After the final buzzer or last out of the season, chances are a young athlete’s next thoughts aren’t about training for next year. However, sometimes the biggest jumps in performance can be gained when no games are taking place, so let’s take a look at a few summer training tips that are applicable no matter what sport a teen or young adult is training for.
Rest is important after a grueling season—not only mentally, but also physically. According to Jeffrey A. Wock, a doctor of chiropractic from Plymouth, Minn., muscles start to break down during extended periods of repetitive exercise, so they need time to rebuild. “In order to gain strength and endurance, rest is equally as important as the exercises themselves,” Wock says.
This means not only taking some dedicated time off after the season—like perhaps a week or two—but also getting adequate sleep each night for the body to rebuild key muscle tissues. Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, recommends 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night for school-age children.
It’s very important to keep an eye on nutrition as a young athlete. This includes hydration, where the Mayo Clinic suggests that the “eight cups a day” adage regarding water isn’t too far off, though more is likely needed for an athlete going through rigorous training. And while a young person’s metabolism has more capacity to break down and use high-calorie foods with simple sugars, a better recipe for success is to consume high-fiber complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains, which will provide more sustained energy and won’t spike blood sugar levels.
According to Wock, the body adapts quickly to exercise routines. As a result, changing up workout schedules help athletes avoid plateaus and get results more quickly. Instead of just running, try biking or swimming occasionally. Or put down the free weights and roll out the yoga mat. Simply put: Don’t map the same path around the gym and follow it every day. Get out of your comfort zone.
“Try not to be sport-specific,” Wock says. “Doing the same motions over and over can result in repetitious injuries. In this way, cross-training is crucial.”
Karl Canniff, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer suggests making sure young athletes know “how to apply what [they] are doing consistently for any specific goal [they] are going for.” He stresses that attainable goals are set and pursued in a consistent fashion. If an offseason is abbreviated—say, two or three months—don’t expect to shave more than a tenth or two off a 40-yard dash, or to add more than a rep or a few pounds in any max lifts.
Finally, don’t over think it. Need work on hitting? Get a tee and find a nearby fence. Jump shot needs work? Go shoot hoops for a while. Trying out for quarterback? Find a teammate and throw the football around. In reasonable doses, this off-season sharpening of your in-season skills will build muscle memory and can often translate into significant improvements in next year’s performance.