As athletes, we tend to make use of every resource we can find to train our bodies and help speed recovery so we can train more. Sometimes the appeal of a next big thing to maximize performance and recovery can lead to some poor choices, as shown by any athlete that has ever been busted for or accused of using “performance enhancing” drugs. An athlete who wants to support their body in a more natural way should be applauded.
Regular readers know that I'm a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and a science nerd first and foremost. Why do you care about that? Because my training and background is rooted in Western medicine (i.e. prescribing drugs for almost any issue you can think of), but I think that these natural solutions, while not appropriate for everything, are far more powerful and less harmful than medications. Also, most of the science I link to is not sponsored by companies that make essential oils. That should tell you that essential oils are truly powerful if scientists outside of essential oil companies are studying them!
Athletes want to support their bodies for maximum performance, and what better way to do that than get rid of all the toxic crap in your life? Whether you are a recreational runner or an elite athlete, essential oils can help support you in your athletic pursuits. From motivation to faster recovery, they are an excellent way to keep your body functioning (cleanly) on all cylinders.
Hey athletes! Want 5 free essential oil recipes for faster recovery and freshen up stinky workout gear?
Here are five reasons why every athlete should use essential oils.
1. For Immune Support
Without a solid immune system, most athletes would never be able to meet their goals, especially at a competitive level. You might think that as someone who eats well and exercises regularly, most athletes would have a strong immune system, right? Well, that's not exactly the case.
A recent study found that prolonged periods of exercise or heavy training schedules are associated with decreased immune function and an increased risk of picking up opportunistic infections such as a cold or influenza.
So while we tend to expect regular exercise to keep us healthy, training can actually stress the immune system and leave athletes vulnerable to more illnesses. Who wants to miss a race thanks to a cold?
There are many essential oils that can help block viral and bacterial illness as well as some that can even help to amp up immune system itself. Use these three essential oils for their strong immune boosting ability:
- Clove: Research has shown that clove essential oil can increase white blood count and other signals of immunity. This is a great indicator of clove oil’s immune boosting benefits.
- Frankincense: When the composition of frankincense oil was evaluated for its effects on the immune system, it showed strong immune-boosting effects on white blood cells.
- Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus can modify the immune response simply through inhalation in addition to being anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and has the ability to decrease pain.
2. For a Performance Boost
As long as your immune system is healthy enough to keep training, the next step is to figure out how to improve your performance. Most athletes want to be stronger, better, and faster.
Performance boosting substances are some of the the most controversial but also some of the most sought after substances in the world of sports and athletics. In most cases they are extremely dangerous and often illegal. While they can improve performance, they also disrupt many normal processes and harm the body that you have worked so hard to take care of.
Fortunately, most of us know that you have to treat your body well in order to get results. One of the best essential oils for athletes to help maximize performance is peppermint. I wrote a whole post about it, you can read that here.
Add peppermint to your training regimen to give yourself a little pep in your step and improve performance along the way. You can inhale a couple of drops rubbed between your palms, add a drop or two to you water, or rub some on the back of your neck for a nice cooling sensation.
3. To Soothe Sore Muscles
This is probably the way that most people are familiar with using essential oils. Getting a massage with the right essential oils can be extremely helpful when it comes to recovery after a challenging training session or race.
You can add almost any oil to a bath or a carrier oil (almond or coconut oils work great) for a massage and instantly enjoy the benefits of feeling relaxed. Here are a couple of specific oils/blends that I find helpful for soothing sore muscles:
- Lavender: One of the most useful essential oils overall, lavender has been studied extensively. In one study the effects of lavender oil on neck pain were examined and those that used lavender oil were found to have greater pain relief.
- Peppermint: I've already mentioned this oil, but in addition to improving athletic performance, it has demonstrated antispasmodic properties to aid in pain relief.
- A blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus: This blend provides a soothing and cooling sensation to tired, sore, or overworked muscles. Rub it on before or after a workout (or both) and your muscles will thank you.
4. For Their Antimicrobial & Healing Properties
Blisters, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and even sprains and strains can all be managed with essential oils instead of your usual over the counter ointments or pills.
Lavender and melaleuca (tea tree) applied to blisters or cuts and scrapes prevents infection and decreases pain. Other oils that can be used to heal cuts and scrapes quickly include rosemary, myrrh, and geranium.
5. To Fight the Stink
Anyone who works out regularly knows that stinky workout gear can be hard to clean. From smelly socks and shoes to piles of sweaty clothes in the laundry each week and stinky gym bags, it can be hard to get all that stuff smelling fresh again.
Again, almost any essential oil can be used to cover up the smell, but there are a few that are particularly good for their antimicrobial properties and stink fighting power.
- Citrus oils: Add a few drops of any citrus oil (lemon or orange are my favorites) to some baking soda and sprinkle in your shoes or gym bag to freshen things up. You can also make a spray with vinegar, water, and 10 drops of your favorite citrus oils (fill a spray bottle half full of vinegar, add oils, then fill the rest of the way with water).
- A blend of lemon, lime, fir, pine, citronella, and melaleuca oils: Add a few drops of this blend to your laundry when washing working clothes, put a few drops into your shoes, or add a drop or two to a washcloth in the bottom of your laundry hamper to keep things smelling fresh.
Using essential oils to help keep you healthy and training strong (and stink free) are just a few of the ways they can benefit you. If you are interested in learning more about essential oils in general, click here.