Pre-season is an exciting time of year for athletes. The extensive hours spent in training and the grueling intensity help athletes build up a base for the coming season as well as a common bond with their teammates. To make the most out of your preseason training this year, set realistic goals that will help you focus on one piece of the puzzle at a time.
- Pick Up a Good Habit
The beginning of the year is an excellent time to set expectations for yourself, including how you will execute daily tasks in training. Every athlete can think of a handful of skills they can improve upon. Small details in your sport can make the difference between winning and losing come championship season. Pick a skill or two (these can be mental) to be hyper-disciplined on in practice now so they become second nature when it matters most.
- Learn a New Technique
The corollary to cementing good habits with existing skills is dedicating time now to harness new ones. Whether you focus on a more complex exercise in the gym or a technical skill specific to water polo, preseason is the time to push the boundaries on your athleticism. Graduate to the higher box jump, add more complexity to your power lifting, or post a faster time in your swim workouts. Actively dedicating yourself to a new skill reinforces the notion that you can always improve and simply keeps you more engaged in preseason training.
- Work the Weights
If there’s one component of your training that can dramatically improve this year—it’s your strength training. There are countless movement patterns to learn and perfect, so get comfortable with being constantly sore in preseason. These workouts focus on re-engaging muscles to activate them after the period of rest in the offseason. This entails more whole body conditioning to build a foundation of endurance and strength for the year rather than sport specific skills, which come later. In addition to cardiovascular training, which builds obvious endurance, strength training is essential in preseason to regaining eccentric force, power, and isokinetic strength. Muscle fibers decrease in size and contractility within 8 weeks of rest for sprint athletes. Additionally, strength training in preseason builds the necessary musculature to protect high risk joints from injury. A review in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that strength training can reduce sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries to nearly half compared to no strength training. Work the weights and you’ll reap the benefits all year long.
- Record your Baseline
The best athletes take note of where their starting point is for the season. With an organized strength and conditioning program aided by BridgeAthletic, athletes can document their baseline in preseason and follow it systematically. One can only continue to challenge their body by understanding their progress to date and recording both quantitative and qualitative aspects of their strength training. Note how much resistance you can move with through an exercise and how well you technically execute such movements. Once you’ve got your baseline set, then you can track your progress as you build your strength and athletic ability.
- Enjoy the Grind
These next few weeks are going to be hard, no doubt, but a large part of getting through preseason in one piece has to do with your attitude. Take advantage of the lighter workload in school and the minimal travel for competitions. Spend time with teammates in between practices to recover mentally as well as physically. Preseason is about getting the job done and enjoying the relaxed environment during this time of year, and with these tips in training you know all you need to have a successful start.
- Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB. Br J Sports Med. 2013 Oct 7. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092538. [Epub ahead of print] The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.
- Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Aug;33(8):1297-303. Muscular characteristics of detraining in humans. Mujika I, Padilla S.