It’s tempting to let your skills slide during the off-season without practice and games. But what you don’t do today sets up what happens tomorrow — including sports injuries that could take you out of the game entirely.
So, how do you stay strong, flexible, and fit without the inspiration of an upcoming game? With the right plan, you can enter the next season as a better athlete than the last season.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, David Lintner, MD, a leader in orthopedic sports medicine, evaluates body mechanics to help athletes identify and compensate for deficits before they result in an injury. Our Kingwood and Houston, Texas, medical teams also offer training and rehab protocols if you experience a sports injury.
We’ve curated a collection of videos to help you stay in shape and recover from injury. Below are some tips for making the most of your off-season training time.
Set SMARTER goals
Just as you must let your muscles rest and repair between games, you can use your off-season time off to rebuild your fitness goals. Rethink the strategies that worked or didn’t work last season.
Decide how you want to show up at the start of the next season. Do you need to start working with a personal trainer? Do you need to change your diet so that you build more muscle?
Don’t just daydream — write your goals down and turn them into SMARTER goals. SMARTER is an acronym for:
- Specific — detailed and meaningful goals
- Measurable — have quantifiable milestones
- Achievable — ambitious but realistic
- Relevant — aligned to your vision of yourself as an athlete
- Time-bound — create deadlines
- Evaluate — review and evaluate your progress
- Reward — reward yourself for meeting goals
Create a spreadsheet document to track your progress. You can also take this time to strengthen your mind and focus.
The repetitive motions used for your sport put you at risk for overuse injuries and raise your risk for arthritis. Work your body in ways that aren’t explicitly required for your sport so you strengthen and stretch your entire body, making it more flexible so it can adjust to the unpredictable stresses of a game.
Build a routine of varied activities. This strategy reduces your risk for injury, builds a variety of new strengths, and also keeps you from getting bored. Try alternating:
- Cross-country skiing
- Water jogging
- Tai chi
- Another sport
At least twice a week, do strength training for your core, arms, and legs. By cross-training, you may also find new sports and activities you want to participate in year-round.
Master your sleep
As an active person, you probably don’t think much about sleep. But your body and brain need rest as much as they need activity. You can find plenty of tips for upgrading your sleep — including switching to a ketogenic diet — at SleepFoundation.org. Basic sleep hygiene steps include:
- Exposing yourself to 30 minutes of daylight first thing in the morning
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends
- Avoiding eating a heavy meal several hours before bedtime
- Limiting screen time in the evening hours
- Using blue-light-blocking glasses at night
- Keeping your bedroom dark
- Not drinking coffee after 2 pm
- Turning down the bedroom temperature to 65-68 degrees
- Using deep breathing and meditation to calm the mind before sleep
Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night if you’re in your teens. For adults 18 and over, 7-9 hours per night is optimal.
Find an accountability buddy
If you don’t have the budget to work with a personal trainer, perform your off-season training with a teammate or friend. Share your SMARTER goals and hold each other accountable.
Set up a schedule to hit the gym. You can also help each other improve your diets, learn relaxation techniques, and become more optimal athletes and happier humans.
Listen to your body
Adrenaline keeps you pumped and feeling no pain during the season. But as the excitement dies down after the season, pay attention to the signals your body sends you. Is your shoulder sore? Does your grip feel weaker? Off-season is the time to attend to minor issues that could become major if untreated.
To reduce your risk of a sports injury next season, get the conditioning and evaluations you need to keep you injury-free. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable staff at the nearest office by phone or the online form for customized training tips today.
Special message: If you’re currently dealing with a sports injury and live far from Houston, consider sending your MRI to Dr. Lintner for a second opinion.