The transition into college athletics is not always easy for athletes. It can be particularly difficult for players that are not in shape or for players that are used to being the star and now find themselves sitting on the bench. It is crucial for collegiate athletes to use time in the offseason to stay physically fit and prepare for the upcoming season. New players do not want to come into preseason behind and be trying to play catch-up all season long. While preparing for the collegiate level, players should prioritize strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sleep.
Strength and Conditioning
All athletes who strength train have to start somewhere. Similar to cardiovascular training, athletes must lay down a baseline of strength before they can progress to more complicated exercises. Athletes should focus on correct lifting techniques when progressing their loaded weight for each exercise. It is important for athletes to emphasize strength relative to their own bodyweight and target sport-specific muscles and movements. Ultimately, developing strength from external resistance will keep athletes injury-free and enhance their athletic performance. In addition to strength, another key role in an athlete’s performance is cardiovascular conditioning. Once athletes have established a fitness base, they can build upon this foundation for the rest of the year and focus on sport-specific conditioning, such as speed and power. Overall, cardio training will improve the athlete’s endurance, ability to recover quickly, and athletic performance. Most teams will give athletes some form of strength and conditioning test during preseason, so it is essential for athletes to come ready to make a good impression and dominate. To learn more, check out this article about the importance of strength training for athletes.
Maintaining proper eating habits and nutrition is an important step for athletes to stay fit for collegiate athletics. Meals should have a good balance of carbs, proteins, fats, and fluids. Carbohydrates are needed to fuel activity and to replenish energy stores, proteins help speed up recovery and repair muscles, and fats are needed to support extra energy expenditures that come from engaging in activity. Including fluids is necessary for an athlete to maintain hydration and replace depletion during exercise and travel. Athletes should always be looking at what they are eating before, during, and after training. If athletes don't properly fuel up 2-3 hours before game time, their blood sugar levels could be low, which directly affecting coordination, endurance, and overall focus. Post-workout nutrition is also important in terms of speeding up recovery and having long-term success. Athletes should get into proper eating habits and learn what foods work well for them while preparing for collegiate athletics. To learn more, check out this article about good nutritional habits for collegiate athletics.
Sleep is a critical factor in how well athletes perform, train, and recover. Not only does sleep play a vital role in immune and brain function, but it also affects glucose metabolism and levels of cortisol, stress hormone, that all influence athletic performance. Sleep deprivation can have lasting consequences due to the alteration of these physiological processes, including slower glycogen storage in the muscles and liver. When glycogen stores are low, they will become more rapidly depleted during exercise, causing an earlier fatigue onset and decreased performance. In addition, sleep deprivation can impact psychomotor functions, thus decreasing athlete reaction time and performance. Athletes should also make sure they are getting enough good quality sleep. In order to get the best sleep, athletes should limit screen time at night, and sleep in a cool, quiet, and dark room. While elite athletes have demanding schedules, sleep helps athletes grow, learn, store memories, recover from injury or illness, and recharge mentally. Therefore, it is important for athletes who are preparing for college athletics to get into a routine and properly manage their sleeping habits.
Staying fit while preparing for collegiate athletics is imperative for athletes to show up at preseason feeling confident and ready to go. Once athletes have built a foundation of fitness, they can begin to focus on sport-specific training to enhance skills and gameday performance. Preparing for collegiate athletics is difficult and oftentimes strenuous on an athlete’s body, but prioritizing strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sleep will make the transition easier.