When you are participating at a sport on any level a lot of your life is defined by that sport. Sunday mornings are game day, Wednesday evenings are training, Friday nights are in the club house. So when the-off season comes it can be a bit of a shock to the system, and one aspect of your life that will always go downhill is your physical fitness. There are no game days, there are no weeknight training sessions, and there are no goals to hit.
In this article we will be looking at a few ways that you can stay fit during the off-season, and perhaps even improve that fitness level.
Step One: Try Something New
If you play a sport such as football or rugby then your off-season tends to fall around the beginning of summer. Which means that the weather is better and there are many outdoor sports that you can turn your hand to. You could think about taking up tennis, or maybe join your local cricket club. You don’t have to be particularly good, it’s just for fun. Pick a sport that involves a lot of cardio, and one that's completely different from your current sport.
This will keep you entertained, and you will be fresh and excited about returning to your proper sport afterwards. Golf is another great choice, and is probably why you hear about so many professional football players who love the sport.
Aside from traditional team or individual sports, you could just turn your hand to more fitness or endurance based activities like running, cycling, or fitness classes. You could even look at Yoga or Pilates as a way to improve your flexibility and as a low impact exercise that will help keep you off the physio’s bench.
Step Two: Walk More
If you are training twice per week and playing a game too, then you are probably burning around 1,000-3,000 calories per week. Stopping all activity for 6-8 weeks and not adjusting your diet will mean that you now have a 3,000 calorie surplus – which will lead to body fat gain. To prevent this you can step up (literally) your walking. Aim for 10,000 steps per day, take the stairs rather than the lift, park your car a little further away than usual (or ditch it entirely). Take the dog out more.
All of this will keep your cardio in good condition while also keeping your calories in check. Walking can also relax you, lower cortisol, and help you to think clearer. Any exercise can also help to improve your sleep quality, which in turn will keep your hormones in check, and help you keep your body fat levels low.
Step Three: Consider Plyometrics
Plyometrics is a form of (mostly) bodyweight training that uses explosive movements such as jumps, leaps, bounds, hops, and skips to improve athletic performance. Box jumps can be used to improve your lower leg power, and help you improve your jumping ability – something that would be great for basketball or volleyball players. Other plyometric exercises can help footballers or tennis players, or basically any sport that involves powerful movements.
You could try a few of these moves - demonstrated by Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge:
A post shared by Daniel Sturridge - Dstudge (@iamdanielsturridge) on
While you can absolutely incorporate plyometrics into your training during the middle of the season, it can be quite difficult to do. This is because plyometrics takes a lot out of you, it is a very intense form of exercise and can require a lot of rest afterwards. Not ideal if you have a game in two days. However it is perfect for the off-season as you can perform it 2-3 times per week and still have adequate recovery time.
Step Four: Experiment with Eccentric Training
When you perform any exercise in the gym it will involve an eccentric and concentric contraction. The concentric part of say a bicep curl would be where the bicep muscle gets smaller in size while you curl the weight up, the eccentric part would be where you stretch or lengthen the muscle – returning the dumbbell back down to the starting position.
Eccentric training involves concentrating exclusively on the eccentric part of the movement, where you can use a heavier weight (you are stronger eccentrically than you are concentrically). So for a bicep curl you would start at the top of the movement and just concentrate on lowering the weight as slowly as possible.
Eccentric training is amazing for sport as it can really help reduce injury risk; a 2011 study on men’s soccer players found that eccentric training can reduce hamstring injury risk . As with plyometrics eccentric training requires a lot of rest and recuperation, and is therefore not ideal for mid-season, but is perfect for off-season. It will also help improve your flexibility, power, and acceleration (great for sports that involve running).
- Petersen, J., Thorborg, K., Nielsen, M., Budtz-Jorgensen, Holmich, P. 2011. Preventative effect of eccentric training on acute hamstring injuries in men's soccer: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Sports Medicine 39(11): 2296-303