Summertime means vacations, barbecues, and time away from your sport. In the off-season, training can be difficult and bad food can get you off course. Summer is the time when you really need to focus, and having a plan that keeps you on track can do just that.
To help you, I’ve prepared a list of 20 ways you perform off-season summer training.
Things to Consider in Off-Season
I don’t have to tell you that off-season doesn’t mean off completely. You know that even when you aren’t on the field, on the court, or in the pool, you shouldn’t be sitting around either. In fact, off season is when you need to focus and use caution to keep you strong, agile, and off the injury list.
No one wants to start the season with a few extra pounds, or even worse, a broken bone from going on summer adventures. During the off-season, consider a few tips to help keep you in shape.
- Work on physical imbalances
- Remember the mental just as much as the physical
- Avoid activities that will cause injury
- Always make a transition into off-season summer training
- Do other activities that complement your sport
- Don’t get exhausted
- Maintain more than half – about 50-60% – of the effort
Difference Between In-Season and Off-Season Summer Training
To design the best plan for the off-season, you first need to understand the differences between in-season and off-season summer training. Keep in mind the physical demands of each and your goals to get the most of your off-season summer training regimen.
When planning off-season summer training, you don’t have to worry about muscle exhaustion that impedes your performance. You get more recovery time. With that in mind, you can push your body a little harder. You can also spend more time with off-season training because you won’t be participating in your sport. You can make up some of that lost time with other physical activities.
When you’re training in-season, you spend most of your time in your sport. What you don’t want to do during off-season is forget everything you know about your sport and your in-season training. When that happens, you’ll end up retraining your body to perform new functions.
Avoid workouts that you wouldn’t do in-season, and don’t start activating new muscle groups. When you do this, you’ll start the season at a disadvantage because you’ll have no choice but to retrain your motor skills.
Mistakes Athletes Make During Off-Season
It is easy to get off-track. “I will do it tomorrow” is a phrase that will quickly ruin your performance in the sport.
During the off-season, don’t make excuses and don’t lose focus. Here are a few mistakes athletes make in the off-season.
It is easy for athletes to gain weight, and I am not talking muscle weight. They gain fat. It’s not hard to do either. You’re just a couple barbecues, parties, and beers away from tipping the scales in the wrong direction.
You must pay attention to your nutritional needs during the off-season as you did during the season. The same principle applies: eat garbage, play like garbage. And good luck burning it off before the season starts again.
Losing sight of goals
You must never forget why you do what you do. Don’t lose sight of your fitness and performance goals just because you aren’t on the field, the court, or in the pool.
Working just as hard as in-season
It is possible to overtrain in the summer just as you would in-season. If you over train before the season starts, you put yourself at risk of injury before you even get started. Remember that summer is for rest and recovery, not pain and injury.
Falling for the latest fitness fads
It’s easy to experiment with training, but it’s dangerous too. Summer is not the best time to start a new fitness or exercise routine. Many of these programs are often misguided, encouraging poor form and training your body to acquire a few bad habits. Never go for the latest fitness fads during the off-season –or at all for that matter.
Finding strength and conditioning programs from popular athletes
You won’t see your coach until next season, so what do many athletes like you do? Turn to the Internet to find “best workouts for off-season.” What is the first thing you click on? Fitness plans from your sports idols, of course! Many younger athletes do this in hopes of staying on track of their fitness goals.
This isn’t the best solution for off-season summer training as the plans are designed specifically for these athletes and their professional game. Trying to achieve the same results may lead to injury instead.
You aren’t playing as often in the summer, so you try to start lifting weights. The tendency is you’ll add more weight and lift more often. This is not a good idea. Lifting too much weight during off-season can cause injury and muscle imbalances.
Athletes make the mistake of focusing too much on off-season summer training and not getting enough rest. Your muscles and your mind require rest and recovery to avoid injury. Your best game will arise from a rested and healthy body. Rest is good for recovery, strength, and mental focus.
Participating in risky habits
It’s summertime, which means there are many more activities athletes can participate, such as cliff-jumping, drinking, ATVs, fast cars, and more. I am not saying you can’t have fun, but if you aren’t cautious or smart about it, you risk injury or expulsion from a team.
Okay, so you know what you shouldn’t do over the summer. What is the best way to improve athletic performance during off season then?
20 Ways Athletes Can Improve During Off Season
Summer provides athletes with some of the greatest opportunities to improve performance even though you’re in the off-season.
1. Train in the heat
Use the summer heat to your advantage and improve your game. Doing off-season summer training in the heat can improve endurance according to University of Oregon physiologist Chris Minson. When done properly, it could offer cardiovascular benefits and increases perspiration.
Additional benefits of doing off-season summer training in the heat include lower core temperature, increased skeletal muscle force, and an improved ability to perform in lower temperatures. The study suggests that training in the heat may actually be better than altitude training because of the increased VO2.
2. Get outside more
Stay active in the summer. Spend time outside hiking, kayaking, running in 5Ks (they are not as intense as a running regimen), and other summertime activities. As long as you remain active in the summer, you will keep your body moving and your blood pumping, making it easier to transition back to training when the season starts.
3. Be wise about your off-season summer training
When training in the off-season, be wise about the kind of training you choose to do. Remember, as an athlete, you don’t really get the benefit of trying new programs and training schedules without having a clear goal in mind.
Set off-season summer training goals, determine what you want to accomplish over the summer and develop a training plan that helps you accomplish those goals. Keep in mind that sometimes it is better to train than it is to play or perform in the summer. Many athletes often give a lot of attention to displaying their talent 24/7 instead of actually refining its technical details.
4. Strategically plan activities
When you participate in any activity, be strategic about it. What does that mean? Choose activities that complement your sport. This suggestion is especially important when you’re on vacation or away from home.
5. Drink more water
Stay hydrated in the summer. A dehydrated body is a body that cannot perform well. Hydration for athletes is essential, however, you don’t need as much water when you aren’t training and competing.
When you’re exercising, you need 17-20 ounces of water before you work out, 7 to 10 ounces every 10-20 minutes while active, and 8 ounces in the 30 minutes after exercising. Develop the habit of drinking plenty of water so you don’t become dehydrated when you start training and competing again.
6. Enjoy downtime
Take it easy. If you stress too much about performance and off-season summer training, you put yourself at risk of overuse and stress. As a result, you’ll begin Day 1 of the season grossly unprepared to perform your best. Don’t stress about it, and don’t feel guilty about a little downtime.
Enjoy your rest so you can recover, but don’t get lazy. There is a difference.
7. Go to a camp
Youth athletes will benefit from a summer camp. Summer sports performance clinics and boot camps for athletes help with technique, training, and workout plateaus. They’re not as intense as regular in-season training but they could keep you active. They also let you focus on the technical aspects of your sport. Camps for athletes work on everything from form and drills to strength training.
8. Correct imbalances
Often, youth athletes develop imbalances, which could be the result of injury, poor training, and improper form. Summer is a good time to work on correcting training and muscle imbalances.
Muscular imbalances occur when one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle. Injuries and poor performance arise as a result. Muscle imbalances aren’t always visible but a physical therapist can tell. Athletes can seek help from a physical therapist to identify muscle imbalances and prepare a physical therapy plan that can correct them.
9. Work on technique
You get better with practice, and over the summer, athletes have plenty of time to practice. Make the commitment to work on developing skills. If there is a shot you haven’t been able to take, a stroke you can’t quite perfect, or a pitch that you’d like to see go a little faster, work on it. Use technical drills to help you hone your craft, improve concentration, and remain disciplined in your sport.
10. Enroll in an off-season program
There are many off-season programs for athletes in the summer. Youth athletes can find off-season summer training programs in the area to help them get to know other players, improve their skills, and gain strength. Strength training programs specifically designed for baseball players, swimmers, and other athletes are useful.
11. Reflect on the mental game
Take time out to work on your mental game as well. Try stress-relief activities to help you relax over the summer and prepare you for the mental game when you return. Working out, doing summer activities, spending time alone on a hike, and getting a massage are all great ways to help your mind rest and recover for mental endurance you will need to push yourself without stressing yourself out.
12. Keep up with nutrition
Summer often means beer, bars, campfire foods, and plenty of parties with good food. It also means the best opportunity for packing on fat.
It is not a bad thing to increase muscle mass. It is another thing to increase body fat. When you gain weight, your speed slows, your endurance crashes, and the pressure on your bones intensifies. In addition, the weight you gained quickly takes twice as long to get rid of.
It’s okay to splurge during summer but it’s not okay to always veg out. Continue following a healthy diet. You need nutrient-dense foods that are low in fat. Keep your macros, carbs, and fats in check to keep the fat off your gut.
13. Don’t sleep in
Get plenty of sleep over the summer. Sleep is a proven recovery method for athletes. Sleep deprivation in athletes has been linked to chronic inflammation, poor performance, and a general lack of focus.
Don’t go crazy with sleep, however. Stick to a healthy sleep schedule that allows you to get quality sleep but also gets you out of bed early in the morning. Do you have to stick to your 4 am or 5 am wakeup call? Not necessarily, but sleeping in until 8 am or 9 am will throw you off and put your body on a new sleep cycle that is difficult to overcome when you need to resume your before-dawn training.
14. Watch more, learn more
Summer is a good time to reflect on your previous performances and those of your competition as well. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses in previous competitions.
Summer is a good time to watch your previous competitions and reflect on your performance as you’d be able to so with a critical eye. Post-competition adrenaline and biases often affect how you evaluate your performance when you do the evaluation immediately after a competition. Understand what you did right and what you did wrong to make yourself a better competitor next time.
15. Spend time with teammates
During the season, you see your teammates often. Why not connect with them off the court and out of the pool, too? Reach out to your teammates to get to know them outside of the sport. The more things you do together, the stronger your bond will become.
Do I think you will all be friends all the time? No, not even, but it will help improve the relationship outside of your sport. This can translate to better communication and player awareness during a game or a competition.
16. Try a traveling team
Traveling teams are a great way for athletes to stay active and in the sport throughout the summer. If you do decide to do a traveling team, avoid playing on multiple teams at a time and make sure you’re getting your rest in. It is not healthy to play competitively 12 months a year with no breaks. Playing one sport all year long is not a good idea, but playing multiple sports can be useful.
17. Enhance range of motion and mobility
Mobility is important to improve muscle imbalances and ensure the body is working properly to perform optimally. Start incorporating Self Myofascial Release (SMR) techniques into your workout plan to improve mobility.
SMR should replace stretching in athletes and gym-goers to improve performance and mobility. Plus, it feels good. You can do SMR with a baseball, lacrosse ball, or a foam roller. One thing I want you to keep in mind, however, is that any stretching or SMR strategy must be done with purpose.
18. Increase lean muscle
Over the summer, athletes can work on increasing lean muscle. Doing so requires a commitment to eating lean and nutritious food and following a strength training regimen. Suggestions for increasing lean muscle include eating a lean diet, lifting heavier weights, doing targeted isolation exercises, and taking supplements.
First, you need to understand that what you read on a bodybuilding website is not the best advice for you as an athlete with specific needs and injury concerns. Second, don’t take supplements without talking to your physician and coach. Remember, if the supplement or compound is not on an approved list, you risk expulsion or suspension.
19. Work on endurance and agility
Athletes can improve endurance and agility in the summer. Sure, you may not have to work on the craft as often, but you do need to get faster and perform longer.
You can improve endurance and agility through drills, heat training, increased cardiovascular activities, and goal setting. Increase your sessions, switch up your routines, and start measuring improvements every time you work out,
20. Prepare for the transition
The best way to get through summer is to have a plan. Athletes can improve performance, skill, and agility even when they need to take months off at a time in between seasons. Use the season wisely to rest, recover, and reignite yourself for a better season. You can’t do any of it without a plan and commitment to achieve your goals in the summer.
Athletes can improve over the summer, and they can have fun too. This season is a great time to enroll in a skills program, do strength training programs, and try out physical therapy to reduce injury and improve performance. I encourage you to get stronger more than anything else.