Take a Break
There are many athletes out there that think MORE is MORE, and some athletes think some downtime will hinder them as opposed to help them. A pivotal time in an athlete's macrocycle (lets say its one calendar year), is the transition aka recovery phase. This usually occurs immediately after the athlete's season is finished and takes them up until the beginning of their off-season training. This break/downtime is crucial for the athletes to have a physical, mental and emotional break from their given sport. Now, the length of time for this transition phase varies from sport-to-sport and coach-to-coach. For athletes whose seasons take up the better part of a year, their recovery time may be slightly longer, but for athletes with shorter seasons, the coach may decide they need a little extra downtime from a gruelling season.
I've discussed how recovery on a week-to-week basis is important, but for this post I'm focusing on that time between the season ending and the beginning of another off-season. I'm going to break it down into two segments and provide some tips and tricks on how to capitalize on the off-time!
Taking time completely off from the weight room, practice, games, etc. will allow your body some immediate recovery, helping heal any lingering injuries and avoid further damage (yes, you can lay on the couch and watch Netflix for a couple days). It's important that your body is given time to "take a deep breath" and have some complete downtime to restore itself and reset. Once you've taken a couple days completely off, introducing some light activity will help promote further recovery in the body by increasing blood flow.
Some activities to include when getting moving again ...
- Recreational Sports
- Bodyweight Circuits (Focusing on movement patterns)
- A sport or activity you normally wouldn't get a chance to participate in
The mental component may be the most important and will often translate into the physical component as well. Taking a break from the game is necessary for longevity. When I was younger I was lucky enough to play a handful of different sports so after one season, I always had a new sport to focus on. When I narrowed my focus to solely playing basketball, that's when I had to make a conscious effort to step away from the court after season even just for a brief time. I found that when I just continued to play, I lost my drive a little ... like I was just going through the motions instead of playing with my heart and soul. When I gave myself some time away from the court and directed my attention and energy elsewhere, it made me excited and anxious again for when I could return. Having the distance and actually feeling excited to get back is what would re-spark my passion and desire to play. Burnout is such an important topic (you can read about it my last post), but it happens when you do too much, too soon, too fast and for TOO LONG. Give yourself some time to get excited to get back on the court, field, ice, track, etc.
Some tips to help keep your mental game sharp before returning to your playing surface ...
- Meditation (check out the app Head Space for a 10-minute guided meditation)
- Goal Setting (write down your goals for the off-season and following season)
- Prioritize family/ relationships/ school (some of these things unfortunately get neglected during season)
- As stated above, do some activities you don't normally get to do while you're playing!
This really just scratches the surface on the transition phase, but it's just a few things to focus on if you're an athlete or if you're a coach! The time away from the weight room will get the athletes excited and hungry again to go after their goals and we all know their bodies will thank them for it too.