As a runner, I look forward to fall because it’s race season. I train hard throughout spring and summer so I’ll be in peak condition once autumn rolls around. But that doesn’t mean take it easy all winter.
If you’re also a runner – or a cyclist, tennis player or ice hockey player – you may not participate in your sport year-round. But chances are you’ll want to stay fit even when you’re not actively preparing for races or games.
The off season is not a time to exercise too hard, nor to give up fitness all together. Here’s how to stay in shape.
Keep Up Your Fitness
For a competitive athlete, staying fit in the off season is a delicate balance. It’s important to get enough rest so your body can recover from months of grueling workouts. But it’s also key to maintain some level of conditioning so you don’t lose the valuable gains you worked so hard for during the season.
Everyone’s off-season training needs are different. Your workouts will depend on:
-How many weeks you have until the next season starts.
-What physical improvements you want to make before next season.
-Your history of injury, and any advice or recommendations from your doctor, coach or physical therapist.
The Building Blocks of Off-Season Training
While everyone’s specific training will vary, your plan will likely include these essential steps:
Rest up. Before anything else, you need to let your body heal from the demands of a long season. Rest is crucial. Take several days off from exercise. For the next two to four weeks, if you feel like you need to exercise, do short, easy cross-training sessions. If you’re a runner, try walking, cycling on or swimming. Then gradually add in short, easy runs. Cross-training and easing back into your sport will keep you fit and injury-free in the long run. If you’re coming back from an injury, don’t return to exercise until your doctor or physical therapist gives you the OK.
Reflect. Think about last season. What were your strengths? What were your weaknesses? Taking some time to figure out what went right and wrong can help you determine what to focus on during the next training cycle.
Enhance endurance. Did you find yourself tiring out half way through tennis matches? Stopping to catch your breath on the soccer field? If so, you need to gain some endurance. Doing interval workouts and gradually increasing the length of your cardio sessions can help you improve.
Gain speed. Speed is a crucial component to almost every sport, and getting faster is possible with hard work. Flexibility training and regular sprint workouts will help make you quicker. It may also be helpful to have a coach look at your form – sometimes even simple changes in your technique can help you get faster.
Get stronger. Many athletes log long hours in the weight room. This is because strength is needed to help you excel in any sport. Talk to a coach or more experienced athlete about what resistance training exercises are best for your sport. Doing lunges, squats, pushups and abdominal work may help you transform into an above average athlete.
Athletes: how do you stay in tip-top shape in the off season?