The offseason… a chance to get your weekends back, unwind a bit, take that much needed getaway with the family or partner, or even get to fix that thing on the house you promised to do back in March. It is also a great time to address any niggling injuries you had through the season of your preferred sport! Many athletes, no matter what age, level, or type of sport usually have some form of tightness, pain or a combination of both throughout the season.
There are many factors that can cause these issues; with muscle tension, weakness or a mix of a few things causing some form of biomechanical fault leading to injury. Using the off season as a time to increase flexibility or work on strengthening particular muscles, can make transitioning back into the season and staying injury-free throughout the season, a more attainable goal. Maintaining a base of fitness is also key, and can often make the dreaded pre-season that little bit easier.
The following are just a few tips on each area that are key to structuring a good off season.
Setting aside a 15-30minutes, two or three times a week to do some flexibility work can go a long way in increase muscle length of key areas relevant to your sport. If your sport is largely running based i.e. Rugby League, Soccer, Hockey, then you would generally look to be increasing flexibility of the lower limb. Static stretching of the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves is a great place to start. Sports that involve more the upper body i.e swimming or throwing sports, would be focusing more on flexibility around the shoulder, neck and trunk.
A lack of strength in certain muscles can be one of the main reason injuries occur. As a general rule a tired or weak muscle often tightens up to decrease the range of movement it needs to control. A good example of this is glute weakness, which can affect knee control, and lead to knee injuries such as patella tracking issues, common in runner’s and sports that involve excessive running.
A thorough musculoskeletal assessment by a qualified Physiotherapist, is the first step in identifying any key areas of weakness. These are a 30 minute assessment that looks at muscle strength and flexibility of key areas in the lower limb as well as a treadmill assessment.
Continuing some form of low intensity exercise to maintain cardio-vascular fitness can ease the transition into the preseason. Forms of cross training such as swimming, cycling, water running and rowing are great for running sports, where loading on the legs is minimal. In sports such as swimming or throwing sports (i.e. baseball or softball), a good alternative is running or cycling, giving the upper body, in particular the shoulders, some down time.
As the end of the off season draws to a close and preseason approaches, returning to some sport specific training is key. Preparation for the higher loads of pre-season training can reduce injury risk to the muscles and tendons, which are common in pre-season.