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It’s been often echoed in locker rooms, practice fields, and huddles during halftime, “Offense wins games, defense wins championships!” This is nothing short of truth in the game of rugby.   The world’s best teams have created fit, skillful offenses and nearly impenetrable, hard-hitting defenses.  At the core of this athletic prowess is a group of athletes who have been well managed in every aspect of their training, particularly their recovery. 

Recovery is one of the most undervalued and underused components to athletic success.  Irrespective of athleticism or age, EVERY athlete needs sufficient recovery to bounce back to 100%.   Below are nine fundamental steps to expedite recovery so that you can hit the pitch firing on all 12 cylinders:

1.  High quality sleep - During sleep cycles, growth hormone is secreted to repair tissue and develop muscle and support the body’s immunity.

2.  Proper hydration - During rugby training or matches, athletes lose a great deal of fluid, despite water consumption during game breakages and halftime.  Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body.  Proper hydration and electrolytes ensure proper muscle function and reduces cramping and potential injury.   Although many athletes hydrate with beverages such as Gatorade, a couple of the most effective and healthy electrolyte supplements are Celtic and Pink Himalayan Salts. 

3.  Pre and post workout supplementation – Pre workout nutritional support ensures proper blood flow and a reduction in lactic acid to lessen post workout inflammation from the start.  Great pre-workout nutrients are beta alanine and citrulline.  Post workout nutritional support ensures tissue repair and immune system function, while reducing inflammation.  Some highly researched examples are boswellia, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine and msm.

4.  Stretching - Pre and post workout stretching and flexibility exercises reduce the chance of injury and promote new blood flow into the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that flushes out acid and push new nutrients into the tissues.  

5.  Active Recovery – Easy, gentle movement improves circulation which helps promote nutrient and waste production transport throughout the body.  Pool therapy is one of the most popular and effective methods of active recovery, expediting the muscle repair and refueling process. 

6.  Myofascial release – Massage improves circulation while allowing for relaxation. During massage, muscles and fascia under are loaded with a constant force until they release.  Athletes can perform their own myofascial release using foam rollers, Tiger Tail massagers, tennis/lacrosse balls, and other mobility tools.

7.  Ice Baths -  Ice baths, ice massages and contrast water therapy (alternating between hot and cold plunges or showers) have proven to be effective in faster recovery, reduced muscle soreness, and injury prevention.  The theory behind this method is that by repeatedly constricting and dilating blood vessels, waste products in tissues are flushed out.  Additionally, delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is reduced. 

8.  Overtraining – Avoidance of overtraining is directly related to the design of a smart workout program.  Excessive exercise, heavy training at every session, or lack of recovery days will create a tired athlete, not a fitter one. 

9.  Visualization, imagery, and meditation – The addition of mental practice to the workout routine can yield enormous benefits for any athlete, eliminating the `effects of physical exertion.  Athletes who spend time practicing mental rehearsal following a mindfulness meditation program can approach the match with a greater sense of calm, clearer attitude, and lessened anxiety and reactivity.  Positive self talk can also enhance overall output both on game day and in daily life. 

Make recovery as much of a priority as training and playing.