Question: My season has ended but I don’t want to shut down my training. I enjoy the workouts and like the shape I’m in but I am constantly told to take a break. How important are breaks and how long should I break from training?
Answer: Every sport has a season and an off-season. Over the past decade there has been an increase in the number of repetitive motion sports injuries occurring in younger athletes which many attribute to their lack of a true off-season during which the athlete works to becoming a better athlete, not just playing a sport.
The season obviously is to play a sport and the off season is to prepare to play better.
You can’t become better if you never stop playing and take time to recover.
One of the things for recovery is as simple as sleep and changing the routine for a brief period. Our bodies require a period of approximately eight hours of sleep per 24 hour cycle. Recovery and rebuilding occurs during sleep for everyone but it is especially important for teenagers. So, yes you do need to shut down your training. How long you’re actually in shut down recovery or active recovery depends on how broken down your body is.
We had an athlete who was beat up with multiple minor nagging injuries last year that we shut down for a month. Then, we began the rebuilding process with a stationary bike and the pool to begin to stretch out the muscles without adding stress to joints and tendons that had been greatly overworked. The training cycles overlapped to build the muscles back up to where they were before injuries and we took the athlete to a new training level over a period of weeks. This year was a great year for that athlete.
If there is no glaring injury or adrenal exhaustion from being over-trained, then the typical shut down is a week to ten days. Most of the athletes we train we have to force to do that. With a good off season, a rebuilding process starts with an evaluation of how the season went discussing both the good and bad. Then new goals are stated and written out.
Mental recovery can be as simple as loosening the restrictions on the training table and while the athlete feels better mentally from this, their bodies lose that feeling of being a performance machine.
Great athletes itch for the high performance feeling and begin working to improve their performance in stages with a predetermined end date in mind. Usually the date is when they return to their team or practices.
Down time is important and necessary to recharge and rebuild with both types of recovery, shut down and active.
God bless, rest and get back to training,