Friday, October 22, 2010

Hoops and ice-baths

Last night, I got an invite to play pickup ball with my dad and his buddies. Now, although I am about twenty years younger than these guys (excepting another son who showed up), I knew I wouldn't be running circles around these guys. They all play a lot, usually once a week, and they also play on a senior men's team together (the Cementheads), some of them for 10-15 years.

At this point, it's probably important to note that from the age of 7 until I graduated from high school, I lived for basketball. I played Calgary Minor Basketball instead of hockey, my first job was reffing, my second job was at Forzani's (now Intersport) so I could get discounts on basketball shoes, and during junior high, I played on the school team, helped coach that same team, and played for my community league at the same time. I played for my High School, and was co-captain of the 'Junior' team in grade 11. My first year of university, I volunteered to help coach a community team, and ended up the sole coach. Since then, I played a little in university intramurals, but I really haven't touched a ball in about 5 years.

Although I'm in the best shape I have been since high school, I also knew that "basketball shape" and "triathlon shape" are two very different things. Basketball, especially full-court, is about short bursts of speed, jumping, lateral mobility, quick hands, and leg strength. So while my endurance is much better than it was, I haven't run too many windsprints lately. 

Fortunately, basketball is also about court-sense, that ability to see the play developing, and anticipate what your teamate will do on offence, and what your opponent will do when you're defending. From that standpoint, it was like riding a bike. From a fitness standpoint, I held my own, but wow did I ever sweat! I may have also been panting like a dog a few times, trying to catch my wind...

Fortunately, sweat is good, and a short break is all it took to roll my tongue back into my mouth and stop wheezing like an old man. But just like when I played competitively in high school, the worst part was the blisters. I'll spare you the gory details, but long story short I never found any combination of shoes/ socks/ moleskine/ tape that prevented basketball blisters. So when I got home, I immediately ran the cold bath, hoping that the cold would help reduce the blisters, and soothe my calves and hammys. I think it worked a bit.

I recommend a good cold bath to anyone playing any sport-- especially runners and triathletes. I did ten minutes in the tub after both the Calgary 70.3 half ironman, and after my half-marathon, and it works. Far less recovery time, and far, far less soreness the next few days. I know some people like to put actual ice in their baths, but I prefer to just run it as cold as possible.