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Reduce Injury Risk with R&R: Why It Matters and How to Benefit

If you're concentrating on improving your fitness for softball or baseball, taking time off is probably the last thing on your mind. Hear me out, though. Rest and relaxation, or R&R for short, is incredibly important for the overall health and wellness of everyone -- youth athletes included. When it comes to fitness training, we often swap out the word "relaxation" for "recovery," because that's exactly what your body does on rest days. Here's an explanation:

Why Rest Is Important

While doing fitness training for baseball or softball, your body works really hard. It works so hard that it can't realistically keep up with the routine long-term. That's because training nonstop doesn't give your body the chance to regain strength and repair itself. Many young athletes think the harder they push themselves, the better their performance will be. But the reverse is actually true: the harder you train (without rest), the more likely your performance will suffer.

That's why you'll notice that most athletic training programs include short-term periods of recovery such as a rest day here and there as well as longer periods of recovery such as time off between seasons.

What Happens to Your Body During Recovery

During periods of rest, the energy or fuel in your muscles (known as glycogen) is restored. Rest also allows your immune system to swoop in and repair the joints and muscles so that you don't suffer from overuse injuries.

To our student athletes reading - remember rigorous physical training stresses your body like a math test stresses your mind. When you take time off, your body can also stabilize your body's hormones -- and you need well-balanced hormones. For instance, if cortisol (the stress hormone) gets out of control, it can jeopardize many bodily processes, such as how well you sleep or even how effectively you think.

How to Benefit From Rest

Develop a rest and recovery plan to optimize your body's ability to strengthen and repair, and ultimately enjoy more gains on and off the field.

Get enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleepper night. Ensure that you doze off more easily by turning off screens at least an hour before bed.

Manage stress. When you're taking time away from training, do positive and constructive activities, such as spending time with friends and family or participating in other hobbies or interests.

Eat well. Don't use rest days as an excuse to binge on junk food. Replenish your body's fuel tank with nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy.

Stretch. Help your muscles repair and rebuild by promoting good circulation throughout your body. Set aside at least 10 to 15 minutes per day to thoroughly stretch, or consider doing a yoga sequence.

You don't have to be injured to rest. As an athlete, trainer, and a parent, I have learned these lessons the hard way. Go fly a kite with friends, remember to have some fun outside your sport. Take the time your body needs to reduce your risk of injury the way nature intended - with R&R.


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