods that will help the body to eliminate lactic acid from the body, expedite recovery, and put the body in a position to produce maximum intensity for that all-important next practice or big game.

jump higher

Here are my recommendations. Feel free to adopt as many of the steps as you can and don’t forget (as always) to check with your licensed physician to help ensure the recovery steps are appropriate for the sport, body-type, medical condition, experience and age group of the athletes you are working with:

Immediate post practice or post game, spend 20 minutes on a bike or very light run (bike is preferable because it reduces post workout weight bearing loads on the joints and connective tissues) at no more than 30-45% of the VO2 max (this is VERY light aerobic using ONLY the oxidative system ie no ATP-CP or Glycolytic systems are being used here so that no additional lactic acid is being created). It is most important to stay in this intensity range. Studies demonstrate that athletes who recover from high intensity training with light aerobic work the following day, and actually run faster and jump higher on the 3rd day (ie generate more power) than athletes who simply just rested on the 2nd day following the high intensity training.

Drink fluids, fluids, fluids. This should be done before, during and after the lactic acid flush and post workout/game stretching and cool down. Clean fluids have a tremendous effect on recovery and helping the body to flush lactic acid. Combining plenty of energy drink fluids (i.e. Gatorade) and water will help replenish lost electrolytes and help flush the system of toxic waster products that are a by product of the hard exercise.

Smart coaches should be pre-weighing and post-weighing athletes before practice and after practice and doing the same for games to ensure they are leaving the locker room the same weight or heavier than they walked in prior to the practice or game. Obviously make sure they are weighed using the same machine and with nothing on but a clean dry t-shirt and shorts (preferably the same set used for the pre weigh-in and for the post weigh-in. Players should be encouraged not to leave the locker room until they have regained the water weight lost during practice or the game. This post-exercise weigh-in helps to ensure correct fluid replacement and speed recovery. One final thing about weight… the weighing should be done in a room with the coaching staff and designated medical trainers vs. in front of teammates/peers which can heighten an overly weight-sensitive or self-conscious athlete’s anxiety about the numbers on the scale. The goal of the weighing session should not focus on the weight itself but on the difference between the pre-practice/game weight and post practice/game weight for fluid replacement. Some athletes have a distorted view of their weight relative to what they should/should not weigh. Research demonstrates that athletes will typically be more powerful and stronger than their non-athlete counterparts and understandably should have more muscle and more weight. For example, a female athlete who weighs a strong, healthy and conditioned 195lbs (obviously above average weight for most high school and collegiate females) at her pre-practice weigh in, should be reminded that she has done a good job if she drinks enough fluids to replace the lost water/sweat from her body and finish with her post-practice weigh-in at 195lbs or more. Fluid replacement (and measuring fluid replacement with pre-practice/game weigh-in and post weigh-in) is VERY important and adds to the recovery effects of the cardio flush. Research also demonstrates that a greater number of female athletes need ‘affirmation,’ acceptance, and non-judgment concerning their weight than their male counterparts. The fact that weight is often a sensitive subject for athletes does not mean that weight should not be monitored. Indeed, monitoring pre-post exercise weight is one of the most important tools for fluid replenishment and recovery.

Please click here for the second part of the article.

About the author:

Spencer Wood PhD (ABD), MS, BA, BS, NSCA-CSCS, NASM-PES, is an internationally renowned speaker and dynamic trainer of athletes and coaches in the area of Winning Mental Skills & Toughness Training and Explosive Speed, Agility & Quickness Training. Spencer has worked with a number of Olympic programs, in professional leagues such as the NBA and consults with a number of championship collegiate programs in the SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve and ACC. His SPEED-PACKS explosive speed training equipment and DVD instructs athletes of all ages how to jump higher and how to run faster.

In addition, Spencer’s EDGE Mental Toughness Drills DVD Series continues to impact the lives and careers of 1000’s of athletes and coaches of all ages from middle school to the professional ranks. For reviews and success stories of how SPEED-PACKS and the EDGE Mental Toughness DVD Series has impacted athletes and teams across the Globe.

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