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How to Survive Volleyball Double Days

Autumn is for the volleyball athlete what spring is for nature: A period of renewal. September means the start of a new season, a clean slate for both you and your team. However, spring never fully blossoms without a storm and the same rings true in the world of volleyball. For the volleyball athlete that storm is double-days.

The mere mention of the phrase “double-days” is enough to elicit soreness in the muscles of veteran players who have weathered past storms. Double days are an intense period – usually two to three weeks – in which teams hold two or even three practice sessions per day. Because it is nearly impossible to simulate the conditions of double days and the amount of wear and tear on your body, muscle soreness is all but guaranteed. Below is a list of tips and suggestions to help you get through the dark days of the storm and into the new season that waits on the other side.

1. Eat Spinach and Bananas

Chances are that if you are participating in volleyball double days, you already know about the importance of nutrition. You probably know that the body needs a lot of nutrients to function and that the main source of nutrients for the body is food. However, did you know that increasing your intake of certain foods during double days can decrease muscle soreness?

That’s right, adding a couple more leafy vegetables to your dinner plate could be a key factor in whether you’ll be able to make it up those stairs after practice. Here are some examples of foods that help decrease muscle soreness:

2. Always Cool-Down

During the gentle exercise of the cool-down, the body releases hormones that counter the effects of adrenaline and allow for rest and sleep after exercise. Additionally, because of the increase in tissue temperature, the post-exercise period is an ideal time to stretch and improve – or maintain – range of motion and flexibility.

The importance of warming up before exercise cannot be overstated. However, a proper cool-down – often overlooked or skipped – is also important. During practices or matches, the body exerts significantly more energy than it would while not engaging in vigorous physical activity. This leads to an increase in body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. There is also a buildup of waste products that can lead to muscle soreness. If an athlete stops physical activity immediately after a practice or match, the buildup does not have the means to properly exit the body, and that mean’s maximum muscle soreness for you.

3. Take Advatage of Heating Pads

Completing a sufficient warm-up while your muscles are sore can be a painfully arduous, but necessary task. Using heat pads approximately 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled start of your practice is a great way to jumpstart the warm-up process. The heat pads will help stimulate blood flow to the area where the pad is applied.

4. Get Familiar WIth Ice Baths

A brisk dip into a freezing-cold bath of ice water might not sound appealing, but scientific research suggests that an ice bath could greatly speed muscle recovery and decrease muscle soreness. Thus, it’s no wonder why elite athletes from Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor to professional football players continue to take the icy plunge.

The theory behind ice baths is related to the fact that intense exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle fibers. Although these tears help stimulate muscle-cell activity and strengthen the muscles, they are also linked to muscle soreness. The ice bath is thought to combat the source of muscle soreness by:

  • Constricting blood vessels and flushing waste products
  • Decreasing metabolic activity and slowing down physiological processes
  • Reducing swelling and tissue breakdown
  • Increasing blood flow and circulation during the re-warming process

So if you have access to an athletic-training facility with the proper equipment, talk to your trainer about joining the polar bear club.

5. Utilize the Foam Roller

The foam roller is a self-massage tool that will bolster injury prevention and improve performance on the court.

Ideally, the foam roller should be used about five minutes before a workout to loosen muscles and increase blood circulation. The foam roller can also be used post workout to promote healing of small micro-tears in the muscles. Below are some examples of common foam roller exercises and instructions on how to execute the exercises:

IT Band Exercise

  1. Lie on your right side with the foam roller just below the hip bone.
  2. Extend the right leg straight out.
  3. Bend the left leg and place it in front of your right leg.
  4. Place your right hand on the floor for balance and slowly roll along your outer thigh.
  5. You should be moving from just below your hip bone to just above the knee.
  6. Repeat on left side.

Quadriceps Exercise

  1. Lie face down with the foam roller under your right thigh.
  2. Put your forearms on the ground.
  3. Keep your left foot off the ground by stacking your feet on top of each other (toe of left foot on heel of right foot).
  4. Supporting body weight with your forearms, roll up and down from the bottom of hip to top of the knee.
  5. Repeat on other side.

 Hamstrings Exercise

  1. Sit with the roller under your right thigh.
  2. Place the palms of your hands on the ground (fingers pointed towards the body).
  3. Keep your left foot off the ground by stacking your feet on top of each other.
  4. Supporting your body weight with your hands, roll up and down from the bottom of your hip bone to the top of your knees.
  5.  Repeat on other side.

Calves Exercise

  1. Sit with the roller under your right calf.
  2. Place the palms of your hands on the ground (fingers pointing toward the body).
  3. Keep your left foot on the ground by stacking your feet on top of each other.
  4. Supporting your body weight on your hands, roll up and down along your calf.
  5. Repeat on other side.

Prepare for Success

There’s no doubt about it, double days can take a toll on your body. However, if you prepare well (that means good nutrition and summer workouts) and follow the tips and suggestions listed above, you will make it through them in one piece.

Double days can be a real pain, literally! Sore muscles are inevitable, but there are things you can do to improve recovery time. Check out this guide for tips.
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