You just played an intense game. You were all over the ice, maybe added a few points and threw the body a bit. After the game you listen to your coaches discuss the good and the bad, quickly get undressed and rush off to home to eat and relax on the couch.
You wake up in the morning feeling the soreness, and possible bruises. You take it as just the price of playing such an amazing sport and there is not much to do about it.
Well, I am here to tell you that there is plenty of things for you to do to remove the soreness, reduce the fatigue and get back to feeling and playing your best in no time.
Once the game is over, head out to your locker room and get undressed and listen to your coaches. Then:
Your recovery process will take longer if you do not seek out some time directly after your game to stretch. The very same static stretches I hate to see athletes warm-up with, is pretty much what is needed afterwards. The same is required for post-training sessions. The difference for me is night and day between stretching after then not. It takes me longer to recover from the beating I put on my body, and the soreness seems to have doubled. At least spend 5 good minutes stretching your legs, hips and back in the locker room. Later on when you reach home make sure you stretch even more and spend some time with a foam roller. If you do not know where to begin with any of this, type in "warrior yoga" on Youtube and do a small or long class. Whatever your body feels it needs.
Drink plenty of water. For the most part, you all understand this but I would urge to try something new. Before your game, prepare yourself a "home-made Gatorade" for your post-game recovery. This home-made drink shall be pretty much a big bottle of your favorite tea, mixed in with raw honey, and add a pinch of salt. The reason I would avoid actually buying a Gatorade, or fruit juices and the so-called miraculous chocolate milk is because these items are usually filled with TOO MUCH sugar, salt and additives (or what I call BS). If you want fruit, eat it, do not drink the processed version of it. Salt and sugar is required in your diet, but not to the extent that these products allow so go ahead and take 10-seconds of your day to make it for yourself and drink it on your way home.
You stretched, you hydrated and maybe some of you even did a short work-out. Now its time to eat and eat well. I am not one for supplementation, I believe you can get MOST of what you require in your daily meals. So before you look into what is the best protein shake to buy, make sure your diet is on point. I am also not the best guy when it comes to the type of food you should eat throughout your schedule. I believe in regularly eating a balanced meal, and making sure my food is fueling me consistently. I do not take my food lightly, I believe in high-quality, great tasting and nutritionally packed food. Food is your fuel, calories = energy and we need energy to be the best athlete we can be. With this said, I do have a preferred meal after a game. Sweet mashed potatoes + bison steak + a boat load of the freshest veggies I have and all drenched in organic olive oil. A beauty. The bison is a very lean source of protein with a ton of nutrition (way more than your average beef or chicken contains), the sweet potatoes replenish glycogen (carbohydrate storage for energy) and healthy fats to assure the body works at its peak performance. Having a consistently strong diet game is a huge part of becoming an elite athlete.
Do not let anyone tell you otherwise, sleep is the most necessary item in your recovery and performance. This goes for hockey, sports and all of life in general. Without ENOUGH sleep, your body cannot work well. We all know this. Without proper sleep, our bodies cannot also repair itself. According to WebMD, a 12-18 year old will require 8-9 average hours of sleep per night. Well I can easily tell you that most people do not get 8 hours. So I invite you all for at least 1 week, test it out and get at least 8 quality hours per night and see how it effected you. I understand there are times where you can not simply get that much but that is why it is an average. The only issue is when you choose to watch TV and play video-games instead, that is when it will really hit you. And the older you get, the harder it will all be to recover without this. If you get less than 7 hours of sleep, it is inexcusable. If you get between 7-8 hours, I recommend trying to shoot for a 15-30 minute mid-day nap.
I understand a lot of players will be to hyped up after a game/practice to fall asleep at the required time. If you stretch well, shower and cool yourself down, hydrate enough and eat good quality food then I assure you that it gets easier to close your eyes and drift off. If this does not help, I invite you to start meditating before bed even if its for only 10-20 minutes. Simple breathing exercises can reset your body and balance you back to normal.
One last thing, is to not spend your "rest" days on the couch or doing practically nothing. Everyone needs to rest, but the last thing an athlete needs is to do nothing. The best athletes spend their rest days being physically active. They work-out but they just tune down the intensity and keep the volume short. They spend a lot of time stretching and massaging/foam rolling or voo-doo flossing. They also spend some of this time preparing their meals for the week ahead and meditating on their dreams and goals for the season. The day after a big game or a big practice, if your not ready to get back at it, go for a bike ride or do some yoga. Trust me, this will help. Doing nothing will only set you back. Sometimes these are the best days to just go for a hike or mess around with new hockey tricks, ya know?
Yes, it is essential to work hard but you need to also work smart. Stretch after sport and training, drink enough water, eat a lot of good quality balanced foods, and always listen to your body. When we try to ignore our bodies with video-games, social media and parties than we ultimately lose touch with what our body needs. If you follow my advice above consistently in your schedule, you will notice a difference in no time and you will be more consistent as a competitive athlete.
Must I remind you of the 43-going-on-44 year old Jaromir Jagr?
After every NHL game, Jagr must work out and cool-down and stretch. While everyone else is partying or sleeping, Jagr is getting his body back to normal, then he goes home to sleep like a bear in hibernation. I think if Jagr were to be like everyone else, you would not still be hearing his name at this day of age, he likely would be retired.
Kick butt guys! Preparation is key. Work hard, work smart, and go after your vision.