An athlete’s key to success…the Off-Season
A successful season begins with a great off-season! People often say to me that an athlete must love their off-season because they can just relax and enjoy….that couldn’t be farther from the truth! The off-season is the most important part of the year for any athlete, at any age, and if the off-season is not productive, their season will follow suit! It’s the time to get stronger, faster, bigger, leaner, more explosive, more skilled, focused, motivated, and overall healthier! In simple terms, it’s the time to get better!!!!
So here’s the advice and treatment approach I take with the athletes I work with:
(For the purpose of this example, I will talk in reference of hockey, but it applies to all sports)
- Rest and Rejuvenate: Once the season ends, to take a week or 2 or 3 (depending on timing) and remove themselves from the rink and gym…they need to get away from it and let the mind and body unwind
- Evaluate: After they have had some time to unwind, I ask them to evaluate their season that just passed; their performance on and off the ice, and their body’s ability to perform and withstand the rigors of the season. Be objective and specific as possible in establishing the areas of strength or weakness (skating, strength, endurance, shooting, balance, recovery, mindset, eating habits, routine, etc).
- Assessment: After I get an understanding of their own evaluation, we move on to a comprehensive assessment to examine what areas are not optimally functioning and address any physical concerns they might have or had on or off the ice. With hockey players, I place special emphasis on hips/groins, shoulders, and back. In addition to my assessment, each athlete should also undergo an assessment with their personal trainer/training staff, which will help gauge where they are starting from and guide them through their summer of training to reach an eventual goal.
- Treatment Plan: Combining the evaluation, assessment, and an athlete’s goals allows me to come up with a treatment plan for the off-season. The first few weeks (if necessary) are used to correct any resulting dysfunction from the season. It’s important this is done before the athlete is submerged into their intensive training schedule….the last thing you want is to build strength on top of dysfunction, which will give you strong dysfunction! Proper functionality of muscles, joints, movement and firing patterns creates a proper base to build upon. After everything is working optimally, the rest of the summer treatments are aimed to: help recovery from rigorous training sessions; help improve areas of concern/weakness (i.e. enhance the functionality of the rotator cuff/shoulder to help the strength of their shot); maximize performance and minimize risk of injury during the season by way of our unique treatment protocols.
Here are some key things that play a factor in a successful off-season:
- Choosing a suitable, sports specific, knowledgeable, adaptable, and comprehensive strength and condition coach/personal trainer that devises the right individualized program with phases/stages to achieve the desired goals (easier said then done!)
- Diet/Nutrition: an athlete’s diet/eating habits are essential to a successful off-season! You can not achieve your fitness goals if your nutrition does not support it! Contrary to common belief, an athlete’s diet should be more disciplined during the off-season than the season!
- Communication: when I am able to communicate with the athlete’s trainer/training staff and vice versa, the benefit to the athlete is enormous. We can communicate to ensure specific needs are being addressed and that everyone is working to achieve a common goal(s).
- Sleep: get lots of it!
- Stretch: and do lots of it! Flexible muscles have the ability to be stronger, faster, more explosive…and less susceptible to injury!
- Make sure all your training has a purpose! Nothing irks me more than when a pro athlete plays beer league hockey in the off-season- it’s a waste of energy that will negatively impact your training. They got their retired years to play with their buddies!
Wishing you a successful, productive, and defining off-season!!
Are you aware of your posture? by Dr. Stephanie Harris
Are you aware of your posture? Have you ever looked at your posture in the mirror? What does it look like? Good posture is an asset to healthy living. It is the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to gravity. Your posture is affected by your everyday activities including sitting all day at a desk, slouching in front of a computer, talking on the phone (without using a handset), bending and lifting heavy objects, and sleeping. Did you know that these activities are placing un-wanted stresses on your body?
Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions where the least amount of stress is placed on your muscles and ligaments. This can be done by stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones. The goal is to maintain balance between your muscles and within your body…. It’s the key to living a healthy, pain free life. Proper posture can prevent sprains/strain and overuse injuries, chronic back pain, muscular pain, and headaches.
An example of the importance of maintaining good posture becomes extremely evident when lifting heavy objects. If you bend down at the waist to pick up something, you are rounding out your spine and changing the shape of your natural low back (lumbar) curve, which increases your risk for injury. The proper way to pick up a heavy item is to bend from your knees making sure you keep your natural low back curve, which equals a neutral spine.
How do you lift??
Dr. Harris’ tips to help you improve your posture:
- When standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart with toes pointing straight ahead (Avoid having your toes pointing outward or inward)
- Keep your shoulders back (think about sticking out your chest)
- When sitting, keep your back straight and avoid slouching in the chair
- When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and knees and hips at 90 degrees
- Keep your head in a neutral position where your chin is slightly tucked in (as if you were trying to make a double-chin)
- Take frequent breaks from sitting (every 20-40 minutes) and change your position often
ICE vs. HEAT Part 1
Could there be anymore of a misunderstanding of when to use ice and when to use heat? Knowing which one to use could make the difference in how you feel and how you ultimately perform! Part 1 - Ice is your friend!
Ice and heat can play critical roles in both the management and treatment of many muscular issues. If used properly, I like to say “Ice is like your friend that tells you what you need to hear not what you want to hear”. In other words, it may not feel good but it’s what you need!! The reason we use ice is not because it feels good, but rather because it is a proven tool against acute, painful and inflammatory conditions.
Simply stated, ice will decrease swelling/inflammation, decrease blood flow, reduce muscle spasms and alleviate bruising and pain.
Whether you are a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone who just wants relief, here are some extremely useful tips:
Dr. G’s Tips on when/how to use ice:
• In my books, anything frozen counts as ice, so if do not have access to ice cubes or and ice pack- grab whatever you can find in your freezer…it will do the trick
• Ice should always be used on acute pain/injuries or a re-aggravation/re-occurrence of an old injury/condition (for clarity “acute” is something new or of sudden onset, is usually a sharper more uncomfortable pain)
• Ice should be applied after activity never before activity
• Apply the ice to the area that is the problem. Going in a cold tub or generally applying the ice to a larger area will not have the same affect (as mentioned earlier the goal of using ice is to decrease swelling and blood flow to the affected area, this can not be achieved if ice is applied to a larger more general area)
• When applying ice to an acute injury, try and get the ice on as quickly as possible after the occurrence and it should be used for the first 24 to 72 hours
• If you have a chronic condition that is aggravated by activity, apply ice as a management tool to decrease the likelihood of a flare up or aggravation
• General rule- apply the ice for 10 minutes on, 20 minutes off (allow enough time for your skin temperature to go back to normal), and then repeat