Arizona Sports Medicine: How Do You Spend Your Off-Season?

Post attributed to Kyle Schneider, CSCS, FAST Facility Manager and Fitness Trainer

Kyle Schneider is an Arizona sports medicine expert, CSCS and manager of our FAST program in Ahwatukee, AZ. Today, he explains the importance of rest and recovery in the off-season for athletes and how a four-phase approach is important.

What Can FAST Do For You?

Our fitness professionals at FAST focus on utilizing the off-season to set a foundation for an athlete’s upcoming competitive season. We do this by total-body strength training, agility drills, resisted running, and explosive upper and lower body plyometrics.

By training with a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at FAST, you can expect to train both aerobically and anaerobically to ensure peak performance.

The Year-Round Phenomenon

My son plays soccer. In May, he has club sports tryouts followed by a short, but hot, summer break. In August, when he returns to school, his soccer practices resume. As May rolls around again and the school year is over, club soccer resumes. This is the case with almost every young athlete I work with today. The cycle of year-round sports activities provides physical risks and obstacles for athletes.

The Four-Season Cycle

Regardless of age, level of play, or gender, athletes should have a periodic approach to their year. Most professionals would agree that a four-season cycle is most appropriate.

First, when an athlete’s season comes to an end, they should immediately enter a post-season phase. This is a 1-3 month period following a season in which athletes should rest and recover from the mental and physical demands of their competition.

Next, once an athlete is able to recover, they should shift into their off-season. An off-season is a 4-6 month period of time where an athlete is able to partake in intense workouts three to five times per week while lightly maintaining skills pertinent to their sport. Off-season workouts should focus on improving strength, speed, conditioning, agility, and flexibility.

Then, within the 1-2 months prior to the season starting, an athlete should move into his or her pre-season. Workouts during this cycle should be programmed to ensure the athlete is in peak form for the upcoming season. An emphasis should be placed on more sport-specific movements and skills.

Finally, an athlete will reach his or her competitive in-season. This is the time of the year when athletes are engaged in organized practice and competition in his or her sport and outside training focuses on maintaining gains made in the off-season.

Each phase of this cycle is vital in allowing an athlete to succeed, but the off-season is where athletes can differentiate themselves from their competition.

So why is it that we continue to move towards a shorter off-season or getting rid of it altogether if it’s the time when an athlete can make the most gains? It’s because most people believe constantly participating in their sport will create greater gains than cross-training and rest.

Pushing The Limits

While in competitive in-season, your body is experiencing the greatest amount of stress and exertion. Staying in a competitive mode for long periods of time will eventually wear down your muscles.

The CDC reports that 28% of football, 25% of baseball, 22% of soccer, 15% of basketball, and 12% of softball players were injured while playing in just one season of their competitive sport. The CDC stated that at least half of these injuries could probably been prevented through proper off-season training.

An athlete cannot push his or her body to the limit year-round and expect to avoid injury while performing at peak levels. I have seen first-hand that this methodology breeds injury. Rest and recovery is important to staying healthy and keeping an athlete at peak performance.

Becoming A Better Athlete

Most injuries occur due to the high stresses put on the body during the repetitive motions athletes perform in their respective sport. As an athlete continues to perform this movement year-round and at full effort, muscular imbalances will develop.

The off-season is the phase of the cycle to combat these imbalances and further help avoid injury during the competitive in-season. Athletes should strive for variety in their off-season training. This, however, doesn’t mean avoiding their sport altogether. For example, if you were a swimmer, you wouldn’t stop swimming. Rather, you would substitute some of your swimming time on other activities like running or jumping. Even though a swimmer does not have to sprint or jump, these traits help to make a better, balanced athlete.

Switching It Up

In the off-season, athletes may avoid organized activities/practices and focus more on free play. I often hear, “kids nowadays don’t go outside and play like we used to!” Organized, structured events have taken over for young athletes. Few young competitors are out running around with their friends horsing around on the playground. The running, dodging, darting, and jumping which happens during free-play helps to add variety and stress for the body in ways uncommon to the athlete’s core sport. Partaking in different sports and activities (cross-training) during the off-season can help expand an athlete’s strength and abilities that go beyond their main sport, which may provide a competitive advantage for an athlete in the future.

I encourage everyone to stop ignoring the importance of the off-season and start following the four-phase approach. Set yourself apart from your competition and start making gains today!

Arizona sports medicine experts like Kyle will help you prepare for any competitive sport and can help you reach peak performance levels. If you have questions about how to exercise or cross-train this off-season, make an appointment today! To learn more about FAST and what our experts can do for you, check out the FAST blog.

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).