A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Athletes: Find balance in the winter off-season

Guy in the plank position.

Use the winter off-season to strengthen your body, no matter what your sport.

If winter means the end of your athletic season, hibernating indoors until the weather warms may sound tempting.

Don’t give in to the comforts of the couch day after day, said Jennifer Sobotta, a Marshfield Clinic athletic trainer.

“If you’re not prepared for the next season, you’re at greater risk for injury,” she said. “You might not enjoy your sport as much because you don’t have the physical stamina to participate and you’ll be performing at a lower level than if you had been conditioning.”

Off-season conditioning doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. Balance strength building with injury recovery and a mental break from competition during the off-season.

Cardio, strength and injury recovery

Sobotta recommends doing a mix of cardiovascular exercise and strength training during the off-season. Set a goal to exercise three times a week for an hour each time or up to six times a week for 30 minutes each time.

How you balance cardio and strength depends on which sports you participate in. Long-distance runners will probably want to do more cardio exercise, but they should include strength training in their off-season conditioning.

Ramp up the intensity of your workouts as your sports season approaches so you’re prepared for the intensity of practice.

Make an appointment with a physical therapist if you’re still feeling the effects of an in-season injury. After the injury is healed, work on strengthening the muscles around the injured area to prevent future problems. Balance work can help with this.

Change up your fitness activity

Try something different from your competitive sport, like swimming if you’re not a swimmer. If you’re weight lifting, train to strengthen your entire body, not just the parts that are most important for your sport.

Also remember your workouts don’t have to take place in the gym.

“A winter off-season is great because you have time to try things you normally don’t do,” Sobotta said.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are great cross-training options that combine cardio and balance building.

Tips for procrastinators

The first day of practice can quickly sneak up on you if you’ve spent the off-season putting off conditioning until next week.

Does this sound like you? Get moving if you still have some time before practice resumes.

“Continuing to sit on the couch isn’t going to help the situation,” Sobotta said. “Doing something is better than nothing. Just don’t overdo it in that short period of time and get injured before the season starts.”

Find balance in the off-season

The off-season isn’t just about preparing for the next in-season. It’s a chance to take a mental break from the intensity of practice and competition.

Balance conditioning workouts and quality time with friends and family. Eat to fuel your body for athletic performance, but don’t feel bad about occasional treats or holiday parties.

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Off-season training tips for athletes

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