Nate Lawrie:

5 Training and Recovery Tips

Posted by: Abby Murphy

From spending his entire life in and learning about sports, former NFL tight end Nate Lawrie, now has gone on to make collapsible foam rollers due to his dedication and belief in recovery. Lawrie had a few injuries in his career including back injuries, but always found help from the foam roller. He just wishes he knew more about how to recover sooner.

Lawrie shared with us his top 5 training and recovery tips that have made an impact on how he performs and keeps him safe and healthy.

1. Functional strength is more important than a one rep max. 
"Us football players love to talk about how much we can bench or squat or how many plates were on the bar for our best ever power clean. It’s part of the bigger, faster, stronger psyche of the sport. Truth be told, it’s exciting to see hard work in the weight room translate into bigger lifting numbers. In my many years of football, one critical observation helped change the way I prepared for the season – the guys that were the biggest performers in the weight room, were often not the best performers on the field.  To be great on the football field you have to be strong – but the key is that you have to be strong in strange positions. When you’re off balance and out-leveraged, you have to be functionally strong enough to reestablish a base, regain control, and make a play.  This comes from training in unconventional ways and not just focusing on pushing or pulling lots of weight in static situations. Functional strength comes from balance training and core stability exercises. For instance, instead of doing a traditional dead-lift, try a one-legged Romanian dead lift with a dumbbell. Instead of always doing a standard bench press, try doing push-ups on a stability ball…now do it with one leg off the ground. There are countless ways to supplement the big moves in order to train for functional strength and stability, and this should be your focus. It’s great to put up good numbers, but it’s much better to go-out and dominate on the field. This takes smart training. 

Never sacrifice good form to move more weight. When you’re young, you just want to put up the biggest number you can. I was totally like that and my body paid for it in the long run. While it’s fun to impress your friends and coaches, you end up putting your body in dangerous positions to do it. This adds a ton of stress on your joints and connective tissue and it can lead to injury. In the end, it matters what you do on the field and tenacity for good form in the weight room will help you play with more strength and stay healthier over the long run."

2. Mobility is critical for athletic performance and injury prevention  
"You can’t play if you’re not healthy.  Training hard and playing at a high level means that you are going to put a lot of stress on your body. If you don’t know how to take care of it, then at some point you’ll suffer a preventable injury that could have you watching from the sidelines.  You need to have a good self-maintenance routine for taking care of your muscles and joints. I wish I had committed to this earlier in my career because, as I learned the hard way, small common injuries can end up manifesting into much bigger problems if they are not corrected. As a typical football player, my mentality early in my career was that I could play through any pain and eventually it would go away.  This was a big mistake. 
Luckily there are awesome tools that can help and allow you to train stabilizing core muscles that can help improve balance and coordination. My favorite by far is the foam roller. In fact, I became so devoted to foam rolling that I created a collapsible foam roller, the Brazyn, so that I could keep up with my mobility routine no matter where I was. There are many ways to use a foam roller, but the most common is as a Self-Myofascial Release Tool or self-massage device.  
The key to proper foam rolling technique is being able to isolate adhesions (knots) in your muscles and apply direct pressure to help release these “trigger points”. Once the muscle starts to relax, you follow this up with a more general rolling motion to bring fresh blood flow into the area and help flush out metabolic waste (think Lactic Acid).  Add in some mobility work like stretches, and the body will react in very positive ways. 
It’s all about injury prevention and increasing range of motion. Mobility is a huge factor in athletic performance and a strong focus on this can pay huge dividends in your athletic career.
A good foam roller like the Brazyn, can help you recover from hard workouts faster and allow you to train harder and see quicker results. My suggestion is get a good foam roller and learn how to use it."

3. Hydration supports every aspect of your training.

"You’ve heard it before, “you are what you eat.”  True, but you are also what you drink. Without proper hydration, you put yourself at a disadvantage in any athletic competition and put yourself at risk for acute and chronic injuries.  From a muscular recovery perspective, without an adequate water supply to pull from the bloodstream, muscle protein synthesis slows down and can even stop entirely. During training or a competition, water is driven from your blood cells into muscle cells when your muscles contract. However, if you’re dehydrated, the water that would be used for muscle contraction is drawn back into the bloodstream to be used elsewhere. This action can lead to reduced muscle performance.
While proper hydration is incredibly important for muscle performance and recovery, it’s also essential for joint health—a crucial factor that’s often overlooked. Water is the majority of the liquid that fills the space between bones and provides nutrients to joints and cartilage. A well-hydrated joint is able to move more freely (i.e. without friction caused by a lack of fluid in the cartilage), and is better nourished.
Drink some water to ensure that you’re at your best at game time. A generally accepted starting point is to take your weight in pounds, cut it in half, and consume that number in fluid ounces.  So if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water per day."

4. Train harder and smarter.
"In the U.S. we like to mythologize the “Natural” and we undervalue the “Hustle Guy”.  The dirty-secret of the greats is that they all found ways to work harder and smarter than their peers.  Guys like Jerry Rice and Michael Jordan are renowned for their inhuman athletic abilities in their respective sports. Of course it’s true that they were naturally gifted, but they should be glorified more for their work ethic.  This doesn’t simply mean having a willingness to work longer and harder than everyone else.  That’s definitely part of it, but it also means training smarter. 
This comes down to finding ways to push your boundaries during each training session so you’re constantly growing (not just getting in a workout).  This is called purposeful practice. You also have to know how to listen to your body and take care of it, and find ways to work skills even while you’re resting. As a Tight End I used to do this. Even if I was just lying on the couch watching tv, I almost always had a football in my hands. I would toss it vertically and let gravity bring it back down and practice catching the ball with one hand or with my eyes closed. No matter what position you play, find ways to hone your craft with both hard work and smart work."

5. It is possible to get faster.

"Many experts will tell you that every individual has a ceiling on how fast he or she can run. At the same time, most of us probably never achieve our fastest selves. Through years of training I learned that all of us have inefficiencies in the way we run (improper knee drive, arm swing, foot strike, etc.). If you can find a good coach that can help you identify these inefficiencies and shows you drills to correct them, you can strengthen your running form and do some serious speed development. Just like in the weight room, a strong commitment to speed training is critical for any athlete. Through concentrated effort, you will find your acceleration and top level velocities improve, sometimes dramatically." 


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