5 COMMON RECOVERY MISTAKES COMBAT ATHLETES MAKE
If you’re a combat athlete, there’s a high chance that you’ve experienced some form of injury from the sport. This can become a huge complication for training, as even once an injury has completely healed it can flare up from time to time. Even worse, this can snowball as one injury leads to another. Therefore, taking a proactive approach towards recovery can be hugely beneficial to train safely, perform better and enhance your overall wellbeing.
Below are five common mistakes that athletes make when it comes to recovery...
#1 Inadequate nutrition
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet is not only important to stay healthy and fuel your body for training - it’s also key for your body to fully recover. The consequences of dismissing this crucial aspect of the recovery phase can negatively impact your performance and overall wellbeing. The risks include increased fatigue, diminished performance, limited progress from training and increased muscle soreness, essentially holding you back from your full potential which can easily lead to a downward spiral.
On the other hand, adequate nutrition during recovery should boost muscle repair and growth, enhance adaptation from the session, refuel and rehydrate your body and support immune function. There’s no one simple answer to what this should look like - everyone has different dietary needs and restrictions which will vary on independent factors such as gender, weight, levels of activity and so on. However, in the hours after your training session, it is recommended to eat a rich source of carbohydrates to replenish muscle fuel stores, a lean source of protein to boost muscle repair, and a source of fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate.
Plus - regardless of what diet you follow or your nutritional restrictions - there are a few key rules that apply across the board:
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Don’t eat a huge meal right before a training session. This will weigh you down and inhibit your performance.
- Stick to as many whole foods as possible and stay away from processed foods.
Life is all about balance, but if you want to maximise your performance and progress then being self-disciplined when it comes to your diet is important.
#2 Skipping stretches post-training
So many athletes finish their training session and head straight out the door without stretching - big mistake! It may be the last thing you want to do after a gruelling session, but trust us when we say you’ll be grateful for it.
Taking the time to properly cool down and stretch out tired muscles reduces muscle tension and will save you a world of pain later on. During intense exercise, the body pumps blood faster to the heart. Not only does stretching give you the chance to slow your heart rate, but it also stimulates blood circulation to the muscles and breaks the release of lactic acid, promoting muscle repair.
Not only will stretching post-training minimise muscle soreness but there are a whole range of additional benefits you can receive, including:
- Boosting energy levels: The brain releases endorphins as it cools down after strenuous exercise, which will leave you feeling energised and ready to take on the rest of your day.
- Enhancing range of motion: Stretching improves your flexibility, allowing your muscles to achieve a greater range of motion. This will enhance your progress and results as you’re able to use your muscles to their full capacity.
- Mental clarity: The goals of stretching are so often focused on redeeming the physical benefits, but it can be fantastic for the mind as well. Stretching can help clear your mind and relax your mood, as well as improving how attentive you are to your body.
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We always hear the saying ‘less is more’, but how often do we listen to it? This seems to be drowned out as we’re increasingly encouraged to train harder, move faster, do better...but in reality, applying this old adage is valuable when it comes to any form of exercise, but especially combat sport. Since the nature of the sport is high-intensity and so demanding on the body, it can be all too easy to burn out and find yourself knocked back to square one.
It seems natural to think that the more we train, the more our skills progress and the better our results will be. But rest is just as important as training hard, if not more. Physical skills are one aspect of physical success in the sport. The others are knowing when your body has had enough, when you need to take a break, and when you’re ready to go again.
#4 Lack of sleep
When you’re under the pump with training, work and other life commitments, you may find yourself shaving off a few hours of sleep each night to fit it all in. In our increasingly busy lives, it’s easy to undermine the value of sleep, but it’s crucial to function at your best - in training and in everyday life. You may seem to function fine on just a few hours, but your body will be struggling.
Non-REM sleep (deep sleep) is when your body truly reaps the recovery benefits. During this phase, your blood pressure drops, your breathing becomes deeper and slower, and your brain is resting with very little activity. This allows greater blood supply to your muscles and therefore the delivery of more oxygen and nutrients. This is also the time when your body releases a shot of growth hormone which fuels tissue growth and muscle repair.
Good sleep habits are crucial for recovery. It’s recommended that you receive 7 - 9 hours of sleep per day. So put away your laptop, turn off your phone and get some well-deserved and much-needed rest!
#5 Drinking coffee directly after training
If you prefer to train in the morning, you’ll want to skip your coffee fix afterwards. Cortisol - our bodies’ ‘fight or flight’ hormone - is released when the body senses stress, and exercise is a physical stressor. Whilst cortisol plays an important role, too much of it can have negative health and fitness implications and actually lead to weight gain. This is especially detrimental if your goal is to cut weight or change your body composition.
However, you can have a coffee before your training session as a natural pre-workout without the same risks. In fact, research has shown that caffeine can actually improve performance, motivation and reduce muscle soreness.
Approaching your recovery mindfully is essential to maximise your performance and prevent injury. If you find that you’ve been making some of these mistakes, try adjusting your routine and see the difference that you feel within your body. Everyone is different, so do some trial and error to see what works for you!