Coaching Considerations for the Athlete: Off Season Training
Oftentimes athletes have windows throughout the year where they are not involved in a sport. This is considered the off-season for the athlete. Many athletes take this time off, and may not do much of anything.
But should they?
While some time off between sports is important for an athlete to recover both physically and mentally, it may not be best to take an entire season off from training.
Too much time off can lead to a deconditioned or detrained state. The athlete may lose some, or all, of their previous training gains.
It also appears that the less trained the athlete is overall, the more severe the loss becomes.
After only 8 weeks, young athletes can significantly reduce both upper and lower body strength, and may even bring them back to levels prior to training.
The ability to control strength may be reduced after 14 days of inactivity. Markers for endurance can decrease in as little as 2 weeks.
None of those sounds wonderful! Especially considering the hard work and dedication committed to the initial gains.
Often times, athletes consider the off-season to be the summer. This is the time for athletes to really focus on their strength and conditioning work. Which is great! But if they take the winter off they may lose some of that benefit.
Say we have an athlete who participates in football or volleyball in the fall, takes the winter off, then participates in baseball or softball in the spring.
Even if the athlete puts in time in the summer to better themselves, not all of these positive training effects may find their way to the spring if a large enough winter gap is allowed.
Continuing to train during the winter can not only help the athlete maintain their training levels, but oftentimes improve them.
With a broad range program focusing on strength as well as speed and agility, the athlete can even improve the aspects potentially detrained by their fall sport.
For example, if our athlete participated in volleyball, maximum speed may have been diminished to the fact that the athlete never had to travel far enough at one time to reach max speed.
In softball, max speed is an important component of ability in the sport and would want to be trained in the "off season" between the two.
If your athlete is in a sport-less season, it is important to continue to train. Take a week or two after your sport is done to let yourself recover.
Then get back on the horse that is training. You won’t detrain from inactivity, and you will get better from training.
It’s really a double whammy!
Gain ground- don’t lose it!
Faigenbaum, Avery D.; Westcott2, Wayne L.; Micheli, Lyle J.; Outerbridge, A. Ross; Long, Cindy J.; LaRosa-Loud, Rita; Zaichkowsky, Leonard D. The Effects of Strength Training and Detraining on Children.
Hortobágyi T1, Houmard JA, Stevenson JR, Fraser DD, Johns RA, Israel RG.The Effects of Detraining on Power Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 Aug;25(8):929-35
Mantak, M. How Much Down Time is Too Much: The Concept of Detraining. Training Peaks