It’s tournament season for many of us, which means super fun road trips, inside jokes, sweaty gear in dank hotel rooms, and a whole lot to ask of your body.
Playing 3 or 4 bouts in a weekend can become rote for elite skaters who compete at high level tournaments regularly, but it’s not *just* because they have experience. Top teams do a few simple things to make sure their bodies are prepped for bouting, and ensure good recovery.
Tip #1 – Warmups
Team pre-game warmup rituals serve many great purposes. Besides setting a time to meet pre-game to ensure that no one is at seven eleven drinking a slurpee when she should be gearing up, they provide an opportunity for team bonding, coach chit-chat, and – most importantly – injury prevention time. This one is not rocket science – your team should spend a good 20 minutes getting warm and limber off-skates before gearing up. Try a 7 minute jog (throw in some footwork like shuffles, grapevines, high knees etc if you like), followed by 10-12 minutes of dynamic stretches targeting all your joints and major muscle groups. Use the time wisely to have fun but also get your game faces on. As a bonus, repeating a very consistent routine at practices and tournaments will help create mental rituals that enhance calm and focus.
Tip #2 – Post Game Jog
We in the roller derby world tend to be a bit slow to pick up the learnings from other sports – and taking a cooldown jog post-bout is just one great example. Teams from other tournament sports like hockey and soccer know this one down pat. A light jog as a team for 7-10 minutes allows some of the lactic acid build-up (which leads to sore muscles) to be eliminated from your muscles, keeping them fresh for the next bout. This is especially important if you skate late in the evening, to allow your muscles time to purge some lactic acid and promote better rest and recovery. If you’re the last team to skate, do your jog right on the track, reminding everyone that you’re the boss of it…
Tip #3 – Fuel your Recovery
You’ve geared down, you’ve jogged it out. Now time to refuel. Obviously you need to continue to hydrate and replace electrolytes through a supplement or sports drink (but you’ve been doing that during the game, right?). But you also need nutrients, stat. Your body’s ability to restore muscle glycogen levels is highest immediately after working out, and tapers from there. Try to get some carbs and protein in your pie-hole within 20-30 minutes of your cooldown jog. Guidelines vary, but the good folks at Powerbar recommend half a gram of carbs for every pound of bodyweight, plus 10-20 grams of protein. So if you weigh 160 pounds, that’s 80 grams of carbs. You could meet your requirements with a bagel, cream cheese and a banana. Or, a large turkey sandwich and a cup of chocolate milk. If your next game is within a couple of hours, you might prefer to reduce this a bit – it all depends on your gut and normal eating habits of course.
Tip #4 – Rest your Brain
It is super exciting to be at a tournament, watching your rivals and buddies and derby crushes out there playing close bouts! But you’d be surprised at how much mental fatigue you can generate by being in that hyper, loud environment. You need your brain more than you need your legs at a tournament – muscle memory will kick in even if your body’s feeling battered and bruised, but without alertness and focus, your game will be way off. So take this tip from some of my Team Canada buddies seriously, and put earplugs in while you’re watching other games and hanging out at the venue. Yep, just like you would at a loud concert to protect your hearing. Earplugs at a tournament dull at least one of your senses enough to reduce overstimulation and fatigue. Coaches, you can pick up multi-packs in bulk for the whole team and hand them out after cooldown! Buy them in your team colours! Fun! You’ll be the coolest looking team on the bleachers, I promise.
Tip #5 – Pack like a Pro
Make a checklist! All your jersey colours. Extra socks. Tylenol. Sleep aids (tea, eye mask, earplugs, headphones, whatever your thing is). Allergy medicine. Throat lozenges. Sewing kit. Extra socks. Eye drops. Lucky charms (not the cereal). Favourite pillow. Team schwag. Favourite pre/post game snacks and drinks. Extra socks. And most importantly, fresh undies, bra, socks, and clothes to change into for the journey home after your last bout. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
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