It’s Summer! How to Train and Eat During the Off-Season

imagesAhhh, summertime…we look forward to it all year, regardless of the weather you live in. No school, crazy schedules, sleeping in (well, for most, not for figure skaters!). This is a time to regroup and refocus, and for many sports, this is the time considered the “off-season.” So today let’s talk a little about how to train and eat during the off-season.

First, let me start by talking about why it is SO important to have an off-season. My husband and I agree to disagree on this, but as a pediatrician, I see firsthand the effects of overtraining; the physical and emotional burnout and overuse injuries. Even professional athletes have some sort of off-season, and they get paid millions of dollars to play their sports..why should a young athlete be any different? Playing at a high intensity, competitive pace for long periods of time is taxing to the human body. Even race cars cannot race at full speed every day without breaking down, why should we expect the human body to play at “racing speed” all year long?

Having said that, I just read this in an article and loved it: “The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in times of war.” The “off-season” is defined as the period of time when an athlete is not participating competitively in their sport. Off-season training is when you gain the most endurance, strength and even build lean muscle. And let me clarify: this does not mean you have to stop playing your sport during the off season. It means you should not COMPETE in your sport during the off-season. During the off-season, which is usually anywhere from 4-12 weeks, training should be at much lower intensity and significantly less hours of training, and this time should be dedicated to improving skills, conditioning and general strength.

Cross training, stretching and flexibility should also be high on the priority list for the off-season. Professional athletes are usually involved in yoga, pilates and cardio training during their off- season. Work on the aspects of your sport you don’t really have time to cover during the competitive season.

What about diet during the off-season? It is extremely important to pay attention to your off-season diet for a few reasons: 1) you will not be working out as hard or as long, so calories need to be modified, 2) we tend to travel more during the summertime and this lends itself to worse eating habits, 3) there are several holidays during the summer, and the unhealthy food is everywhere!

1) Since you will not be training as hard, make sure you decrease your calorie intake. I work with football players and baseball players who are used to eating 4,500-5,000 calories a day during the regular season, and most gain some weight during the summer…5-7 lbs on average, but remember more than that will be difficult to lose quickly one the season starts. You can modify your calorie intake by eating smaller portions or less times during the day.

2) Traveling can be killer for good eating habits! Remember to pack healthier foods for road trips and airplane rides, and try to limit fast foods. And don’t forget about hydration! It is so important to continue to stay well hydrated during the off-season/summer, especially when traveling or at the beach during those hot days!

3) Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day…BBQs, chips and sodas…Of course I’m all about enjoying the holidays and indulging a bit, but if your “holiday weekend” is a 10 day vacation, be careful! Try to include some healthy meals in between or healthy foods amongst the “delicious, not-so-good-for-you” foods.

All in all, the off-season is a time to regroup, relax and enjoy, but don’t forget about your long term goals and try to stay on track! Fall is just around the corner!

To all my young athletes, have a great summer!


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