This upcoming week will consist of the Nebraska volleyball team competing in three matches over a span of 24 hours. The best comparison I can think of is running a marathon or a couple of half marathons in that 24-hour time frame. It’s not easy to do, especially if you are out on the court for all six rotations.
So, I couldn’t think of a more fitting time to discuss post-match recovery and what these female athletes do to rid their bodies of lactic acid and prepare for the next challenge.
Ice Baths: Brr! It makes me cold just thinking about them. Imagine a hot tub, but instead of 104 degrees it’s only at 40 degrees. You have to go so far in that the water goes past your waist and you have to sit in that freezing cold water for 15 minutes, not a minute longer or a minute less. Ice baths are definitely the one thing I don’t miss from college. The entire team has to take an ice bath once or twice during the week after practices and they will also do so after each home match as well, especially if Nebraska plays back-to-back nights.
NormaTec: In my opinion, this works better than an ice bath and it feels better as well. It is the same thought of flushing lactic acid out, reducing swelling and mending tissue breakdown, but it uses pressure instead of the freezing temps. You put each leg in a large sleeve, which looks similar to the bottom half of a space suit, and then sit with those on your legs for anywhere from 10-to-20 minutes. The leg sleeves blow up and use air to massage your legs, however, you have a little more pressure in these than in your average massage.
Cherry Juice: This not only helps post workout recovery, but it fights inflammation, boosts immunity, regulates metabolism, helps you sleep, improves your vision and provides plenty of antioxidants. It is pretty much a one stop shop in helping with not only the recovery aspect, but also other health benefits. Need I say more?
Recovery Shakes with Protein Powder: We have all heard the spiel here. Protein powder has been a go-to recovery aid for years and will continue to be used by not only Nebraska athletes, but athletes all around the world. Nebraska volleyball has a full-time nutritionist on staff who will prepare smoothies based on each athlete’s needs and then provide them with their smoothie immediately following the end of practice. It is like you are at a five-star resort with pina coladas being delivered to you while you sit poolside.
Turmeric: Turmeric has been around for a long time, but has become more popular within the past few years. This is also a newer recovery tactic for Nebraska athletes. When I played back in 2010–12, turmeric was not a part of our recovery routine. Even though it doesn’t taste as good as cherry juice, it can be taken as a shot of liquid. Most of the time, however, the players will have it mixed into their smoothies. Similar to cherry juice, it offers an abundance of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants
“You may be Lance Armstrong or just a beginner going to work out for the first time, but recovery is key. The key is to replace what you burn right away, which then prepares you for the next day.” That is the philosophy Coach John Cook has (those words came straight from his mouth––he loves the Tour de France) and that is something he has never wavered on in all his years of coaching. He believes in the power of recovery and doing it correctly.
Despite recovery techniques and recommendations changing over the years, he still puts each player’s recovery after a practice or a match before anything else. Maybe that’s why Nebraska does so well in those five set matches or why they hardly ever have any serious injuries.