Young athletes rarely have an off-season or a general preparation phase of training due to year-round sports training. Do not fear, it is a great time to allow your body to heal, renew, and focus on the basics. It is not a time to do nothing, but to do something different. Preparation is key to matching the physical qualities of the athlete to the physical demands of the sport. This will ultimately improve performance when pre-season and in-season training begins. Two training components that should be the focus during off-season training include aerobic fitness and strength training. Off-season training should last no more than one month unless injury history demands more time.
Improving your aerobic endurance and strength is best done in this preparatory phase. Aerobic endurance is any exercise that uses oxygen to meet the energy demands at a light to moderate intensity for 30-60 minutes of duration. When performing aerobic exercise, a clue that you are performing at the right intensity is the talk test. Athletes should feel slightly winded and be able to talk. Aerobic endurance training does not include sprinting where you are developing your anaerobic system. That should be trained during the pre-season. Utilizing different methods of training is a great way to allow your body to renew itself while improving itself in other areas. Ways to improve aerobic endurance include bike riding, swimming, jogging, jump roping, hiking, and walking. Training for longer periods of time at lower intensities is the key.
Increasing your strength during the off-season is also a way to help improve your performance when you return to team training. Depending on the sport you play, there are different exercises that will help you to prepare and also prevent injuries. Body-weighted strength training is a great start, especially for younger athletes. As athletes enter high school and weight training becomes an option, make sure a parent or professional is involved in the initial weight lifting stages to educate in using the correct form and loading. Here is a link to a great website that will provide a specific program for you, dependent upon your sport. They also have a Get Set – Train Smarter App to access your program.
Remember to let your age, injury history, and training history guide you in what activities to perform and for how long. If you have been dealing with injuries, then take this time to unload and train in a different capacity. Appreciating the benefits of an off-season or a general preparation time is essential to high-performing athletes. If you are interested in a structured off-season training course that includes an all-inclusive curriculum for female athletes ages 12-17, click here.