Guest Blog: Professional Volleyball Player Ciara Michael
My job is awesome! I might be a particularly positive person, but I wouldn't trade what I do for anything. What other job in the world has a designated nap time, snack time, and play time, and 4-month vacation? I am not ashamed to say I am basically a professional kindergartener. But just like kindergarten, being a pro volleyball player won’t last forever, because inevitably the human body begins to deteriorate. The older I get, the more I see and feel the importance of preparation and recovery.
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:
I know it probably doesn't sound like groundbreaking stuff; heating, rolling, stretching and icing, but it’s sometimes overlooked, or even forgotten entirely, behind the work we do on the court and in the weight room. Just like finger painting is a building block for the fine motor skills of a kindergartner, preparation and recovery are the backbone to a fit and healthy volleyball player.
- 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!