Skip to navigation menu Skip to content


Sporty teen drinking water after exercise

Rest and Recovery

By Martha Mansfield, M.S., Ed., ATC, VATL, CHKD Sports Medicine

As an athletic trainer and high school educator, I see many student-athletes struggle to maintain a healthy balance in their lives. The demands of school, sports, and social activities can be difficult to balance. Often, inadequate rest is the result. For our student-athletes to compete at optimal levels, we need to help them make rest a part of the plan. To create this plan, we need to break down the parts of rest and recovery.

The first piece is sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in cooperation with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommends that children ages 6 to 12 sleep nine to 12 hours daily while teens 13 and older should sleep eight to 10 hours per day on a regular basis.

Not meeting sleep goals has been linked to increased injuries, obesity, depression, and increased incidence of self-harm. Good sleep is linked to decreased levels of cortisol. This positively impacts stress and mood. It also allows time for the muscles to replenish their energy stores. Athletes who train hard need to sleep long and hard to maintain their performance levels.

Recovery is the time athletes refrain from using the dominant muscle groups for their sport. Short-term recovery is the immediate recovery period after a workout. This critical time requires an intentional cooldown period and good nutrition. Proper nutrition focuses on hydration and protein intake. While most athletes hydrate well during exercise they often forget to hydrate throughout the day. Supplementing hydration protocols with protein shakes can be an added bonus to their overall recovery. There is much research supporting the place of protein shakes and high protein diets to help with muscle and tissue repair. The athlete’s short-term recovery plan needs to be part of every workout to ensure the body continues to adapt to the new stresses created during the workout.

Long-term recovery includes the methods employed by both the athlete and the coach on a seasonal basis to maintain the athlete’s long-term ability to perform. The AAP recommends that student-athletes take at least one day off per week and at least one month off per year from training for a particular sport. This allows both the body and mind to recharge. Taking a season off or being a multi-sport athlete also aids in long-term recovery. Playing a different sport during the off season facilitates the use of diverse muscle groups and movement strategies.

Student-athletes are just beginning their sports careers. Some will go on to become experts in their sport and others will continue to play for fun and exercise. But, they all will need to learn to maintain that healthy balance.

About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.