high-level athletes explain their journey to taking ownership for their success
When working with high-level athletes, you notice some trends. There are the common qualities: competitive or physically fit are a few that describe professional athletes. Then there are the qualities that can be overlooked unless you work with them on a regular basis. They are disciplined, habitual, and focused. Peel back another layer, and you find what is the most rare -- athletes that are incredibly attentive to their athletic health. Consequently, they typically find themselves being one of the 480,000 athletes that pursue an athletic career beyond high school, out of the approximately 8 million that hope for it.
What does this attention to athletic health look like? These athletes ask good questions, students of their own body, and they practice proactive methods to address injuries rather than expecting an immediate cure. They embrace the process and honor the fact that addressing their injuries is a commitment. If their time was money, I'd say they are investing in their body as a company in its most key infrastructure. What is unique about RX Sports Recovery is that we comb through the community to find these athletes. An investor in his or her own body actively searches for this type of service and immediately understand why it is here. The result is athletes that are among the 6% who do attain an athletic career beyond high school.
We have future and former NCAA athletes, nationally competing athletes, professional, and Olympic hopefuls. Some of these athletes reflect on what it takes to be an athlete of this caliber. They all agree on one thing contributing to success: recovery. "Recovery is just as important, if not more important, than actual training," Amira Hindi, an Olympic-style weightlifter, explains regarding her current training schedule in preparation for the national level. Her sights are set on reaching goals to perform well in events arriving in 2018. Amira puts recovery at the top of her priority list and makes RX her destination on rest days. Incorporating an important, additional element such as recovery requires building new habits into training schedules. Adhering to a recovery plan becomes strategic for some RXSR members.
Emily Sloan is a standout track athlete at Rock Canyon high school, with the 100m and 300m hurdles serving as her ticket to qualify for successful Division I athletic institutions such as University of Southern California (USC) and Georgia to name a couple. She plans on making it into RX two to three times a week and before track meets to address any lingering issues. Emily has prioritized her schedule for recovery based on learning over time what her body needs to perform at the highest level for the next meet. Tommy Hoskins finished his stint as a linebacker and long snapper for Colorado School of Mines, and his next goal is playing professionally. The Atlanta Falcons have their eyes on this former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) All-Conference and National Football Federation Colorado Chapter (NFFCC) All-Colorado football team player. Tommy battles hamstring issues and cannot afford setbacks at this crucial time in his career. Like Amira, he ties recovery into his training schedule: "For instance, I usually train legs heavy twice a week and I usually try to attend RX after any heavy leg sessions to speed up the recovery process" and to keep hamstring issues at a minimum.
Recovery frequencies can reach every day for some athletes, like recent Wofford College basketball graduate, Eric Garcia. "I try not to go two days without coming in," Eric says. Eric was the all-time leader in assists for Wofford and the only player in school history to score 1,200 points and over 500 assists. To make it through four years of participating in the NCAA, proper recovery is just as important as putting up shots or weight lifting, so Eric includes recovery in his training program. "My advice would be to make it a daily habit,” Eric says, “Incorporate recovery into your training regimen, and you will see the difference in your performance and overall health."
Pro Tip #1: Incorporate recovery in your training schedule.
Being proactive about your health in order to prevent injuries or address them as they occur is a serious paradigm shift. Education is a place to start. High-level athletes have learned from their past and have some great advice for others. Kellen Parker is a Mountain Vista High School graduate and will advance to Colorado School of Mines to play football. His first experience with RX was with his high school team, coming to RX after game days, but he "quickly realized how much RX can help me become a better athlete by preventing and treating injuries." He now attends RX about three times a week, saying "I don't want any setbacks from minor, preventable injuries." Amira Hindi couldn't agree more; she uses RX to help delay setbacks to her performance, sharing that "RX Sports Recovery has taught me that it is so important to stay on top of recovery instead of thinking about recovery after an injury has already occurred."
For others, discovering proactive methods took a little longer. It didn't hit Tommy Hoskins until college: "I did not realize how important nutrition and recovery are to competing at the highest levels." To him, proper recovery meant adapting to his rapidly changing body. He says, “All the heavy lifting without proper mobility and recovery would hinder me for a long time and make it near impossible to gain the flexibility I needed to stay healthy." Armed with learning from his past, he is now better prepared for the professional level. "I learned several years ago that being proactive with recovery will put you ahead of the game and allow you to stay ahead of injuries. RX has definitely solidified my belief in this," he says.
Take it from someone who participated in high school and college athletics and got a late start to proactive care compared to younger generations, Nick Graham, former Washington State basketball player, founder of ANA Basketball, and coach for dozens of college and professional players. He battles with his own injuries but can explain how he has learned to overcome them: "I finally get it! I used to wait until something hurts until I'd address it. Now, I'm very proactive. My body feels much better, and I'm able to be better at my job." Nick pushes his pupils to RX and frequently brings in top basketball players from all around Colorado. He has noticed something about professional players in particular: "They are the best at recovery and taking care of their body. They understand that as an athlete, their body is their career." He hopes to instill this awareness in basketball players of all ages, especially those who hope to thrive in college athletics.
Pro Tip #2: you must be proactive in your athletic health to reach higher levels of performing.
To compete at the collegiate or professional level, athletes have to continue to undergo change; they must compete at higher intensities and at greater frequencies. Not to mention, the competition becomes more stiff. Tommy gained valuable insight playing collegiately and participating in training for the professional level. “As people gain more knowledge of the human body, people will grow stronger and stronger, which can lead to higher impacts and more injuries. This is why recovery is so important in football," he says. Eric is currently training and attending workouts to draw the eyes of professional basketball coaches, including scouts for the Denver Nuggets. The competition is top-notch compared to what he would typically see in the Southern Conference. He was selected First Team All-District 22 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and First Team All-Conference, but with his training and practicing for the next level, he feels RX has had a big impact. "I'm able to continue playing my career on the professional level because my body feels healthy and ready to go," he says.
Often, overuse injuries occur when there is no careful monitoring of the increase in training and time spent on proper rest and recovery. Emily finds that every millisecond counts in her events in track, and the training to shave milliseconds from her personal record is taxing. "It is competitive now and will be even more in college," she says. "Track is based on strictly speed, strength, and power, especially for sprinters. Lifting weights and running puts a lot of torque on your body, so it is important to recover properly," Emily says. Sometimes it takes an eye-opening injury to notice the body is undergoing change and is failing to catch up. Emily came to RX after a knee injury, one that thankfully did not hold her back for long. She shared, “There are a lot of hamstring injuries in track, and RX gives us the opportunity to ice bath, get lactic acid out of our legs, and rest/relax on our days off... it has helped me with fatigue, soreness, and preventing injuries." Amira noticed she was enduring a tough training cycle, explaining that "the training I go through 5 days a week causes me to be sore and fatigued all over my body." The intensity has increased as she is working towards her goals for next year. "This sport requires you to be strong, flexible, dynamic, powerful, and coordinated. The farther you want to go in this sport, you must strengthen each of those demands," she says. Amira felt a chronic injury to her low back and did not hesitate long before she took that as a message from her body. The lesson is "if you are proactive about injuries and incorporate good recovery habits, you will be much more likely to reach your full potential."
Pro Tip #3: be aware of changing training loads and plan recovery accordingly.
Recovery comes in many forms and can be achieved beyond the services at RX Sports Recovery. Proper nutrition plays a large role. There is plenty of research that has found processed foods or foods with preservatives to have a negative impact on your body's ability to absorb proper nutrients necessary for tissue healing. “Eating clean” typically involves staying away from processed food and choosing whole, organic foods. Emily has integrated this habit in addition to recovering at RX, explaining "I have been eating very healthy and nutritious meals. Dieting helps me have energy for my practices so that I can do my best at a high level." Amiri is experimenting with other methods for physical and mental training. She says, "Some changes that I have been focusing on in my training regimen are recovery, diet, and mental training. I read mental training books, listen to motivational talks, practice meditation, and practice controlling my breathing." Furthermore, she says she is “making sure to take supplements such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and recovery pills." 'Recovery' supplements can be ingested in many forms and in particular, capsules are loaded with nutrients that promote tissue repair.
Tommy explains the impact that a strength coach had on his perspective, "proper nutrition didn't really come into play until a few years ago when we got a new strength coach and he stressed the importance of eating healthy and using food as fuel for your body," he says. Tommy had his sights set on higher levels of competition and reaching that point he needed to make some serious changes, "I did not realize how important nutrition and recovery are to competing at the highest levels." Overall, Tommy agrees performing at a high level is multi-faceted, "there are no substitutes for proper training, recovery, and nutrition," he encourages. Mastering one facet without the others is an incomplete approach to competing on larger stages such as collegiate or professional settings.
Pro Tip #4: Take a Multi-Facted approach to recovery such as proper nutrition and hydration.