Summer Fencing

Hi! I’m Julia, a Dragonwing ambassador. My summers have been known to be very busy, and this coming summer is no exception. I start by going to Dallas, Texas, for fencing summer nationals, where I will be fencing in four events. Each event is long and tiring, so I am lucky that they are each two days apart.

To help me survive the exhausting events, I wear my light, breathable Dragonwing clothes that keep me comfortable and performing my best. In Dallas, any time I don’t spend competing will be spent rehabilitating my knee injury or resting.

After Dallas, I have three days at home until I go to Massachusetts for a month for a journalism program and then a marine biology program, two of my favorite subjects. Lastly, I’ll be going to Poland for ten days for a fencing program with many fencers who belong to the same fencing club as me. There, we will do more intense training after a month-long break, and I will have my Dragonwing clothes to keep me cool and comfortable. 

In a previous blog post, I talked about my knee injury and my “Road to Recovery.” It took nearly a year, but I am now back to training and competing as much as I ever did. However, I will have to continue physical therapy in order to keep training as frequently and intensively as I can.

julia

My Road to Recovery

As a fencer, I love Dragonwing clothes because they keep me comfortable when I’m doing intense workouts. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do what I love lately due to a knee injury.

In May, I was told I have a condition called patellar tendonitis. Basically, it’s an overuse injury that, when aggravated, leads to inflammation of a tendon in my knee. Considering that I play a sport that requires lots of leg work and strain on my knees, you might see how my injury could be a serious setback.

Even though I’ve been spending a lot of time doing exercises and physical therapy, the hardest part of my recovery process is simply not being able to do the sport that I love. I’ve been fencing for five years and have never gone this long without fencing.

Luckily, the summer is the slowest time of the year when it comes to tournaments, as the number of national level tournaments is very limited. I normally do lots of training over the summer, but this time I took a seven-week break from my sport and focused on my recovery. I spent a few hours almost every day with either my physical therapist, chiropractor, or swimming trainer. Here I am doing plank exercises on the porch — in my Dragonwing Racer Sports Bra and Chill Weight Capri Leggings, of course!

Plank exercises wearing girl's Racer Sports Bra and Chill Weight Workout Leggings

Because swimming is a low impact form of exercise, I could do it for as long as I want without injuring myself any further. In fact, the swimming helps speed up my recovery because it develops many of the muscles that I don’t use as much when I fence.

girl swimming to rehab sports knee injury

My chiropractor and physical therapist give me stretches and exercises that will eventually get rid of my tendonitis. I do these exercises with them and every day at home. About three times a week, I will go to my fencing club and take a 20 minute one-on-one lesson with my coach where I do mostly arm work with some light footwork and no lunging.

I’m determined to get better as soon as I can so that I don’t have to worry about my knee when I am older and my injury could be worse.

Importance of Rest for Tween, Teen Athletes

For a tween or teen athlete, rest is a critical part of her training. I know that sounds slightly counterintuitive given that mastery of a sport requires hours, months, and years of practice. But rest contributes to athletic performance  in many ways.

The first is simply to avoid injuries. As tween and teen girls train and practice in any sport, they incur microscopic injuries — tiny muscle tears, a slight strain or sprain. A day or two of rest allows those small injuries to heal and not develop into bigger injuries.

Rest is even more critical for year-round athletes whether soccer, softball, swimming, or gymnastics. Those athletes are using the same muscle groups repetitively, so rest is needed to avoid overuse injuries. For example, year-round swimmers often take time off in August (ironic that swimmers aren’t swimming during the hottest month of the year). They can bike, run, or laze around but no hard core training.

Rest is also important for an athlete’s mental game. In sport as in love, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” When your daughter started playing her sport, she likely did so because it was fun. It’s still important, at any age and any skill level, for the sport to remain fun. That doesn’t mean that the athletes shouldn’t work hard, but as coaches and parents, one of our jobs is to nurture the love of the sport. Taking a physical break from training and competition can strengthen that love.

Finally, sleep — the deepest form of rest — keeps athletes at the top of their game. Literally. These kids work hard balancing  school, chores, family commitments, a social life, and sports. As fellow blogger Emma said so well, their plates are really, really full. In order to function at their best, athletes need plenty of sleep to restore body and mind. Most pediatricians recommend an average eight to nine hours of sleep. That means turning off computers, phones, televisions and getting into bed at a reasonable hour.

So rest is really a three-legged stool–rest the body to prevent injury, rest the mind to maintain love for the sport, and get a good night’s sleep to put it all together.