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Hockey Players: How do you recover after playoff games?

Well, we’ve finally reached that time of year.  Playoff Season!  I’m sure many of you find yourselves in the thick of it right now.  This past week we shared resources on preparing for tournaments and playoff games.  However, just as important is what you do after one of those intense games.  So this week, I’m glad to share bits of recovery advice recommended by fellow hockey parents and players.

1) Always make time for stretching and cool-down.

Seek out some time immediately after the game to stretch.  You most likely pushed hard during the game, and your muscles took a beating.  Give yourself (at a minimum) five to ten minutes to stretch in the locker room after the game.  During this time, be sure to focus on stretching legs, hips, and also back.  Then later on at home, stretch some more.  I’ve also seen the benefits of incorporating using a foam roller into your cool-down routine.

2) Be sure to rehydrate!

Fluids serve in many of your body’s recovery processes.  With that in mind, rehydration needs to be a key part of your post-game routine.  A coach once said that for every pound of weight (water weight essentially) you sweat out during a game you should replenish with 2-3 cups of water.  You should also remember that when you sweat a lot, you’re not just losing water. Therefore, make sure you also drink something that contains electrolytes.  There are bottled water products like Smart Water with electrolytes added already.  Otherwise, you can also try some of the sports drinks available on the market. Just pay attention to the sugar content or any additives in some of the drinks out there.  You might try splitting your post-game fluid intake between water and a sports drink (or other alternative).

3) Refuel and get nutrients back into your body.

After the stretching and rehydrating, you also need to refuel.  Some athletes go to their preferred nutrition shakes after a game.  Nutrition Shakes tend to be a more convenient option (especially depending on where you travel).  In addition, there’s comfort in being able to read the label and know exactly what you’re putting into your body.  You can also ensure you’re getting the balance of proteins and carbs you need.  If you’re more prone to doing a meal after the game, try a meal with a mix of lean proteins and carbs (including nutrient rich vegetables).  Even if you’re on the road for a tournament, there are restaurant chains where you can make this plan work as well.  For example, one could go to Chipotle or Qdoba and order a burrito bowl (basically just a burrito without the tortilla).  In that bowl, you could have grilled chicken or steak with a some rice and black beans.  Then add some fajita veggies, greens, and salsa for flavor.  This is an easy way to get a decent balanced meal when you’re not close to your home kitchen.

4) Get some sleep!

We must go to sleep in order for our bodies to repair themselves.  Therefore, sleep serves as the most necessary item for your overall performance and recovery.  Most doctors recommend that young people get an average of 8-9 quality hours of sleep per night.  I understand that sometimes players can get excited before or after big games, and that can affect their sleep cycles.  If you take the time to stretch/cool-down, rehydrate, and refuel after the game, that will help you to relax and ease into sleep.  If you still struggle to calm down and rest, I’d recommend trying meditation.  You can also take a bath utilizing Epsom salts (and other essential oils).  This will help calm your body while also relieving soreness.

5) No need to shy away from essential oils and other remedies.

Don’t let any preconceived notions of essential oils cloud your judgement here.  They aren’t just for those little machines that help your home smell nice.  Essential oils have properties that can help your body recover and heal. 

I first came to understand this after pushing way too hard one day while strength training.  The day after, my calves tightened and were searing in pain.  I felt like I could barely walk.  I went to the closest store (a Natural Grocer) and purchased what the store clerk recommended, a topical gel containing Arnica oil.  The cream helped greatly with the pain and inflammation.  Within a day or two, I returned to my regular routine pain-free.  After that experience, I wanted to explore other essential oils/herbs I could potentially utilize.  Here are some noteworthy ones I’ve discovered along with some of their benefits.

Lemongrass: Muscle Relaxer, Anti-Fungal, Pain Reliever, Stress Reducer, Anti-Inflammatory

Wintergreen: Antioxidant Booster, Pain Reliever, Reduces Swelling and Irritation

Copaiba: Fights Infection, Boosts Immune & Endocrine Function, Pain Reliever, Stress Reliever

Ravintsara: Immune Booster, Fights Infection, Anti-Inflammatory, Pain Reliever, Insomnia Cure

Peppermint: Pain Reliever, Respiratory Relief, Stress Reducer, Reduces Inflammation

Arnica: Reduces Swelling and Irritation, Pain Reliever,

Helichrysum: Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Healing properties, Anti-fungal

Please look up these remedies and see how you can utilize them in your post-game recovery.  Some should be added in a drink to be ingested (putting a few drops in a drink like ginger ale or tea).  Others are more topical, meaning that you can apply them in diluted form to your skin or add them to a bath like the Epsom Salt Bath mentioned earlier.

6) Pay attention to your body, especially the day after the game

Each player needs to do this especially after an intense game or a tournament. If you need to do more to recover, take those steps.  Lastly, take an active role in your recovery.  Don’t just waste a day sitting on a couch.  Try a little physical activity, whether that be more stretching, yoga, or low-intensity exercise.  Listen to your body and give it what it needs.  We can offer you many tools to help you on your journey.  Ultimately though, you’re the one who will need to find what works best for you and implement it.  Try out some of the ideas we’ve shared and let us know what you think.  What is your post-game routine?  Are there things you use not included in your list?  Please let us know.

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