Young couple: man and  woman run together on a sunset on lake coast.  Silhouette.

5 Ways To Keep Fit Between Seasons

You train hard for most of the year, work real hard on the field and end up in pretty good shape as a result. Then all of a sudden it’s the off-season and the urge to eat junk food whilst binge-watching  movies or television shows is strong, so you’ll need to work hard to stay in shape before the next season kicks off.

Why Stay in Shape?

Having to start from scratch, fitness and ability-wise is not easy, and it means a lot more work for you in the long-term. It’s almost unavoidable that your skills will suffer somewhat during the off-season simply because you won’t be playing as much, but that doesn’t mean your stamina and fitness levels need to drop as well.

How to Stay in Shape

If it’s the thrill of the game that keeps you playing, general fitness training may not be your bag. Here are some tips to help you get started with a manageable fitness routine between seasons:

1. Do it With Friends

The absolute easiest way to make sure you stay health between seasons is to get your friends involved. Make a pact with your team that you’ll all stay in shape and then commit to meeting every few days for some exercise during the off-season.

2. Go Running

Running is a great way to stay in shape. You don’t need much in the way of special gear, it doesn’t have to happen according to a strict schedule and you can listen to music while you do it. Thanks to GPS trackers and phone apps it’s now easier than ever to track exactly how well you’re doing. Why not challenge your team mates to see who can improve their running skills the most before the next season starts?

3. Lift Some Weights

If you want to be better, stronger and more successful, weight training might be just the activity you need. Weight lifting can help you to build your muscle tone, improve your strength and increase your stamina. To get a decent full body workout, you’ll need a gym membership at a facility with a decent weights section.

4. Ditch the Car

A simple way of staying healthy on a daily basis is to simply ditch the car. Instead of catching rides or taking the bus, use your journey time as a chance to exercise. Biking is a great way to improve stamina, burn calories, and build up a sweat. If you don’t have a bike, walking a few miles each day could help you to stay in shape.

5. Don’t Overindulge

You might be able to enjoy sleeping in and worry less about your weight during off-season, but that doesn’t mean you should give up entirely. If you want to stay in shape, it’s important to keep eating healthy. Just because you don’t have a game this weekend, it doesn’t mean you can eat ice-cream for breakfast. Keep eating healthy, protein-rich foods full of vitamins and minerals. It’s also important to prioritize rest, it’s all too easy to get into bad habits when it comes to sleep. Try to make sure you’re getting enough rest even when you do have the occasional late night. Your body is a temple and all that.

swimming

Olympic Swimmers Work Hard In and Out of the Water

 

Whether competing in the 50 meter Freestyle or the 10K Marathon, the preparation for Olympic swimmers is much more than just practicing in the water. Swimmers also must take part in strength and conditioning sessions, follow specific nutritional guidelines and be prepared mentally for competing against the world’s best in the sport.

 

Did You Say No Water?

Known to the elite swimmer as the dry land routine, this consists of conditioning sessions which are used by athletes of many sports. For instance, coaches will have their swimmers do plyometric box jumps to build a swimmer’s lower body. There are also specific exercises to improve a swimmer’s range of motion, and fighting the body’s fatigue factors. Weight training, running and drills which use a medicine ball are common among swimmers of all Olympic events.

The Black Line

It’s the thick black paint, located at the center of each pool lane, and it is something the Olympic swimmer calls the ‘life’ line. Practice after practice the swimmers (unless in the backstroke) will keep an eye on the black line as they complete lap after lap during typical three hour pool sessions. Not all this time is spent on a swimmer’s specialty event. A lot of it includes drills to work various aspects of the entire swimming performance. Drills will concentrate on a swimmer being able to increase hip movement, use of the core muscles and getting faster feet. Add a typical practice totaling six or more thousand kilometers (a few thousand less on ‘taper’ days) and it is easy to see why Olympic swimmers are among the fittest of any athletic participants.

Nutrition

Despite the much-ballyhooed ‘unhealthy’ diet of gold medalist Michael Phelps, swimming coaches and nutrition advisors steer Olympic swimmers to proper nutrition as part of overall training. Swimming at the elite level burns up a lot of calories, but it doesn’t mean the calorie replacement should include sugar-laden, fried or processed foods. Also, the jury is out regarding replacing ‘real’ food with specialized ‘sports foods.’ With real food, it is easy to figure the amount of protein, vitamins and nutrients are actually being absorbed by the swimmer’s body.

Swimmers Getting Older

U.S. Olympic swimmers have come a long way since a 13-year-old Donna de Varona was part of the women’s preliminary heats in the 4×100 relay. The average ages of men and women Olympic swimmers has increased over the past 60 years. A published report shows the average age of a male medalist in the 2012 Olympics was 26.2 years. This compares to the average age of 21.2 during the 1984 games. For U.S. women, the average ages of swimmers winning medals has not risen as drastically. In the ’84 Olympics, the average age was 18.4 years, compared to 21.4 years at the 2012 games. Better funding of Olympic athletes in the U.S., as well as more concentrated training efforts and better nutrition guidelines are believed to be valid reasons for athletes remaining active in Olympic swimming for a longer period of time.

Perhaps you have overlooked swimming for a while because it may not seem like a challenging sport, however at the beginning or Olympic level it is very physically demanding and competitive. If you haven’t done so, give it a chance you might be the next US Olympic swimmer …or diver.

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Off Season Training

The Season’s Over, Now What? How to Keep Up Training

For the past few months your after-school life has revolved around practice, practice and more practice. You’re on top of your game, feeling great and certainly getting in the activity you need to be healthy. Suddenly the season is over, there are no more sports and you’re not sure what to do. You could go into a post-season slump, letting go and relaxing. Or, you could keep training – on your own schedule.

It’s tempting to spend your after-school (and weekend) time watching TV, playing video games or just hanging out with friends. That’s okay. You’ve spent the last few months working hard, and you deserve some relaxation. That said, trading training for 12 hours a day of computer game play isn’t healthy. If you want to stay in shape and keep your body ready for the next sports season (which will also help you to stay physically fit and healthy), ditch the idea of totally trading exercise for everything that’s less active.

What can you do after the season is over to continue training?

  • Talk to your coach before the season ends. He or she may have ideas for training activities or be able to set up a post-sports schedule for you to follow.
  • Walk instead of ride. Mom could give you a ride to school – or, you could get in some added exercise by walking.
  • Stick to a schedule. Whether your coach gave you a post-season schedule or you’ve created your own routine, don’t start skipping out on your plan. Arrange other activities around your schedule, making your workout just as important as it was during the sports season.
  • Try another sport. You don’t have to go all in and join a second varsity team. An intermural activity or neighborhood league can keep you active, help you learn new skills and make training more manageable.
  • Find a buddy. During the season you had teammates by your side. This meant having friends nearby and a support system. If that seemed to make training easier (or, at least more fun), keep it up after the season’s over. Talk to a teammate or a friend who’s interested in exercising, and ask them to workout with you. The two of you can hang out and motivate each other to keep going.
  • Ask your family to help. Mom and dad are there for you. Talk to your family if you need some spurring on when it comes to getting out there and training. Maybe invite them to join, having a weekly family soccer game can be very fun and healthy for everyone.
  • Keep a log. During the season you had a schedule and knew exactly when practice was. You had a set number of hours over the course of the week – on specific days, at specific times. Now that you’re on your own, it’s easy to forget how much you’ve done and when. Keep a journal or add a note on your smart phone every time that you train. This helps you to see how much you’re doing (or not doing).

You’ve spent the past season working hard. You’re at the top of your game and are looking forward to next year’s games, meets or matches. Even though you can take training down a notch, relax a bit and have some fun, getting physical activity during your down time is still a must-do. Taking some time off from organized athletic activities doesn’t always mean that you slump into a couch potato. Stay busy, stay active and workout with a friend. Make your post-season plan enjoyable, getting in your training while still staying social.

Why Free Play is Important and How to Encourage it

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So much of our time now is already accounted for; a busy schedule of school, clubs, homework and sleeping doesn’t really leave time for much else. Free play should be a daily part of your child’s life.

You know that moment at the end of the day, once the dishes are all tidied away and all the work is done, where you finally sit down and do whatever you want? That’s your free time. As a parent, you probably spend it trying not to fall asleep because you’re so exhausted after a busy day, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Kids need free time as well, time to go crazy, let their hair down and do whatever it is they think is fun. This is especially true after a long day of school. School is pretty structured, and the short breaks often aren’t really long enough for much free play. There’s barely time for a quick snack and then it’s back to the classroom again.

Sports clubs, music lessons and drama groups are great for your child and are no doubt providing heaps of benefits. But they too are structured. If you’re constantly ferrying your child between activities, then chances are your child’s “free time” is in the backseat of your car. It’s important to make sure they get to enjoy some free play too.

Free play is whatever your child wants it to be. It could mean running around the garden at full speed, playing an imagination game with friends, or climbing trees at the local park. Your child should be free to choose the activity. Here are three ways to encourage free play:

#1: Make sure there is free time available

It’s not easy to plot in free time, especially when your child is in school. Between eating, learning, extracurricular activities and homework, there aren’t many minutes left in the day. But free play really does need to be a family priority, so make sure you schedule some in. It could be a trip to the park straight after school, or having a friend over for dinner. Even just 45 minutes of free play a day could help your child to release some energy, use that imagination and unwind.

#2: Limit screen time

The few minutes we do have free each day tend to be spent staring at the television or playing games on a phone or tablet. While this might be an easy way of relaxing, it’s probably not offering many other benefits. Try to get out of the habit of turning the TV on as soon as you arrive home. Instead think of other things you can do around the home. Remember when you were young, how you’d spend hours building dens or riding your bike? That’s sort of what you want to recreate with free play, the freedom you had when you were young.

#3: Set up a playdate

When kids get together, free play is bound to happen. Two imaginations are better than one, so invite some friends over to join in. Let your child pick who they invite, after all, it’s their play date. Leave them to it so they can enjoy each other’s company and have some fun.

How To Make Fitness A Family Priority

selfieSynopsis: Family time is precious these days, and that means you need to get as much out of it as possible. You might think you don’t have much time for fitness, but all you need to do is incorporate fitness into family time. It’s not only fun, but it will also benefit every member of the family.

If you want your kids to be sports-loving fitness fanatics, you need to model that behavior for them. It’s no good if you’re simply cheering them on from the sofa, you need to live a healthy life if you want them to, as well. It can be tough changing old habits, but if you want your kids to develop a lifelong love for good health, then it’s important you change your ways too. Here are a few tips to help you make fitness a family priority:

#1: Prioritize spending time outdoors

Time indoors is all too often spent in front of screens, and so it’s important to get out and about as a family. Make sure to spend time outdoors as a family at least once a week. The more time you spend outdoors, the better. The woods, fields and parks aren’t filled with screens and there are no comfy sofas to lounge on. There are no walls to bounce off, and you’ll soon discover all of the benefits that outdoor living can offer your family. The great thing about heading out into the open air is that you don’t really need a plan. Just head out there and see what mother nature has to offer you.

#2: Get the whole family involved

Organize a family barbecue with games for kids and adults. Find a game you think everyone will love; soccer, basketball or volleyball, and make sure the whole family participates. Split into teams, and make sure it’s done fairly. The kids will love it, and you might be surprised to discover that the adults enjoy themselves too. Make sure it’s not a competitive affair; it’s the taking part that counts.

#3: Ditch the car

Most people are aware that environmentalists and health advisors recommend leaving the car at home for journeys of less than a mile, and yet not many people actually do it. Make a pledge that you will start walking more, and get the whole family involved. This could mean walking to school, cycling to the local shops or catching a train to visit friends. It’s all about getting out there and staying active. You might be surprised to find out the difference a brisk 20 minute walk a day can do!

#4: Go swimming

Swimming is lots of fun, and it’s also a really great way to improve your fitness. Whether you live near a beach, indoor or outdoor pool, it’s time to start taking full advantage of it. Make sure the whole family goes, and try to go each and every week. Most children love swimming, and if you make it a regular and enjoyable experience, that love could last a lifetime.

#5: Don’t see it as a chore

If it’s not fun, your children won’t enjoy it. Your attitude has a lot to do with how your children approach things in life. If you see fitness as a chore, your kids won’t want to do it. If you’re passionate about it, and your kids enjoy spending time with you as you get fit as family, then it will be a fun experience for everyone.

#6: Head to the park

Playgrounds are like tiny gymnasiums for kids. Obviously they’re a lot more exciting than real gyms, because not many people get to go down a huge slide halfway through their workout. Parks are a great place for fitness because your kids can climb, run, jump and generally go wild to their hearts’ content in a relatively safe environment. Try adding in an after school visit to your local playground at least one day a week.

 

110% Effort vs Rest & Recovery

leading the pack ltGo 110% all the Time! 

We have all heard a coach saying give me 110%. While in theory this would be great, our bodies do NEED rest periods. Within a training week we must take at least 1 day off. No matter where you are in your training, you need a day off to allow your body to rest. In addition to this, we can’t always go 100% the other 6 days a week. To understand this, we must understand how our bodies recover. 

We do not build muscles during workouts; rather we build muscles during the recovery. The workouts themselves make micro tears in our muscles, that later heal stronger. Imagine you are taking a test, and you do not pass. The next time you take the test you will have built up your knowledge and will do better. You do not want the same questions to trip you up a second time. This is how our muscles work. As they tear, they do not want the same weight or load to tear them again, thus they come back stronger. However if you do not allow for recovery you will only continually tear the muscle, until it becomes weaker or injured. 

So within a given week we must have recovery days. If you do a strength based day you will need 1-2 days of recovery. That doesn’t mean you take these days off. These days could be lighter in intensity, more cardiovascular based, or even focusing on technique for your sport. 

This is the idea behind what is called a micro cycle. With this in mind we also need to take into account macro cycles. This is a time period of 4-8 or so weeks. If we compete every weekend, we can not be at our absolute best every race. We need to pick 1 race every 4-8 weeks, that we will peak for. This means a series of building weeks, where strength work is at a premium, followed by a speed week of less length but higher intensity, and lastly a recovery week. We must lower intensity immediately before a peak race. So a week or two before your peak race we need to reduce the intensity and do what is called a taper. 

In my current training cycle I am in my last intense build week, before I begin to taper 1.5 weeks before nationals. My workouts will get shorter and faster with longer recovery until the day before I compete. During these build weeks I will knowingly sacrifice some top end speed in order to train with less recovery. These are the hardest weeks in the cycle and the last opportunity I will have to actually get faster before my peak competition! 

So the next time your coach asks you to give 110%, take that term with a grain of salt. BUT STILL GIVE IT YOUR BEST!

-Kyle Essex (http://www.gofundme.com/speedskate)

 

Are Your Kids Learning Integrative Muscular Training?

Synopsis: Sports injuries for children can be painful, upsetting and expensive. A recent study found that a great number of them can be avoided with the simple implementation of a good old fashioned workout before the game starts.

Health is one of the most commonly cited reasons parents give for encouraging their children to play sports from a young age. Parents believe that playing sports will help their children develop a love of fitness, avoid obesity, and promote great physical development. Many parents also believe playing sports from a young age will reduce their child’s risk of injury in the future.

Researchers have identified, however, that engaging in sports is not enough to reduce the risk of injury in children. In an interesting research study published in Curr Sports Med Rep, researchers looked at ways to reduce the risk of injury through sports. In many ways, risk is an integral part of sports, and many parents encourage sports participation as a safe way of letting their child take risks.

Though integrative neuromuscular training (the fancy term for warming up) is considered a normal part of sports practice for adolescents and adults, it is not yet commonplace on the fields of younger sports teams. Neuromuscular training does come with its own set of risks, and it was previously thought that younger children were not old enough to handle warm ups safely. The research study published in Curr Sports Med Pub, however, found that age appropriate, properly supervised integrative neuromuscular training progams may reduce the risk of sports injuries in younger athletes.

Integrative neuromuscular training is a particular type of warm up program that teaches athletes safe ways of moving during play so that they are less likely to injure themselves during the game. Individual programs differ, but many contain elements such as squatting, marching, side-to-side shuffling and jumping, with particular attention paid to alignment and positioning. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament are unfortunately common amongst sports players of all ages, but integrative muscular training can reduce the number of these injuries by as much as 50 percent.

The researchers identified that this type of training may even be most beneficial during pre-adolescence, highlighting the importance of more youth teams taking up this important training technique. Training programs should be tailored to accommodate the individual needs of each child, focusing specifically on developing motor skills. It is believed that introducing this type of training early will reduce the risk of sports related injury both now and in the future.

The cost of introducing a new training program like this is estimated to be less than $2 per child, making it financially beneficial compared to the cost of potential medical bills. Speak to your child’s coach to find out whether they are currently using an integrative neuromuscular training program, and if not, why not?

A Lifetime Of Fitness Can Start On The Field

543Synopsis: Maintaining physical fitness is key to a healthy adult life, and participating in sports as a child teaches great lessons that help toward this goal.

It isn’t breaking news that obesity is a problem that has swept across the United States, and parts of the rest of the world as well. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout adult life is one of the biggest factors in staying healthy, yet more and more people are having trouble doing just that. While an increase in awareness has started to chip away at the problem, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to restore our population to a healthy weight.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to set your child up on a path toward a lifetime of fitness- simply enroll them in sports when they are young. When a child is exposed to fun, rewarding, and fulfilling activities at an early age, they will be far more likely to continue with physical activity later in life. Most of the attention in regard to the obesity problem in our country is related to nutrition; however, physical exercise plays just as important a role in managing weight. Only when a person is able to combine a healthy diet with regular exercise will they be able to control their weight successfully.

Learning Skills and Understanding Exertion

One of the many benefits of participating in sports is learning how to exercise and developing habits of an active lifestyle. It can be difficult to get started on a physical fitness routine for adults who were never active as children because they never had the opportunity to learn those skills and get comfortable pushing their body through physical challenges. The same way your child would be unable to do math as an adult if they never learned it as a child, they need to learn how to exercise effectively so they can carry that knowledge with them throughout their life. Sports are the perfect way to teach kids about exercise because they will be having fun while they are learning these valuable lessons.

As your child continues to grow, they may or may not decide that they want to be involved in sports throughout high school and beyond. Regardless of how long they choose to play organized sports, the things they learn and habits they develop about caring for their bodies and getting regular exercise are important to their long-term well-being. When they become adults and take on the responsibilities of adult life – jobs, children of their own, etc. – it will become more and more difficult to stay physically fit. However, you will have done them a huge favor by instilling basic exercise skills from an early age. Hopefully, as more and more children are engaged in sports, the obesity problem faced in this country will begin to fade away.

Recreational v. Select: The Best Choice For Your Child

soccercolbySynopsis: Several factors should be considered by parents before placing youth athletes into more competitive play.

Parents of children exemplifying an early mastery in sport know it will only be a matter of time before they face the oh-so-popular buzzwords of today’s youth athletics. Words such as ‘Select,’ ‘Club,’ or ‘Premiere’ roll off the tongues of Moms and Dads in the stands. “Susie is a natural at volleyball. Why don’t you find her a Club team?” asks another parent. “Wow! Johnny sure does throw hard for his age,” a Dad starts the conversation with the father of the eight-year-old on the mound. “He’s wasting his time here. You need to get him on a Select team!”

There is never an easy answer to the question of whether recreational or select level should be the path chosen for participants in youth athletics. Parents will find this question will beget more questions, and that is okay. What age is most appropriate to play in a more competitive atmosphere? What kind of time commitment must be made? Is specializing in a single sport best for the child? More questions are sure to come before a decision is finally made.

The starting point for any parent begins with a self-evaluation of their child. Is my child actually advanced enough to compete fairly in a ‘select’ atmosphere? If the answer is yes, does my child actually want to do this? Part of a child’s athletic performance may be due to his/her being comfortable playing with school friends that are on the team. Pulling a kid out the comfort zone may not be the best choice, particularly at younger ages. What is wrong with a child excelling in a recreational sport for a few years? It may make sense to hold off on moving a child to more competitive play until the level of athleticism is matched by the child’s mental abilities. A child becoming bored with the recreational surroundings may desire to accept the challenges related to select competition.

While not always the case, many young athletes excel in more than one sport. Some select sports are more demanding than others. Baseball or softball used to be primarily summer sports, but with the growth of specialization there are now leagues in the fall and spring. Then there are individual lessons in pitching, catching and hitting which may be at an indoor facility in the winter. Select basketball, soccer, and volleyball are year-round now. The National Athletic Trainers Association has issued concerns of muscle overuse in various sports, and rightfully so. Parents should never let a child – especially before high school age – participate for more than one team per sport in any given time period. Multiple sport athletes get a chance to rest sport-specific muscle groups when one season ends and another begins.

The high cost of a college education also brings the latest reason for children to participate in the most-competitive sports atmosphere. Club and select coaches will tell parents that scholarships are more likely offered to those playing amongst greater competition. There is some truth to this, but parents must recognize club and select coaches may need to fill their rosters in order to collect enough fees to properly operate a sports program. Do the diligent research before making a monetary commitment.

There is no right answer to this question. Parents must continually ask the questions and keep their child’s overall development and best interest at the forefront. It can be helpful to find a coach that you trust who does not have a vested interest and knows your child and family.

If Your Child Is Resisting Going To Practice

Synopsis: If your child is resisting going to practice, get to the root of the issue. Instead of allowing him to quit, find out what the cause is and ask a few questions that may turn his thinking around.

“But, I don’t want to go to practice Mommy!” If your child has had a sudden change of heart when it comes to sports, helping your child to separate a temporary case of the ‘lazies’ from a desire for change takes patience and some serious discussion.

At different phases, children will have various reasons for not wanting to practice. These may range from a 5-year-old being fearful that he’ll make a mistake or “fail” to an 11-year-old who would rather stay home and play video games. While some children have legitimate reasons, others simply don’t. Before you give in and let your child skip practice or quit, have a discussion. Sometimes saying a simple, “Why don’t you want to go?” will get you nothing more than, “Because” or, “I don’t know.” Instead of stopping there, ask a few pointed questions that get to the heart of the matter. Helping your child figure out their love for the sport can boost your young athlete’s sporting spirit!

Try a conversation starter to get your child talking:

  • Is there something that worries you about playing the sport? If so, what is it?
  • Did one of the other kids on the team say something that wasn’t nice to you?
  • Are you nervous about having other people watch you while you’re on the field?
  • Are you getting a chance to play? Is the coach asking you to sit out during practice games or the actual games?

Older children, tweens, and teens may have more social reasons for wanting to skip out on practice. To better understand if this is the case, ask:

  • Are you saying that you don’t want to go because your other friends have plans to go out?
  • What do you feel like you’ll miss if you’re at practice?
  • Are your friends influencing your decision?

Discuss the answer, and let your child know that he needs to make his own decisions based on his own feelings. That said, don’t allow him to let fear or worry stand in his way. If he’s concerned that practice will be too challenging or that he won’t be as ‘good’ as the other players, explain that it’s the effort that counts. Talk about what the word “practice” means. Remind your child that practice is a time when he gets to train, learn, and build skills. If he’s concerned about missing social engagements, turn the discussion to a more work-life balance focus.