So many of us have been figuratively benched when it comes to recreational, club and school sports. The good news is, with the loosening of some restrictions, sports are gearing back up. Practice may not look the same as it did this time last year, but we are sure to see a return to some level of normalcy and that means we need to do our best to be game ready and prevent injury.
To get some advice, we turned to two of our Athletic Trainers here at Mid America Rehab. Derek Adelman is a Certified Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Assistant at Mid America Rehab. As a former athlete and United State Marine he has a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to prepare for and stay safe in your sport. Shannon Blum is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Assistant at our Ste. Genevieve clinic. She has been working with area athletes on and off the field for over 23 years.
It’s a Holistic Approach
When asked what advice he would give kids that are getting ready to return to sports and practice, Derek’s advice was clear. “It’s not just one thing. You must take a holistic approach when preparing for activities. A combination of aerobics, sports specific training, nutrition, hydration, and being mentally and emotionally ready will help ensure you have a good experience and stay as healthy as possible.
Derek’s first tip is to start doing a stretching regimen every morning, evening and between exercises. If you start to tighten up, you should stretch to stay loose, especially when getting back into exercising after being sedentary for any length of time.
Shannon also reminds us that once you do return to regular activities it is important to perform proper warm-up and cool down with stretching to reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness.
Aerobic Exercise & Sports Specific Training
Shannon recommends staying conditioned throughout the year, but if you haven’t been active much over the last 3 months you may struggle with endurance and strength when you return to your regular actives. There are all kind of things you can do to help build your endurance overall. With many gyms closed Derek suggests, “You may have to rely on outdoor activities and calisthenics for aerobic exercise. Get outside. Hiking, biking, swimming, and running are all free and the fresh air has health benefits as well. Keep social distancing in mind during your activities.”
The great thing about being outside where we live is that there tends to be plenty of space to spread out if you are exercising with others. “The key is to start moving,” said Adelman. “You can’t get moving too soon.”
Derek also points out that studies show that best way to do better in your sport is to do your sport. “Work on sports specific drills and live sports scenarios as much as possible. Kick a soccer ball against the wall or use a piece of plywood to hit against for volleyball. Be creative, go online to find new ideas and be innovative.”
When sports do start, Shannon recommends taking a break from your sport from time to time and cross train to avoid muscle breakdown and give your body some rest.
Nutrition is huge! Derek shared his thoughts. “What you eat directly correlates with how you perform and how you feel. If you are eating terrible you will feel terrible. If you eat good, you will feel good.” Shannon’s suggests, “Athletes need to eat healthy and that also means they should avoid skipping meals. Fuel your body with pre-practice or game snacks and refuel afterwards.”
There are plenty of tools and apps that can help you track what you eat and help you stay on track to eating the right kinds of foods. One of Derek’s favorite tools is the MyPlate app available for free on your mobile device. It was created by the USDA and allows you to set simple food goals, check off daily goals, and earn badges for healthy choices. It keeps you on track for a balanced diet and reminds you to eat the right kinds of foods.
Derek also recommends avoiding gimmick or fad diets, energy drinks, and supplements that are not approved by your doctor. “There are all kinds of pre-workout and post-workout energy drinks aimed at kids and some are just not safe. I have unfortunately seen this firsthand. The effects can be devastating. If you are looking for energy boosting options, real food is your best bet. I also recommend talking to your doctor. They can help you decide what is safe and what will work best for you and your body.”
As Athletic Trainers, Derek and Shannon have spent countless hours on the sidelines of the football field and courtside for indoor sporting events. They have seen dehydration every season in every sport at some level.
“Don’t think on cool days you don’t have to hydrate. Even on cool days you can cramp,” said Derek, “and when the heat hits if you have not prepared your body in advance, you can have a problem.”
According to Derek, “You should hydrate throughout the week, really every day. If you wait until the day of your event it’s too late. That goes for games and workouts. For the muscles to properly work the hydration has to be there, and that happens over a period of time. It’s not instant”
Shannon tells her athletes, “a good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day.”
Mental and Emotional Health
Derek noted that your mindset plays an important role in your readiness and success in your sport. “Don’t stress – get your mind right.”
“Have fun with your sport,” says Shannon, “If you become stressed or frustrated this could lead to an injury.”
With many sports being canceled right as the season was set to begin this spring some kids have struggled with the disappointment of losing the season, and the possibility of having the same thing happen this fall can be a source of anxiety.
Derek noted, “If you are struggling, seek support. If you are worried, there is help. Talk to your coach, an adult with experience, or a local counselor. You can also find help online and through apps like Talkspace and BetterHelp.
“Don’t forget sleep is extremely important as well,” said Shannon. “Making sure athletes turn off electronic devices and get adequate rest will impact their ability to perform, their mental sharpness and well being. And listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, ill, or something is hurting, stop activity and ask for help.”
Derek and Shannon’s advice for athletes is to hit it from all directions, and you can get back into healthy and safe play.
See your Certified Athletic Trainer at Mid America Rehab for a FREE consultation if you experience early signs of an injury. For more information or help on how to prepare for and stay healthy in athletics and throughout your active life, you can contact Derek, Shannon and the rest of the Mid America Rehab team by email us at [email protected] or call us anytime at our clinic near you.