Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

Creating Good Sleep/Recovery Habits on the Road

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Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, PBSCCS Advisory Board Member, Colorado Springs CO

Dave Ellis is an accomplished Sports Dietitian and President of Sports Alliance, which provides consulting services to athletics and the food industry.  Dave has earned a reputation as a pioneer and leader in the field of applied sports nutrition and is celebrating his 25th year of practice athletics in 2006.   As the Director of Performance Nutrition support services at the collegiate level (20 years combined – Nebraska and Wisconsin Universities), Ellis orchestrated the most highly evolved performance nutrition and body composition support service models in the country.  Dave also Chairs the Nutrition, Metabolism & Body Composition Special Interest Group of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is an advisor to the Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS) Advisory Board, USADA and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.-ed

After spring training is over and you hopefully came out healthy and with your baseball skills sharpened, the long march towards the divisional championships begin.  Now at the big leagues some long trips await the teams who live in cold climates as they try to avoid bad weather that potentially awaits them back home.  It’s a tough way to start off the season after the relative comfort of day trips during spring training.  Without a doubt travel is over-rated when it comes to sports.

One of the biggest problems is the lack of quality rest that occurs on the road.  For many athletes not sleeping in their own beds can slow recovery as the quantity and quality of their rest is compromised.  When we get to the deepest phases of rest (called non-REM sleep) some valuable recovery occurs as we naturally pulse growth hormone.  Every time these athletes compromise the quality of their rest by 90 minutes they miss a cycle of growth hormone induced recovery that in time takes it’s toll as this sleep-recovery debt accumulates.

It’s a good idea to try and bank sleep when traveling.  We do this by going to bed early knowing that the stresses of travel itself along with the grind of the hours on the field will demand extra rest.  That means setting the stage for sleep by knocking down stimuli in the hour leading up to lights out.

• Pass on any caffeine sources after 4 PM or earlier if you are very sensitive.  This includes soft drinks and chocolate.

• For most athletes this means turning off the video games or checking out of the card game that can have you adrenaline pumping and leave you staring at the ceiling.

• Dim the lights and start dialing down high tempo music for soft melodic tunes, designed to induce relaxation.  You can find dozens of these types of DVD’s in any good book or music store.

• It’s not a bad time to read or journal just before bed.  If you journal reflect on things that you did that support immune health, energy and recovery:

-Rate the quality of your rest (1-5 w/ 5 being the best) from the night before and how you felt when you woke up and how long it took to clear your head and get your motor skills on point when you got to the park.

-Did you eat every four hours and did the meals contain fresh produce for immune health, fiber rich starch for energy and diverse sources of protein (animal, dairy and vegetable) to facilitate tissue remodeling?

-Did you drink 3-4 liters of water/sports drink over the course of the day’s activity?

-Reflect on your performance and competitive drive on the field for the day and your mood when dealing with teammates and coaches.

In time you will start to connect the dots with poor rest, diet, hydration and poorly focused-slow starts, dead legs and sluggish finishes.  You might get away with one reckless day, but two in a row will takes it toll and when alcohol or drugs are involved you can bet one day will put you in the tank.  So be honest in keeping track of how often you use alcohol and how it impacted you mind, body and spirit.  Choose the company you keep carefully if you see a trend where recovery is compromised.  Running with the pack might seem like the thing to do, but when the pack is ridding pine, sick, injured or cut, the pack will not amount to a hill of beans.

Sleeping on planes, buses and in vans is rarely as refreshing as when we are in a quiet room in a good bed so plan on being on your best behavior from a life style and diet stand point.  The stresses of travel demand that you give something back that improves recovery, not add to the stress with an undisciplined social life where those around you dictate everything from your rest to your diet.

Certainly this is easier said then done on the road.  It gets even tougher when you are in the minor leagues and trying to rest on long bus rides and survive on some very limited visiting club house spreads and daily per-diems that only fit the budget at the drive through.  Some teams will work hard to make the best of a bad situation when traveling by designating someone (typically trainer or strength coach) to travel with a portable food supply that athlete can fall back on when the cheap white bagels and cream cheese are the only breakfast items or a vending machine is the only PM snack.

In the end if you just wander through your athletic career living off caffeine in the AM and binge eating when your stomach starts growling after batting practice and again after the game, your baseball career is going to be short lived.  Soon you will look in the mirror and see the body of the guy next door who mowed his yard in his Bermuda shorts and on a boiler hanging over his belt, sweating like he had dynamite strapped to his body.  Sad to say there is not shortage of these old man bodies in the sport of baseball.  I will let you guess at what position we see more of these bad bodies.  So don’t let in-season travel get the best of you this season.  Being average won’t get you much when it comes to travel.

Article provided by Performance Conditioning Baseball/Softball the Official Publication of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society

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