During the 1980s and 90s I did martial arts, achieving an international standard of skill and high level of physical fitness. Several months ago I returned to training after a 20 year break, training 2 to 3 sessions a week, pushing myself to duplicate the same level of ability and fitness I had decades ago.
Out of this experience I learned several things. First I am much older and my level of fitness is nowhere near the capacity it once was. The word ‘fitness’ encompasses cardiovascular, strength, endurance and flexibility, and although I wanted to train at the level I had decades ago, I was lacking in them all. This of course led to exhaustion and injuries, yes several of them in the space of three months.
My routine became train, soak in the bath with Epsom salts, stretch and get a massage, and this was when I was not recovering from injury. Injuries meant full recovery, time away from training, Myotherapy sessions and rehabilitation.
Over the years I had maintained a general fitness level and within weeks my cardiovascular fitness returned. Muscular endurance was lacking, though as the weeks turned to months even this improved. Flexibility was an issue, where in the past I could do the splits, however this time I tore muscles as I tried to emulate techniques from years past. Daily stretching was essential to avoid and recover from injury. This too improved.
Given time the physical body will improve its level of fitness and may even achieve or supersede its past levels; depending at what level you were previously at. What is important as we age is the time it takes to attain our fitness goals and how well we manage recovery. Maintenance is the key – massage, relaxation, nutrition, stretching and time.
There is one other key factor I have learned during my journey, and that has to do with ‘mental attitude’. It seems cliché, but alas true; ‘You achieve what you think you can achieve’ and ‘you become who you believe you are.’ As long as your goals are realistic in terms of what is possible and when, it comes done to mental attitude when achieving your fitness and health goals. In fact this can be said about achieving any goals.
It is often thought that children and adolescents recover faster than adults, but as they are still growing and developing, they may actually need more time to recover between high-intensity training sessions and competition.
After nearly 30 years as a therapist, I have witnessed an increase in the demands of youth sport in terms of training hours, physical and mental demands and specialisation. For a youth who undertakes more than one sport, or activity, these stresses multiply.
After training and competition, muscles have been worked hard, have been overstretched and may suffer micro-tears which cause an inflammatory response. This inflammation and other factors such as tightness, adhesions, build-up of waste products, pain receptor stimulation and nerve irritation, cause varying degrees of pain; depending on how hard they have exercised. Once the pain is present, this can hinder muscle function, manifesting in restricted movement or limited power, making performance less effective.
Physical and mental fatigue from over-exercise leads to lack of concentration, which may then lead to injury and burnout. Rest and recovery is critical for youths who participate in competitive sport or who train/ play three or more times per week, or who play more than one sport; specialise in one sport year round, or who participate in extracurricular conditioning activities.
Very active youth who have little chance to relax and recover, constantly release adrenaline and other hormones that can have a negative effect on their immune system, leaving the body more vulnerable to illness and generally making it more difficult for the body to recover. It is therefore essential that the youth is given time off to rest in order to recuperate. When properly rested, the body can perform optimally when competing or training.
Although a day off between activities might be adequate for youth who participate in recreational sports, higher levels of training and competition require higher levels of physical and mental stress; so it is imperative that a recovery program, which includes rest, massage, stretching and correct nutrition be developed and implemented to maintain an optimal performance state.
Importance of Massage for Recovery