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!!
Mindful exercise: Are you living a healthy lifestyle?
Exercise is a crucial component to true healthy living. Being healthy from the inside out means that at some level, exercise has become part of your day-to-day routine. But it is not just “exercise” that is important; it’s the right exercise with the appropriate what, when, how and why along with the what not, when not, how not and why not being equally vital. I tip my hat to all those who participate in exercise and put forth the effort to live a healthy lifestyle. I cringe though, with the number of people I see being told, misguided, or inventing the wrong exercise or the wrong exercise for them. Just because someone told you or you saw it in a gym doesn’t mean that it is correct or it is the right exercise for you. Just because the person in your yoga class is touching their toes, does not mean you can or even should. Just because the person spinning beside you is standing while sprinting does not mean you should. I think you get my point.
Awareness of your body, your current health status, proper body alignment, proper form and tempo, are just some of the keys to healthy exercise and successful execution.
Oh, and in case you were not aware, the benefits of exercise come with longevity and an improved lifestyle. In order to exercise into your glory years you should be conscious and well informed on the things “outside of the gym” that will help you succeed: hydration, supplementation, nutrition, pre and post exercise routines, rest days, sleep patterns, treatment options, management tools, hurt vs ache, understanding that pain is a notification…and the list goes on.
Bottom line: get informed! Find an expert. Learn to listen to your body. Get off the couch and get active. Do it right!
Dr. G’s Tips:
- Stay hydrated…drink water before, during, and after exercise
- For ideal results and increased benefits try and do some form of exercise 3-5 times per week…1 time is better than nothing, 2 times will maintain your current status, and 7 times is too much!
- If you are experiencing pain before, during, or after exercise, get it diagnosed by a professional so you can better understand what you should and should not be doing
- Plan your exercise in advance and understand what muscles are involved and being targeted during each exercise session…if you don’t know, then find out!
- For increased results switch up your exercise routine at least every 6-8 weeks
ICE vs. HEAT – Part 2
Last week, I weighed in on the benefits of ice to treat an injury. In this blog entry, I’m continuing the Ice vs. Heat debate telling you what I tell my patients about the use of Heat!
In my practice I use heat on my patients prior to treating them. But it doesn’t stop there. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t recommend heat to help manage someone’s pain or condition. 90 percent of the conditions I see in my office would be classified as a repetitive strain injury or chronic (with the other 10 percent being acute). Heat is the key when treating repetitive strain or chronic injuries! Heat will increase blood flow, relax muscles, decrease pain and promote healing.
Dr. G’s Tips on when/how to use heat:
- use for chronic injuries, if you have tight muscles
- use before activity to warm up muscles, not after activity
- use at night before bed if you often wake up with stiffness
- heat should be applied for 15-20 minutes but can be used for longer (if you use an electrical heating pad, be sure not to fall asleep on it as they can cause burning)
- Apply the heat to the area that is the problem…going in a hot tub/sauna or generally applying the heat to a larger area will not have the same affect (as mentioned earlier the goal of using heat is to increase blood flow to the affected area, this can not be achieved if heat is applied to a larger more general area)
- recommended to use moist heat rather than dry heat (e.g. Hot water bottle, gel packs, etc)
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