Today I want to share another post from my friend Devan McConnell. I asked Devan to write a post on the 3 most important recovery strategies his team uses in-season, as his team consistently performs well coming down the home stretch of the season.
These are not glamorous, but they work.
Recovery is a hot topic in sports performance.
Smart coaches understand that the goal of training is to improve performance, and that without sufficient recovery, improvement is unlikely at best and impossible at worst.
Thankfully, the idea of structured recovery work has become a much more widespread piece of the training process than it used to be.
However, where does one start? What is useful and what isn’t? Is it worth investing in gadgets and gimmicks, or are there more basic, tried-and-true strategies that work just as well? What really matters when games are on the line late in the season?
To be sure, there are tons of recovery “tools” and “technologies” on the market these days. And many of them work. Things like cryotherapy chambers, sensory deprivation tanks, hyperbaric chambers, and sequential compression garments are all fantastic tools that really can make a difference in high level athletics.
But do you have to break the bank to reap the benefits of recovery and regeneration? What if these just aren’t feasible? Is there no hope?
Well actually, these types of recovery tools should be thought of as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
You see, even if you are an elite athlete competing on the highest stage, if you don’t take care of business with the basics, these fancy tools won’t make much of a difference. Just like athletic development, fundamentals are key. And the truth is, the fundamentals of recovery and regeneration will make a bigger impact than any technology when it comes to combating fatigue late in the season.
So what are the basics?
Yes, sleep. Do you get 8 hours of sleep every night? No, you don’t. Do you really? Great, it’s still probably not enough.
You see, sleep is when your body goes through all of its restorative functions. Your brain, nervous system, muscular system, etc. all “heal” while you sleep.
More accurately, when you go through cycles of deep sleep or “REM” sleep, your hormonal system secretes Growth Hormone, and this is crucial in the recovery process. Sleep is the least fancy and most important “tool” in the recovery tool box. Just like we say about weight gain/loss, “you cant out train a bad diet”, you can’t “out recover bad sleep.”
At UMass Lowell, we encourage our athletes to strive for more than 8 hours of sleep per night, and set goals to sleep more than 10 during the late season/playoffs. We utilize sleep trackers to help inform our players of exactly how much sleep they are actually getting, and reinforce how important this is.
If you aren’t taking care of this basic, easy to accomplish recovery tool, you really have no business worrying about anything else. There are a million products which are designed to fulfill the requirements of post workout nutrition (key: a mix of carbs and protein).
Even though current research is pointing more toward the importance of 24-hour nutrition over the immediate post-workout window, the reality is that the time immediately after activity is an easy one to influence and the easiest to control.
The best applied hockey nutrition manual ever: Ultimate Hockey Transformation
In fact, this can be as simple as downing a cup or two of chocolate milk right after training and practice. There really is no excuse not to get this simple recovery technique done. After every high intensity training session, you should be downing a post workout drink within 30 minutes. This means after strength and conditioning work, practice, and games.
Again…basics, basics, basics.
Once again, we are in the “not too sexy” category of recovery and regeneration techniques. But you have to be dedicated enough to spend 5 minutes getting your muscle tissue back to “neutral” everyday after training, practice, and games. A little goes a long way here too…its much better to consistently spend a few minutes every day doing this, then skipping it all week and then spending 45min after you are sore and tired trying to make up lost ground.
The idea is to both facilitate circulation to process the metabolic byproducts of activity, as well as address any areas where your nervous system may be holding unnecessary tension.
So there you have it. The 3 fundamentals of recovery and regeneration. These are the basics that matter most. They are so important to our hockey program at UMass Lowell, our athletes don’t leave the rink each day without rolling, stretching, and having a chocolate milk. And they keep track of and report their sleep habits every morning. Once these fundamentals are all in place, we can begin to add in other tools to further enhance recovery. But until we are great at the basics, nothing else matters.
To your success,
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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team
“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.