Fall sports such as football, cross country, women’s golf, men’s tennis, soccer and volleyball utilize summer workouts to help athletes get in shape before starting their season.
Summer conditioning can oftentimes be optional for high school athletes. However, there are many benefits to training in the off-season.
Dr. Jonathan Shook, OrthoIndy sports medicine physician, discusses how to prevent overuse injuries and the advantages of summer conditioning.
What is off-season training?
Every sport has a season that it typically competes in. For example, football season is in the fall and baseball season is in the spring. However, training for high school sports can happen in a season that they don’t compete in, also known as the “off-season”.
Fall high school sports often have off-season training for athletes during the spring and summer so they can start to prepare for the upcoming season.
Benefits of off-season training
According to Dr. Shook, training in the off-season has many benefits. “Most athletes aim to increase muscle mass, increase speed and agility and increase skills for their specific sport or sports,” said Dr. Shook. “These gains then translate into better performance when their sport’s season comes along.”
Once the season starts, the focus is on maintaining these gains. “Training in the off-season also has the benefit of reducing the number of “in-season” injuries,” said Dr. Shook.
High school strength and conditioning programs are designed to help athletes get in shape.
“Increasing intensity at a slow steady rate allows your muscles, bones and joints to adapt to the increased stress they are experiencing,” said Dr. Shook. “Your muscles and tendons gain strength and flexibility with training, and this process happens slowly. Your bones get stronger with strength training, but if you do this too quickly, you can actually cause stress fractures of the bones.”
Each week of conditioning should slightly increase in intensity which helps prevent injury.
“Nobody should expect to go from sitting on the couch one day to playing in a football game the next day without training and working up to the level of intensity it takes to play in a football game,” said Dr. Shook.
Furthermore, summer workouts allow time for a sports team to get acquainted with one another which helps build team chemistry.
Tips for training for high school sports in the summer
Training in the summer can add different challenges for athletes, but there are things you can do to make the process easier.
1. Drink plenty of water. Hydrate before, during and after workouts. Practicing in the heat causes you to sweat more, which means you need to replenish your body with water at a faster rate. If not, dehydration can easily occur.
2. Eat nutritious foods. It’s important to fuel your body with the proper nutrients so you can perform at the highest level. Not eating can lead to dizziness or even fainting. Don’t eat too close to your workouts. Find a time that works best for you.
3. Don’t forget to warm up. Just because your body is hot from the heat doesn’t mean your muscles are warmed up. It’s important to get a proper warm up to help prevent injuries such as a pulled muscle.
4. Take a break when you need it. If you aren’t feeling well, let your coach know. The heat can be dangerous and your coach may not realize how it’s affecting you.
5. Don’t go too hard, too fast. High school summer conditioning programs are meant to be a process. Practicing at a high intensity too soon can lead to injuries.
6. Cool down after workouts. Stretching and cooling down after a workout can help prevent lactic acid from building up in your muscles, making you recover at a slower rate. Also, it helps your heart rate and breathing return to resting levels.
7. Practice your sport. Not only is it important to run and lift for your sport, but actually playing your sport will help you get in the best shape as well as improve your technical skills.
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