In this job, as in most, you will get out of it as much as you put in. We generally train twice a day, let’s say 9-11am and 4-6pm, which might not sound like a whole lot, but… If we push ourselves to the max during those windows, then how we spend our ‘down time’ becomes more important. So that nap time that I joke about is actually a key part of my day, because sleep is one of the pillars of recovery.
So, here are a few of the tricks I’ve learned to keep my old and decrepit body functioning like a 21-year-old across an average training day:
- When I wake up in the morning, I immediately put on a wrap to heat my back — since I had a minor injury last season, I am particularly still in the morning. I’m spoiled and I’ve got the high tech vibrating Venom from Hyperice which I love, but before that I used the low-tech hot water bottle option as a substitute. I keep the wrap on while I go about my morning routine, about 20 minutes or so, enough time to eat breakfast and listen to my news podcast The Daily.
- Next I try to get in about 10-15 minutes of foam rolling. It’s a great way to get the muscles lengthened and warm before training. I use the Vyper, which has an added element of vibration, meaning more blood flow is circulating to the area. The result is my muscles feeling looser and more limber, and overall warmer and ready to move
- Before getting into the full warmup at training, I always do about ten minutes of active stretching, which can be anything from lunges and squats, to planks and crunches. Then the full warm up is more speed oriented, so things like ladder drills, mini sprints and block jumps.
- I’m lucky that my coach here in France is flexible, and allows me to incorporate my PBJumps program into our team strength and conditioning workout. But as some of you already know it is a pretty intense program, and the result is very tired and sore muscles. So immediately after training I roll again. For this part, I love the Hypersphere, which is basically a foam roller in the shape of a ball. I can just find a sore spot and sit on it, let the vibration do all the work to loosen up a tight muscle.
- If it was a ball training, I’ll throw ice immediately on my shoulder, back and/or knees, or the best is even a full body ice bath whenever possible. The ice constricts blood flow and reduces inflammation (although inflammation is important sometimes…). Real time effects: I feel very, very cold. But refreshed.
- After lunch and an hour nap, I repeat the whole hot to cold process again for the next training. I eat a lot of veggies and chicken, and take BCAA before and after each training, as well as a protein shake after weights. I like MyProtein for supplements, because I know they batch test all of their products, so I don't have to worry about contaminations with banned substances that could cost me my awesome job.
- If we have a long travel day, especially on a plane, I’ll wear compression socks from Compressport. Their knee-high black socks are highly unfashionable with sneakers, but they do keep my ankles from swelling up like the Michelin Man. So sacrifices must be made.
People often ask me when I plan to stop playing, but as long as I am able to keep my body fit and healthy, I can honestly say — not anytime soon.
So stay fit and stay tuned!
*Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. No kindergarteners were harmed during the writing of this article.
Ciara Michel is the most successful GB indoor volleyball athlete in history. She played at the London 2012 Olympic games and placed 2nd in the 2015 European Champions League final with her A1 Italian club team. Alongside her success on-court, Ciara is very active sharing her unique experiences as a professional athlete across social media for the benefit of all. Find her on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram, as well as her contributions to VolleyScience.com!
Cold therapy should be applied as soon as possible after an injury. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling, and decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain. Ice treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, ice the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never ice a chronic injury before activity. Use ice for short periods of time. Ten to 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage. Elevation can also reduce the amount of swelling and inflammation.
Child’s Pose - Balasana
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Extend your arms and place your palms on the floor, slowly inching your fingers out for a deeper stretch.
Downward Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana
Come onto your hands and knees, with palms flat on the floor. Curl your toes under, so they are in contact with the floor, then push up through your palms and the balls of your feet, straightening your legs and lifting your butt up into the air. You want to have a flat back and straight legs, though your feet will most likely not be flat on the floor. Keep your neck neutral and breathe here for about 30 seconds.
Mountain Pose and Standing Forward Bend - Tadasana and Uttanasana
Walk your feet to the front of the mat until you are standing in a forward bend. Bend the knees and slowly roll up to stand in mountain pose—tadasana. From mountain pose, take the arms out to the side and up to the ceiling. Press the palms together, coming into raised arms pose. Make sure to slide your shoulders down, away from your ears. Swan dive down into standing forward bend—uttanasana. Come up and then forward bend back into uttanasana. To get a good hamstring stretch, do this slowly.
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II
Come back to mountain pose, then widen your stance so that your feet are about 3 to 4 feet apart. You may need to adjust this slightly once you bend your knee. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, then turn your right foot toward the right wall and turn your left foot in ever so slightly to give you some extra stability. Bend the right knee, bringing your thigh parallel to the floor. Keep your torso pointed straight ahead and turn just your head to gaze beyond your right hand. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the left side.
Triangle Pose - Trikonasana
Remain in the wide-legged stance from Warrior II, but straighten both legs. Raise your arms so they are once again parallel to the floor, then stretch your upper body out to the right, then tilt your torso to the right, raising your left arm straight up in the air and stretching your right arm towards the floor. You can grab onto your thigh, calf, ankle, or foot with your right hand if you feel like you need the support. Turn your head to look up at your left hand, and breathe. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the left side. Once you complete the pose on both sides, return to downward dog.
Yoga Lunge - Anjaneyasana
From downward dog position, step your right foot forward, placing it on the floor between your hands. Arch your back slightly, and look up at the ceiling, keeping your palms on the floor. Hold this supported lunge for 10 deep breaths, then push back into downward dog to switch sides and repeat on the left side of the body.
Pigeon Pose - Kapotasana
For your hip opener, do pigeon pose. Come back to a hands and knees position, then swing your right foot forward, so that your knee is between your hands. Slide the left leg back along the floor slowly. Then release your spine and lower your head to the floor. It's best to stay in a forward fold in pigeon for 10 to 20 deep breaths to give your body time to release. If you do this every day, you'll really notice a difference.
Corpse Pose - Savasana
In Savasana it's essential that the body be placed in a neutral position. Spend a few minutes resting in corpse pose to let your body absorb the benefits of your practice before going on with your day.