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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

The Importance of Post-Season Active Rest

ThinkstockPhotos-78322425.jpgOver the past six to eights weeks, I have been creating summer workout manuals for the teams that I work with during the school year. These manuals are meant to bridge the strength and conditioning gap between the time they leave for summer break and when they return for the fall semester. There is much to be gained, or lost, through a summer of hard work (or lack thereof). Although summer break is a true “break” for most athletes academically, there never really is a true break for training.

Many of the teams I work with are spring sports. Their seasons begin a couple months after the turn of the year and may not finish until after school is out. They go from the playing field, track, course, or court, back home where family, friends, and summer jobs await. Being spring sports, their summer usually begins with a recovery period that occurs when their competitive season comes to a close. The components of this recovery process include mental, emotional, and physical aspects that need to be met in order to fully prepare for the next bout of training and the following season.

For the sports that I work with, the first portion of the training calendar for the post-season is called active rest. Active rest is an approximately two-week period where the athlete performs light physical activity at least two to three days per week. These physical activities should have nothing to do with the sport that they participate in. Think about it: after spending six to seven days per week over the past four months participating or thinking about their specific sport, the last thing many individuals want to do is continue to do just that. Although this is the sport that you may love, getting away from it for a short period of time can do wonders.

Taking a Break from Training

Active rest can mean a lot of things, and the best part is the fact that you basically have free reign over what you choose to do, as long as you are staying active. This gives you the opportunity to choose something totally unrelated to your sport and do it for the next few weeks.

I would recommend that the intensity of the activity you choose not climb above “moderate.” The low to moderate style will allow adequate blood flow to working muscles, which will help promote physical recovery of the muscles that were taxed so much during your competitive season. Another recommendation I would make would be to limit the amount of impact (foot strikes) you have during this period, especially if your sport requires a large amount of impact. This will allow your body to recover from the constant “ground and pound” that you might have during track, tennis, or softball season.

Active rest is also a good time to incorporate corrective exercises from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that your coach or trainer gave you. These exercises focus mainly on mobility and require very few pieces of equipment for the most part. Spending two to three weeks working on any muscular imbalances that may have developed during the season will give you a leg up when you begin your intense off-season training program in a month or so.

Active Rest Recommendations

Following are my top 5 recommendations for the rest period of your training:

  • FMS corrective exercises
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Bike/elliptical/arc trainer/rower
  • DO SOMETHING FUN!

Physical recovery is definitely important during this time, but recovery of your mental and emotional well-being may be just as or possibly more important. Let’s face it—any competitive season has a multitude of ups and downs, which creates an emotional rollercoaster that could send anyone through a loop. You have spent 48 out of the past 52 weeks preparing or playing your sport. You owe it to yourself to do something a little different and come back refreshed for the preparation for the next season.

If you have any questions about how to set up active rest for your post-season training, or need help constructing an off-season training program for your sport, contact me at asoller@nifs.org. To read more about setting up training programs for athletes, see my blog series that begins here.

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: training sports recovery functional movement post-season rest student athletes

Indianapolis 500 Winners Drink Milk—For Tradition and Recovery

ThinkstockPhotos-450325179--new.jpgWith the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 approaching, a lot of traditions and stories are being shared. As we head into the month of May and all of the events leading up to race day on May 26, the one that as a dietitian I am most intrigued about is, “Why does the winner drink milk?”

I love a glass of cold milk: cow’s milk, soy milk, chocolate milk, almond milk, cashew milk…it doesn’t matter to me. But after a hot and sweaty trip around the oval 200 times, I’m not sure that would be my drink of choice.

The History of the Indianapolis 500 Milk Legend

Here is some history on the interesting choice of beverage for the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” year after year. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway writes this:

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer regularly drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day and happened to drink some in Victory Lane as a matter of habit after winning the 1936 race. An executive with what was then the Milk Foundation was so elated when he saw the moment captured in a photograph in the sports section of his newspaper the following morning that he vowed to make sure it would be repeated in coming years. There was a period between 1947-55 when milk was apparently no longer offered, but the practice was revived in 1956 and has been a tradition ever since.

It is also interesting to note that the American Dairy Council pays a sponsorship of $10,000 to the winner of the race if they sip milk after their victory. Two drivers skipped the milk in recent years. In 1993 Emerson Fittipaldi opted for orange juice, and in 1981 Bobby Unser also refused. 

Milk for Workout Recovery

We have known for years that chocolate milk is the gold standard in recovery after strength training, so why not grab a glass of cold calcium-packed milk after a grueling workout? Even though it is seen as a strange tradition, it is the perfect recovery fuel after hours spent in a hot car.

The benefit of the chocolate (or any flavor) milk is the additional sugar to help replace what was just burned during the workout; however, even if it is not flavored, the carbohydrates in white milk are beneficial. Chocolate milk does have the perfect ratio of carbohydrate to protein, so if that is available it would be the best choice. Keep in mind that non-dairy milk such as almond, cashew, and hemp do not have the protein component that is key for recovery. 

The good news is that milk isn’t just for winners of the Indy 500. Anyone can benefit from this delicious beverage after a workout. Grab your favorite kind soon!

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise nutrition running mini marathon Indianapolis recovery protein milk rest

Four Reasons to Make Time for a Cool-down after a Workout

Cool_DownWe know it is encouraged by fitness professionals, and included at the end of group exercise classes, but I want to ask you, personally: how many times after a workout do you actually take the time to cool down?

Many of us tend to finish a hard workout and walk right to the showers or straight to our cars to hurry and get home to the next item on our to-do list. Some of us may not notice much of a difference whether or not we incorporate a cool-down, such as athletes or active adults. However, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, “for the general population, many apparently healthy adults may have heart disease or other diagnosed conditions,” making a cool-down a game-changer for not only everyday movement abilities, but safety.

Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t skip out on a few minutes of recovery.

1. Prevent Dizziness

If you have ever felt lightheaded immediately after a hard workout, it could very well be caused from blood pooling. Strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your legs to expand, bringing more blood into the legs and feet. After physical activity, your heart is beating faster than normal, and your core body temperature is higher. When you abruptly stop exercising without taking time to cool down, your heart rate slows immediately, which can cause blood to pool into the lower body, causing blood to return at a slower rate to your heart, and your brain. This in turn can cause you to experience dizziness or fainting.

Many accidents in fitness centers actually tend to occur in the locker room from members making a beeline straight to the locker room, steam room, or sauna after a tough workout, without taking adequate time for their body to calm down.

2. Flexibility Is at Its Best

When you finish a tough workout, as stated before, your core body temperature is higher. This means that your muscles are warm and ready for more static stretching. Dynamic stretching is recommended at the beginning of a workout, so static stretching (in other words, taking a deep breath and holding a stretch in a particular position for 15 to 30 seconds at a time) is the next step you can take in maintaining and increasing elasticity in the muscles. This lengthening of the muscles leads to better range of motion and, in turn, improved quality of life for daily activities.

3. Injury Prevention

Tagging onto flexibility, you can prevent yourself from acquiring common injuries with some of this mobility work. One of the most common injuries is in the lower back, which can sometimes be triggered by tight hip flexors and hamstrings. By simply adding some mobility work after you finish, you can not only increase your range of motion, but also increase your ability to catch yourself when you fall or have to react quickly to an unstable surface.

4. Restoration for Your Body

Whether it be simply slowing down to a light jog or walk after some light sprints, or by moving into a savasana pose at the end of a yoga class, a cool-down can have physiological benefits on the body in terms of finality. When we slow down, we feel a “sense of normality” come back into our extremities, and the body begins to restore itself back to a steady state. In other words, it just feels nice!

So whatever you decide to do at the end of your workout, I encourage you to take a moment to think twice for next time. Whether it be adding five minutes of walking to bring the heart rate down, or an extra five minutes to stretch while your muscles are warm, it’s important to note that there are no negative effects to the process. It can only help you in the long run!

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This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: yoga injury prevention flexibility stretching workout recovery heart rate cool-down rest