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!!