Youth athletes love their off seasons. It’s a chance to sleep in on Saturdays instead of worrying about a double-header, more time to hang out with friends after school instead of dashing off to practice and the opportunity to try other extra-curricular activities that they don’t have the time for during their season. In general, it’s just a nice change of pace and a nice break from the rigors and expectations of being a youth athlete. However, just because your athlete is in the off season, that doesn’t mean they can afford to stay inactive. It’s important that youth athletes maintain some level of physical activity, even in the off season, so they can be ready to go when the season picks up again.
Even if your youth athlete isn’t working out as hard or as often as they do during the peak of their season, maintaining their fitness and strength levels during the off season is a lot easier than trying to catch back up when the season starts.
Running, biking and swimming are all great ways to get in a cardiovascular workout. When beginning an off season cardio program, start slowly and gradually progress the time and intensity of the workout. You want your youth athlete to use the off season to give their body a chance to rest and heal, but a good cardio workout three times a week will help keep them in shape throughout the off season. Make sure they are drinking enough water to stay hydrated for the amount of activity they do each day. Just because their cardio workouts may not be as intense as during the regular season, that doesn’t mean they can’t suffer from dehydration.
Strength training is especially important for youth football or hockey players, or any other sport where strength gives players a competitive advantage. Even the CDC recommends that kids engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least 3 days a week. Having a weight machine or free weights in your home can make it easy, but if your youth athlete doesn’t have access to the workout room during the off season, suggest strength training activities like pushups and sit-ups or have them take up a fun activity like rock/wall climbing.
Flexibility training is important for preventing injuries or helping injuries sustained during the season to heal. Static stretching exercises like the calf stretch, lower back stretch or shoulder stretch are simple stretches that your youth athlete can do every day to keep their muscles loose and limber. You might also want to consider enrolling your youth athlete in a yoga class to work on their overall flexibility.
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