Physical Fitness in volleyball – Season 1

Competitive Volleyball season 1 – April to August 2017.

Knee

My greatest insight into this first season in my 5 your journey is that I am still physically able to play. I had hoped in the preseason that I would possibly last throughout the entire season, and in writing this I have done that. Not only that, it is not that I feel stronger or have less knee pain, but I have discovered techniques to alleviate and sometimes negate the pain.

In the preseason I simply engaged in a lot of social volleyball games, as well as 1x per week training session. These training sessions were meant for high school / complete beginners to the game so I was able to relearn and fine tune my essentials. During this time my knee pain would flare up occasionally and, since then, have discovered different methods to treat the pain. Initially my remedy was to purchase knee supports, which is why I have 2 Bauerfeind knee sleeves. I additionally invested in highly compressive leggings to further support the key muscle groups in and around my knees. Once I found that my pain was not as intense, but still lingering, I educated myself in foam rolling techniques. At this point in time I have invested in a Hyperice Vyper 2.0 foam roller that has 3 vibration intensities to more effectively loosen my fatigued muscles.

Once I established proper foam rolling methods into my treatment ritual, in order to ensure that I was able to play a competitive volleyball game with minimal pain, I resorted to rubbing heat gel in and around my knees to prep them for game time. During the warm up the gel would activate and assist in keeping that region heated and loose. Occasionally, when the heating gel would not work, I would use kinesiology tape under my knee sleeves for further support. This practice proved invaluable during the Collie Cup tournament where I played volleyball for 2 days, the first day having 5 games. The kinesiology tape was able to further stabilise my knees along with my knee sleeves, while the highly compressive skins tights decreased as much muscle vibration as possible.

Additionally, I established a pregame warm up routine that greatly assisted in warming my lower body and reducing my knee pain. The warm up involves running 2-3 laps around half / full court, followed by half court drills. In the preseason I used to do more elaborate warm ups which I have been unable to do in the season due to time constraints in the warm up phase of  an official game. I will return to doing these warm up exercises in the offseason and increase my efficiency so that I can still perform them during an actual pregame warm up.

Another method that I had developed during the season was to change my mentality during a game. On top of being calm and collected, I also channelled the thought of “air” and “light” in order to translate into being lighter on my feet. This served to make me faster in my response timings, as well as to change the way I exerted force on my muscles and joints. Instead of pounding them into the hard wood to move, with my adjusted mentality I used only as much force as needed to get me into position. This greatly served to reduce my knee pain and actually helped me increase my speed, if not only as a placebo effect.

As previously described in my previous post, my landing mechanics this season declined as compared to the preseason. Although, having a “light” mentality assisted in landing as softly as possible, thus allowing me to actually use the knowledge that I had gained to land properly. For the new season, I am to always have a “light” mentality as well as to further improve my landing mechanics so that I may minimise as much pain as possible.

Thumb

As previously stated, during the beginning of the season I had initially sprained my thumb and did not pay the injury much thought. Unfortunately, this sprain developed into a chronic injury and as a result, I am currently seeking medical attention at this time of writing. Oddly, I only sprain my thumb when I play volleyball because otherwise, it is fully functional. I can still grip properly and use my thumb when I lift weights, but I can not perform a simple set without the possibility of a further sprain.

Throughout the season I used a thumb support during the game and this did not help as much. In retrospect it was probably because of the way I used the straps and how it did not support the area where my thumb had weakened. My only hope for a full recovery is to rest it, as well as perform various thumb exercises to strengthen the muscles, if any are injured.

The last training session I had attended, instead of using a thumb support I wrapped my thumb with sports taping. As a result, I was actually able to gain the mobility and flexibility I had lost with the thumb support, while being pain free. This was only 1 time that I had tried this technique, so I may make use of it more often in the future.

Eczema

I have always had to deal with my hereditary condition of Eczema in various parts of my body. The worse conditions are when it is incredibly dry and cold, as well as constant contact with dirty / drying surfaces. Throughout the season I had noticed that whenever I contacted a particularly dusty / dirty volleyball, my eczema in my right hand would flare up. However, if the ball was relatively clean, I would not exhibit any symptoms of eczema in my hand. In relation to my thumb condition, it seems that the material of the thumb support affect the skin on my right hand, and at the time of writing, I am treating it with mild hydrocortisone cream. It has healed considerably, but not yet fully. My middle 3 fingers have also experienced instances of eczema flares and I have treated them with sports tape and rigorous lotion application.

Fitness

My overall fitness level was gradually increasing in the preseason and towards the middle of the season. I could feel that the pain in my knees was decreasing, as well as my jump vertical increasing as I had less weight to overcome. This was also the time of proving my skills to the club, so I was extremely determined to be as fit and move as fast and functionally as possible to secure a favourable division. Unfortunately, partly due to my increased and varying workload, I dramatically decreased my gym activities in favour of focusing on my volleyball recovery and performance. This was counterintuitive because my performance suffered considerably, and my fitness dramatically decreased. I no longer was as fast and the pain in my knees increased again as I gradually gained weight. At the time of writing I have restarted my gym activities with a different goal, to ensure the health of my active lifestyle. Where I used to dislike cardiovascular exercises, I now take 30 min to simply walk before I engage in any weighted exercises. This ensures that I never get lazy or forget to do my cardio activity after my weighted trainings.

Season 2 and beyond

Now that the first season in my 5 year journey has ended, it was a valuable experience to play again. I have gained immense knowledge in how the organisation, club and league, are handled and I am now more familiar with the volleyball calendar for the year. I can easily reflect and consider this to be an incredibly negative experience, one that would give me reason to not play another season, but I choose to be grateful in still being able to play. To just be able to stand on a court again and to be in an actual competitive volleyball game, this has been a goal I had been working towards in the past 6 months leading up to the season. I am extremely hopeful for the next season as I am going to take this offseason to rest and strengthen myself again. I want to come back stronger and more balanced for any team that I decide to join. My love for the sport has always been in the background, through the small good times and immense bad times, I have loved the sport in all of it. Here is to the second year in my 5 year saga in competitive volleyball.

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