U.S. national team athletic trainer Anda Udris gives four tips to help you optimize performance and reach your physical peak:
Don't let an injury keep you from having your best season ever. Keep injuries at bay this year by taking care of your body and implementing proper prevention.
1. Catch some ZZZ's
Make sleep a priority! Try to keep sleep patterns consistent even on the weekends, and during holidays increase the quality of sleep you get each night. Avoid late night caffeine, keep your room dark and quiet, put down your phone, and avoid other electronics as you near bedtime. Lack of sleep can release the stress hormone, cortisol, which breaks down muscle. It can also increase fatigue, slow recovery post-competition, and decrease the body's ability to use energy properly during physical activity.
Make it a goal to get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night!
2. Fuel your body for success
Nutrition and hydration play a huge role in injury prevention and recovery. If the body is properly fueled, it is less likely that an error will occur leading to injury and the body will recover faster. You want to eat high-quality nutrients from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and meat -- and of course, drink plenty of clean water. Many of these tasty treats can combat inflammation, repair muscles, increase oxygen uptake, and even provide electrolytes.
Nutrition is the best way to keep your energy levels up and your body functioning optimally.
Make healthy decisions at mealtime with these easy tips!
3. Prepare your body to perform
Mobility MUST come before stability. To develop functional movement, the body must be able to move within normal ranges of motion. This will prevent muscle strains, avoid tendon ruptures and improve overall athletic performance. Performing a dynamic warm-up prior to practice allows simultaneous warming of the body and stretching of the muscles.
A warm-down after practice allows for the improvement of poor ranges of motion and optimization of recovery of consistently used muscles. Using a foam roller, softball, or frozen water bottle to roll out sore muscles can also help in increasing range of motion and flexibility.
4. Stretch & Strengthen
To perform elite skills with proper technique, your body must be strong. Start incorporating daily dynamic warm-ups, conditioning programs, and strength exercises to create strong, powerful muscles. Symmetry between muscle groups and stabilization of the joints reduces the risk of possible sprains or muscle ruptures, especially ankle sprains, Achilles ruptures, back spasms, and rotator cuff injuries.
Want to strengthen your body for the upcoming season? Take on the challenge with the eight-week Varsity Fit Training Guide made specifically for cheerleaders and dancers!
Before beginning any fitness program, you should check with your doctor. By performing any fitness exercises, you are performing them at your own risk.
Written by Anda Udris