Who is excited for a 4 day tournament??!! I am thinking ALL of you are! You will be playing A LOT of volleyball, road tripping to another state to a really fun city, eating out, staying in a hotel, spending fun times with your volleyball family, and did I mention, playing A LOT of volleyball? And, what is more fun than all of that? Nothing on earth! Ha!
There are some preparations that you should all think about in order to stay healthy, well rested and ready to compete at your highest level for 3 days in a row! 3 days can be a shock to your body, especially for those of you who have no experience with this. And, for those of you that do have experience, use this as a checklist so you don’t forget anything important!
Not just the night before you leave. You will need to take the next several days to prepare your body for the amount of work it will be putting out. Make sure you are getting to bed early all week. Any naps would help too! During the tournament, don’t schedule any late evening team dinners, don’t stay up late if you have an afternoon play schedule; go to bed as soon as you can. If you have a morning pool, don’t spend the rest of the day touring the entire city or swimming and being in the sun for hours. Rest your bodies in between matches and while waiting around; get your feet up, take your shoes off, chill out with your teammates.
BE WELL HYDRATED!
Again, not just the day before. Hydrate all week long. Challenge yourself to drink 1-2 more water bottles per day. You will lose some vital minerals when you sweat. Most notably, potassium and salt. These need to be replenished daily when you are playing or it could be detrimental. An easy option is an electrolyte drink at least once each day, trying to avoid ones with too much sugar. And finally, make smart drink choices when eating out.
Along with resting and drinking plenty of fluids, you have all heard your parents and coaches say, ‘you need to Eat Like a Champion.’ Well, you do! Your choices will affect your performance! Make smart, healthy choices. Try to avoid fried foods, sugary foods and drinks, and overeating. Eat small meals throughout your day including:
- Fruits and vegetables because they are rich in vitamins to nourish your body.
- Healthy proteins (low fat meat, beans, protein shakes, Greek yogurt, nuts) because your muscles are made of protein, and protein is needed to repair the muscle breakdown from all of your gut wrenching efforts on the court.
- And, anything else in moderation – have fun, but be Smart! I promise you, you will feel better and play better!
- Another important recommendation that I will also give is to carry some over the counter minerals that are essential for your energy. Magnesium, zinc, iron, B12 to name a few. *Definitely ask your primary care provider or your pharmacist if you have any questions to make sure you can take the extra supplements and if so, an amount that is safe for your body and weight.
- If anything remotely hurts or you tweaked something slightly during practice or competition, ICE! You should be doing this all the time after you play! But, it is especially important during those 3 days that you ice any body part that may succumb to some inflammation or overuse; for example, your hitting shoulder, your knees from jumping, an old ankle injury. There are training tables on site and for a small fee, they will wrap you in as much ice as you want. You’ll want to ice for 15 minutes at a time. You can also ice again when you get back to your hotel. A fun activity with your team could involve everyone bringing a full bucket of ice to one room, fill the tub and everyone take turns sitting in an ice bath for 5 minutes. Your legs will definitely be the most fatigued of all body parts. This will feel reviving!
- I often times suggest a bath soak with Epsom salt. Without getting too technical, the salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate. Our skin can absorb some of those minerals (although it’s not proven) that are important for our recovery. The warm bath can help to relax the muscles and loosen stiff joints.
- One of my favorite products, because I prefer all-natural as much as possible, is Arnica gel which can be found in your local pharmacy or whole foods store. The topical gel is said to be helpful for the treatment of bruising and pain, promoting healing and soothing of the skin. Arnica gel is also touted as a means of relieving muscle soreness and sprain-related pain. Again, make sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist for their recommendations.
Preparing your body for competition could be the difference between first and second place in your pool. Since no improvements to your fitness can be made during your tournament, opportunities to get the most from your muscles can still be influenced by you. Stretching the hamstrings, quads, inner and outer legs and the shoulders as well as a little help from a foam roller can help your body feel looser and better help with recovery. There are some travel rollers that you can fit in your backpack – it’s a great investment!
Emotional fatigue can set in as well as physical fatigue. Staying positive, even when it gets tough, is an important asset for an athlete, and one which should be embraced with importance. Go through the same game routine every match – create your own positive energy to bring to the team. Use visualization prior to your matches for mental toughness. Build up and complement your teammates. Only goodness can come from that. To prevent emotional exhaustion, help your teammates stay steady; no really, really high or really, really low swings in attitude or temperament; only steady. Remember, it’s 3 days of giving it all you’ve got! Use all your tools to prepare mentally!
Take care of yourself! Start NOW! Best of luck to all of you! Make sure to stop by HealthWest and tell me how your tournament preparation worked for you!
Gwen Alden, PT