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By Ethan Fox, Community Contributor — Published: June 12, 2009

There seems to be an on-going trend amongst athletes to play their sport year-round. The ever present mantra in the US of “more is better” has not eluded the sports world. In the case of sports, more is leading to injury and burnout. Perhaps it’s the appeal of excelling at the next level that drives some to constantly compete. Maybe it’s pressure from parents, coaches, or other athletes. The sport culture has become such that if you are not currently involved in the sport than you will get left behind.


Sports activity breaks the body down, overworks certain muscles, and it does not illicit the necessary response from others. Without rest, the body cannot repair itself and therefore overuse injuries become prevalent. Athletes are under the impression that the muscles they use most are the ones they need to strengthen often. Many times the opposite is true. The athletes need to train the muscles they don’t use during their sport as well as train the small stabilizers that will improve their ability to perform. What about those muscles used all season? They need to rest! Without lack of activity, the body cannot recuperate. People fail to realize that they need more rest, not more practice, in order to improve their performance. A break from the sport allows the mind to rest which translates into the athlete having a greater desire to participate. This break will give any injuries a chance to heal, and will give the athlete an opportunity to cross train.

The highest levels of competitive athletes (professional, Olympians, etc) take time off their sport, they cross train, and even take time off from all activity. How is it that athletes strive to be their best yet fail to train like those who are the top of their game? Athletes often mimic their heroes’ supplements, foods, shoes, and equipment yet they do not follow similar exercise plans. Elite level athletes have clearly defined seasons including an off-season, a pre-season, in-season, and off season. Their training changes to accommodate varying physiological and psychological changes. No high caliber athlete is playing their sport at 100% for 100% of the time.

In the off season, athletes typically rest. They may do some cross training or participate in activities that do not directly resemble their sport. Pre-season is a time to work on muscle imbalances, begin injury pre-habilitation, and start a conditioning program. It is only at the end of the pre-season that sports skills are implemented. In season is where the main focus is the sport and the goal is to peak at the necessary time. Even during this time, the athletes take breaks (not go to practice or weekend tournaments). Post season can mean championships, or simply the winding down of the season. This is a good time to address and rehabilitate any injuries resulting from the season.

Following the above progression will allow the athlete to perform at their best for many years. They will avoid mental burnout and physical ailments. To become elite or lengthen your career, you must make sure to take breaks from training throughout the year.

Get Strong! Stay Strong! (but train smart already!)

Chris

PS– Parents, you must make these choices for your kids!!!  They are not little adults. Re-read the bolded areas.

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