Preventing athletic injuries could be as easy as adequate sleep and hydration

Something that gets my blood boiling is when I hear from a client, “my body only requires X amount of sleep.” If you are telling me a number under 7 hours, you are wrong.

Our bodies need rest: the brain needs a break, muscle tissue needs time to repair and heal, even the heart needs your body to slow down and be in a solid REM cycle. Sleep helps our immune system stay strong and healthy.

Sleep aids in our quick reaction time, our decision making, and how we perform overall. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with injuries for middle and high school athletes, which is not a shocker.   

Did you know that kids grow more at night? That’s how I got my kids to go to bed early. “But mom, it’s still light outside,” they would say. And I would reply, “Do you want to grow big and tall?” Off to bed they went.  

Student-athletes are expected to keep their grades high, their bodies healthy and strong, and perform at a high level all year round. Social activities, family obligations, and with all of their extracurricular activities, how the heck are they supposed to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night?  

Quality sleep is what I’m asking you do give your body – not just lying in bed. You cannot have quality sleep when your phone is next to you buzzing or flashing a light. Move that phone out of your room at night. At the very least, turn it to silence with the notifications turned off.

The definition of an athlete is: “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical activity.” A strong competitor needs sleep and water.

I was embarrassed at how much sleep I got in middle and high schools. I used to envy kids who bragged about watching late night shows. On average, I was in bed before 9 p.m. and awake for school at 6 a.m. I would adjust my bedtime depending on the season.

During swim season I was in the pool before 5:30 a.m., so you needed to go to bed by 8 or 8:30 p.m. I knew I had to sacrifice to compete at a high level.  

I think falling asleep is the toughest part. Shutting your mind off, relaxing every muscle and joint in your body, and finding calm.   

Having a routine will help this process. One hour before you want to go to bed, you need to go through your routine. Maybe it’s a shower, or a book, or a cup of tea. Train your body on how to shut down and sleep.  

When trainers or coaches say “stay hydrated” I would never truly understand. When I started my Personal Training career almost 20 years ago, I was like a robot telling everyone to drink 80 ounces of water each day. The truth is everyone requires a different amount.  

How active are you? What’s your size or weight? What is your metabolism like?  

Research shows that over 75 percent of Americans are dehydrated daily. For an athlete, this can be detrimental. If an athlete is lacking 2 percent of hydration, it can affect performance.  

A simple way to calculate how much water you personally need to intake: cut your body weight in half, and that’s the amount of ounces you need per day. Most importantly, you need to listen to your body.

And it doesn’t have to be plain water to hydrate, did you know that? Many foods have water in them such as lettuce, celery, cucumber, peaches, apples, watermelon, oatmeal, tomato, and broccoli.

I know we just met, but let’s talk about the color of your urine. It’s a great way to detect your hydration level. Yellow in the morning, light yellow at lunchtime, and clear by dinnertime.  

When I am hydrated my body feels like it’s glowing. You can get more steps in too when hydrated because you must run to the restroom every hour.  

Water keeps your blood more fluid, which helps your heart to pump more blood. Water helps digestion and softens the joints. It also prevents lips from being dry. I have always felt I have more body and muscles aches when I’m dehydrated. I feel drained, fatigued, and lethargic at times.  

When I was in high school for my first field hockey preseason team camp, I wanted to impress the upperclassmen and coaches. At team camp, I remember having an out-of-body experience.

I was playing in the hot August sun, and then I remember seeing a fire in the middle of the field. I thought the entire field was on fire and I panicked. I remember a trainer running to me and I was thinking, ‘oh this probably isn’t good.’

I was put in the back of a pick-up truck, and I remember yelling that my “mom” had to come with me. I pointed to another player who happened to be a junior teammate.

I was hallucinating.

After several bags of fluids, I woke up in a dark room feeling cold and scared. I had no idea where I was. The nurse then told me I was severely dehydrated. She said they needed to keep me in the hospital for evaluation.  

Playing through dehydration isn’t worth it. What was I thinking pushing so far that I would put my body through that? That event is when I realized that dehydration will quickly come for you if you don’t stay on top of it.  

The market is filled with amazing options to have electrolytes without the sugar or empty calories. Find one that you like and take it when you are very active or when the temperature is hot or even drops into cooler weather.  

Leg cramps don’t care what the mercury says.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. You have been given one body, and it’s important that you take care of it.  

Mary Driscoll’s health and wellness column publish every other Thursday.

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