Recovery seems to be the most under utilized aspect of training programs. Working with youth athletes in today’s reality means that most kids are balancing their schedules between homework, practice, training and maintaining some form of social life. In addition, with the explosion of cross fit and its many spin offs, it seems that everyone feels they need to do more with their training with the attitude of having to “kill” yourself each session to feel like you got a productive workout.
And here’s the news flash the may irk a lot of peeps out there. Going balls to the walls every training session will hinder your long-term progress. If you’re an athlete looking to get stronger or bigger and your coach keeps running you to the ground in practice every day with liners or suicides up the wazoo, he is making it that much harder for you to achieve your goals.
I want to be clear on this. I’m not saying that hard work is bad. You have to bust your butt in the gym with focus and purpose to achieve results. But, there is a difference between training to improve sports performance and using the session to demonstrate your performance abilities. Improving sports performance involves varying intensities throughout the week, and month and takes time and patience to see the results. The second involves maxing out, either with weights, jumps or an extremely taxing workout that drains the nervous system and leaves you feeling wiped out.
In addition to poorly planned training sessions, there are a lot of showcase camps that are sabotaging these kids potential to get better by instilling the notion that they need to play their sports 7 days a week year round to get a division one scholarship.
This is the reality that strength coaches are dealing with at the high school and middle school level. Kids specialize early and no longer have off seasons to work on getting stronger and improving for their sport. A lot of quality training occurs in the off-season, not while someone is playing on 3 AAU teams after finishing up the high school season. As a result, the training program has to be modified if the parents are unwilling to compromise for the betterment of their children.
Monitoring Training Stress
The focus needs to be on educating parents and coaches on proper ways to improve athletes without grinding their nervous systems to a pulp. I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Uyeyama who is the strength coach of my favorite NFL team the 49ers, and he mentioned that he foresees a paradigm shift in the strength and conditioning towards a more holistic approach, integrating and tracking recovery instead of just blasting out more squats, deadlifts and plyos. This definitely caught my attention as we have slowly been shifting our approach and integrating different methods such as breathing techniques in our sessions.
These recovery techniques are no longer just available for professional athletes. HRV or heart rate variability is technology that is available to the amateur athlete to monitor stress and recovery. Here’s an article talking about HRV as well as why pro athletes recover better than average joes.
Joel Jamieson is the man when it comes to conditioning, and he originally brought the concept of recovery and the ability to monitor it to my attention with his HRV system. Here’s a great post by Joel on recovery and maintaining balance between the sympathetic and para .
Stress is one of the big culprits for nervous system burnout and over reaching and needs to be managed. Essentially everything you do will evoke a stress response. Thoughts of worry, anxiety, intense training sessions, reacting to crazy drivers on the road, studying for a big test, relationship troubles, all have an effect on the body’s nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system. The great thing about HRV is that you can monitor how your body responds and modify your training session accordingly. This is huge in regards to the information you have at your disposal and no longer having to go on feel as to whether you should go lighter or even take a day off.
Mark Uyeyama had a great analogy when he talked about managing the training process for his pro athletes. Imagine you have a cup and it fills up with everything you do that involves mental or physical stress, such as training, sports practice, studying, etc. Throw all that in the cup but the key is to make sure the cup never over flows. That folks is managing the training process. Making sure the cup never over flows is an art, and involves tracking and knowing how your athletes are feeling as is, getting improvements of your athletes without working them to them point that they stop making gains.
Whether you’re an athlete looking to get a division 1 scholarship or someone who trains and plays basketball a few days a week, you should strongly consider using HRV to monitor your training and recovery. As the paradigm shifts towards integrating more holistic approaches with training, hopefully we as strength coaches, can also have an effect on the health implications related to stress that go beyond the scope of this article.