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Off-season is important for athletes as it is imperative to take a break from intense training and allow the body to rest and recover properly. If you’re actively involved in a season-long activity, you’re all too familiar with how drained your body can feel when the season finally concludes. From opening day to your final game, you choose to play through the pesky little bumps and bruises and tweaks and pops with minimal downtime.
Come off-season, it’s time for the body to sink into some much needed active recovery, receive proper rest, while at the same time an individualized, low-impact training routine can be implemented.
While the athlete is still training during the off-season, their personalized exercise program calls for training intensity to drop while other methods of exercise, such as mobility and flexibility work, increase. And although training is still in motion during the off-season, it’s a fantastic time to work on weak areas, fix imbalances, and make overall improvements through individualized training and recovery methods.
Here, three sports trainers offer their best advice on how to succeed in the off-season allowing you to bring the best version of your athletic self to the ‘field’ the following season.
Training in the off-season allows you to become better, stronger, and faster when executed correctly. “Off-season training should be low impact and should give athletes the chance to improve their aerobic conditioning and fine-tune aspects of their strength and flexibility work,” says Matthew West, assistant cross-country coach, NASM personal trainer, FRC Mobility Specialist, and owner of www.westmovez.com. During the off-season “Mobility and strength work can increase, intense anaerobic work can be limited, and athletes can spend time working on limiting factors that may have given them issues during the season.” He says.
During the off-season, West likes to have his athletes spend more time rebuilding a more robust engine, all while filling up all the important strength buckets (push, pull, hinge, squat, rotate, anti-rotate, etc.) while placing additional focus on joint mobility work.
Keep in mind however, although every athlete (no matter the sport) will be actively resting during the off-season, their training programs should be based on their individual situation such as their sport, goals, past injuries, and weaknesses.
While rest is essential for everyone, an athlete looking to grow in their sport, break PRs, and become the best athletic version of themselves, prioritizing conditioning training in the off-season is a must. Although rest is a part of the program, “Recovery has to be an active process,” West says.
Essentially, recovery doesn’t mean slowing down and becoming immobile. It means performing at a lighter intensity than during the season. “Zone 2 conditioning work is the perfect recovery tool in my opinion. I like to get athletes performing different modalities while staying in a low effort zone,” says West.
One example, West says, involves moving in multiple planes of motion during warmups and cool-downs, and then utilizing rowers, air dyne bikes, medicine balls, and exploring ranges of motion that may have been neglected during the season.
An athlete’s off-season program should be designed by a sports trainer to make sure their needs are being met and that the athlete is getting the best out of the off-season without overdoing it.
Today there are useful recovery tools that can be used at home to help speed the healing process and prevent injuries. Terrance Miller, a former high school football coach and former running back at Northeastern State University recommends an athlete invest in a foam roller and be sure to use it frequently. This tool, which can be found at most gyms these days, helps break up tight fascia and loosen muscles thus increasing flexibility which can equate to better sports performance and aid in injury prevention. “A massage gun and heating pad will also be beneficial to your at-home recovery,” says Miller.
In addition to a foam roller, West suggests utilizing active recovery tools a light medicine ball, a yoga block for stretching and mobility work. These can be a great way to keep the body flexible and strong.
As always, without adequate hydration, it’s nearly impossible to perform at a top level. “If an athlete is even one percent dehydrated, performance will decline,” says Michael Wittig, ISSA CPT, sports performance specialist, and ntural pro nine-time bodybuilding champion. And that goes for the off-season as well.
“Hydration is vital to maximum performance,” Wittig explains. “The athlete should strive to stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts.” He recommends. So, grab your Gatorade and water bottle because your performace depends on it.
“In general, an athlete should drink six to weight ounces of fluid every 12 to15 minutes,” Wittig says, and after the workout, Wittig recommends an athlete should drink 16 ounces for every pound of weight lost during activity. “When the athlete is subjected to extreme temperatures and high humidity replacing lost electrolytes is important as well,” he says.
“Athletes can drink a sports drink like Gatorade to stay hydrated, replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes.” Says Wittig. Investing in purchasing Gatorade in bulk will ensure you’ll never run short on staying properly hydrated.
Keep in mind, “If an athlete’s off-season training is programmed correctly and proper attention is paid to recovery methods, strength and overall performance should be increased for the following competitive season. Says Wittig.
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