Self-Care Techniques For Athletes

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

This is part 2 in the two part series on how to take care of your body during training. Although the routine is specific for each individual and depends on the sporting event you're training for, I'd like to share my top 9 tips on how to take care of your body during this intense time. It is important to remember that everyone is unique and people will respond differently to various self-care techniques.

1. Magnesium baths

The research substantiating magnesium absorption through the skin is limited. However the combination of magnesium and warm water can soothe aching muscles post workout and it is also said to be anti-inflammatory. Magnesium may provide stress relief and improve sleep.

Dissolve 100 grams in a warm bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. You can also burn lavender essential oils at the same time to help with relaxation and unwinding.

2. Stretching

The type of stretching and length of time required is highly dependent on the individual and the training.

The research isn't conclusive as to the benefits of stretching before and after workouts but it is thought to:

  • increase oxygen flow,

  • allow for longer workouts,

  • alleviate tight muscles,

  • help prevent injury,

  • provide better flexibility (consequently, range of motion about your joints),

  • reduce cramping and

  • cool down the body gradually.

Ask your physio to develop a unique plan for you or you can watch videos online for the best stretches for certain body parts. Make sure you are doing these properly, so that you do not sustain injury.

3. Heart rate (HR) monitoring

Keeping track of your HR can help ensure you get the best possible workout.

4. Physiotherapy

Having regular physio appointments is great to rehabilitate you from an injury but physios can also give you sports massages and a unique training programme for your goal.

5. Icing

Icing your muscles after exercise can help reduce swelling and minimise pain to preserve muscles for your next training. During an extreme workout, your muscles sustain small tears, which later heal, developing stronger, tougher muscles. This is desirable but the inflammation created directly after a workout causes discomfort and requires attention.

Cold triggers blood vessels in your muscles to constrict. This reduction in muscle tissue swelling slows down the metabolic activity, allowing your muscles to properly recover from your workout. Once your body is warm again, the blood vessels open, quickly returning blood to flush the metabolic buildup from your muscles preventing hours of pain and with less muscle tissue loss than if left untreated.

A 15-20 minute ice bath followed by a 30 minute room temperature warm up would be the best. Alternatively, you can shower for 20 seconds with freezing cold water followed by hot water for 1 minute. Repeat 3 times.

6. Compression tights

If you wear compression garments after exercise you tend to experience less pain and faster muscle recovery. Working a muscle group hard can cause inflammation, this leads to increased fluid and white blood cells rushing to the affected area, resulting in swelling and increased pressure and pain. Compression garments constrict muscles, this reduces fluid buildup and decreases swelling and pressure. They also increase blood flow to the muscles, removing an enzyme in your muscles that leaks out after muscle damage and can cause aching.

7. Pilates

This increases core strength. Your core encompasses your entire torso. When the torso is strong and balanced, your core becomes a stabiliser and a centre for you to transfer forces through when training. Core stability protects the spine and surrounding musculature from injury during dynamic movement.

Pilates classes can be expensive and time consuming. You can do Pilates from watching YouTube Pilates videos.

8. Arnica

Arnica is a great natural remedy for athletes. It helps relieve bruising, swelling, and pain, and speeds up recovery from minor injuries.

Rub the oil on the affected area every night after your bath/shower.

14. Rest day

The resting heart rate for a healthy adult should be around 60-100 beats per minute. Heart rate typically increases to facilitate the circulation of oxygen and immune cells needed to initiate the healing process when the body is stressed or fighting an infection. If your resting heart rate is over 85 for no obvious reason then you need a rest day (in more extreme circumstances consult your GP).

On rest days, replace carbohydrates with good fats such as avocado, seeds and nuts. When training, carbohydrate consumption is more likely to be used up by your muscles, but when resting, it is more likely to be laid down as fat.


Dr Axe

Dr Mercola

Pubmed research


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BANT Registered Nutritionist,  

Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC & Health Coaches Academy Certified Health Coach

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© 2016 by Michelle Boehm