First off, the off season is dependant on your sport. The rugby off season is around June-Sept, whereas marathon road runners usually have the winter as their off season.
The off season is built up through a few phases:
- Physical rest is essential to reducing the risk of injury and fatigue. Allow a few weeks after the season is over to bring the intensity and volume of your training right down, this will give the body time to relax after the stress of the season. After a hard season most people will pick up niggles and injuries, taking time to recover will reduce this risk and you will be able to continue participating in your desired sport for longer.
Mental Recovery is also important, continually pushing and striving in the same sport can lead to “burn out” and continuing with the same training all year can become boring and lead to a lack of interest in the sport altogether. Having active rest, either by taking part in a different sporting activity (e.g. swimming instead of running) can make training more enjoyable and keep things more interesting.
- Going back to basics and working on core skills will give you a good foundation for building on your fitness. Practicing good squat technique, core strength and joint stability will all build a foundation in which to progress your fitness for the next season. Never feel you are too advanced to go back to foundation exercises, they are good for all abilities.
Now is the time to correct imbalances in the body which occur in all sports. They are more obvious in sports such as hockey which are bias towards one side due to the nature of holding the stick, but there will still be imbalances in all sports. Re-balancing the body through isolation exercises will prevent further injury.
- This is the time to improve your skills for your sport. Every year runners tell me they want to get faster next year, to hit a new PB. Yet there is no strength, speed or power work in their off season to improve their performance. Using big compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and bench press are fundamental to improving your sporting performance. Interval training will crank the intensity up so you work above your normal steady running pace for a shorter length of time but this will push your anaerobic threshold higher, therefore allowing your usual steady running pace to also increase. Improving your anaerobic capacity will prevent fatigue; towards the end of your event the athletes who train their anaerobic system will be less fatigued than those who do not.
Practicing your sports skills and implementing appropriate intensities as the season approaches and starting to build back your “old” routine will prepare the body for what the season holds.
The off season is when performance is built. Plan for your next season in advance and prepare accordingly.
If you train the same all year round, you will stay the same.
Recovery is a key component of training.
Going back to basic, fundamental exercises is recommended.
Build your strength, speed and power in the off season.