The end of the school year marks the start of a short, but very important, 12-week training period for area athletes. During this short training block, athletes will either gain or lose ground on their competition. By utilizing the following three keys, athletes will give themselves the best opportunity for a successful summer training cycle.
1. Start with a need/goal assessment
Before beginning any training, an athlete must first have a clear plan of attack that gives him/her the best opportunity for success in his/her given sport. There are many variables that come into play, all having an influence on the what, when, and hows of the training cycle. Below are a few variables that must be considered before designing any training program:
- Sport - Each sport has its own unique demands of strength, speed, and endurance. Often times, training should mirror the condition that will be experienced during competition. For example, off-season training for a cross country athlete will be much different from a shot putter. Even different positions within each sport have their own unique responsibilities and must be considered for advanced athletes.
- Training Age - Performance training has a strict hierarchy that must be followed to prevent injuries and to optimize long-term development. Just as an infant must crawl before they can walk, an athlete must master the basics before they can move on to more advanced techniques.
- Injury History - Often overlooked in off-season training, the #1 goal of any training program should be to keep the athlete on the field as much as possible. An athlete injured on the bench is of no use to his/her team, regardless of how fast or strong he/she is. First, an athlete must consider his/her own injury history from past seasons – this will give them a good indicator of what injuries they are likely to experience in the following year. Second, an athlete should then look at common injuries in their sport as a whole. Using all of this information, an athlete can work on reducing the likelihood of injury in his/her following season.
Hands down, the most important aspect of any training program is nutrition. The greatest training program means nothing without the necessary energy to complete it.
In this day and age with so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard for parents to know what they should be feeding their young athletes. Should parents feed their athletes an organic, non-processed, no GMO, lactose/gluten-free diet? While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, there is zero compelling research supporting any benefits to such diets. In my opinion, this would be considered majoring in minor things.
Instead, the first thing parents need to be concerned with is whether or not their athlete is getting adequate calories. Without this being covered, other aspects of nutrition and training matter very little.
To estimate your son’s/daughter’s caloric needs, enter his/her information on the link provided - Caloric Expenditure Calculator
Next on the list are macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). The ideal ratio of each of these will depend heavily on the individual athlete and their sport, but a good rule of thumb is to ingest protein at every meal, and get 2-3 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. With these requirements met, it is unlikely that an athlete will need any additional supplementation (depending on the time of year, Vitamin D supplementation may be appropriate).
Last, but definitely not least, is proper hydration. No other nutrient is more vital and plays a larger role in our bodies than water. Because of its importance, even the smallest amount of dehydration can have a large impact on performance. To avoid this drop in performance, athletes should be constantly rehydrating throughout the day.
The easiest way to judge hydration is based off urine color. When any sign of dehydration is spotted in urine color, an athlete must make it a priority to rehydrate with water until his/her urine returns to an acceptable color.
The latest fab with exercise is doing random movements, with random sets, for a random number of reps in hopes of “keeping the body guessing.” This can be a great way for adults to add variety into their workout routine, but is less than ideal for athletes.
There are two reasons why consistency is very important for athletes.
- By continually programming the same movements into a workout, an athlete learns to master the movement patterns. Often called muscle memory, this improved proficiency in movement patterns allows the athlete to more easily transfer the skills learned from training onto the field.
- The second important reason for consistency is to track progress. If an athlete does 3 sets of 10 reps the first week, 5 sets of 5 reps the second week, and 3 sets of 3 reps the final week; how do they know if they are improving? By staying consistent with exercises, sets, and reps for 2-6 weeks at a time, it becomes very easy to see whether progress is being made or not.
Ultimately, the success of any training program comes down to the commitment level of the individual athlete. With proper dedication, an athlete can utilize these three keys to make huge strides in a short 12-week period, allowing them to dominate the competition.