Following the demands of a competitive season, be they mental and/or physical ones, the close-season period provides the perfect antidote and is removes the stresses of detailed preparation for performance and instead paves the way to recuperation, regeneration and re-energising. For competitive athletes who are involved in professional or full-time training the initial thought is to take the load off their bodies.
Often the first thing to be done is to get some rest and relaxation in; athletes will normally have a holiday in the first weeks after the end of the season. A great time to spend with family and friends, relaxing on the beach or by the pool, catching up on sleep while boosting Vitamin D levels.
Recharging your mental batteries is vital to reinvigorating your desire to prepare for the next seasons work. Lack of ‘downtime’ can lead to increased levels of stress and can often result in decreasing levels of performance year-on-year in athletes who are involved in close-season tournaments, especially at representative levels. This may only become apparent months later as the failure to off-load the stresses and relax become apparent.
The change can bring about significant changes in physical well-being too. Gone is the daily pounding on the pitch or track, the gym can take a backseat while they are replaced with gentle swims, walks and perhaps some new sports that can be played for fun; tennis or water-sports for example.
CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST
Despite the need to recharge the batteries it is equally as important to not let them go flat; little point in allowing all of the physical gains gleaned from training over the last number of months to be lost through a lack of training either. So use the time to get involved in other sports or forms of exercise that can maintain a good level of conditioning but perhaps poses new challenges or develops complimentary skills.
Cycling is certainly a great way of maintaining fitness for those athletes involved in field sports and can be an excellent method of unloading the joints. Hills, time trials and intervals on the bike tried and tested means of developing or maintaining fitness.
Swimming is another great ‘unloading’ form of conditioning. Using different strokes and intervals is really beneficial to promoting conditioning levels, especially for those ‘less than efficent’ swimmers. It certainly is a whole-body session too.
Other sports such as basketball, tennis, badminton, golf and watersports are certainly great fun to try when in close-season mode and can present other surfaces to train on. The changing tempos of these sports compared to the ‘natural’ flow of a rugby or soccer match provides additional mental stimulation too.
For those with more energy to burn, boxing provides an excellent form of conditioning on a whole-body level and the gym work will pay big dividends. You may not want to get into full sparring but the training disciplines in boxing are excellent; skipping, heavy bag work, core conditioning, speed ball etc are great stimuli.
RELAX TO THE MAX
Without a doubt one of the best investments of your time during the close season period is to just chill out and take time for yourself. Wether that is sleeping, reading, listening to music or going to concerts, socialising with friends or visiting family, those stresses of training and playing will melt away.
Massage, Yoga & Pilates are great forms of both mental and physical relaxation and can compliment your training during the season. Use this additional time to work on those relaxation skills that may benefit you further during your competitive season.
Of course as your body as taken a pounding during the season there may be little niggles or injuries that you may now want to take the time to get right prior to embarking on a pre-season training camp. Whilst the fitness and medical staff may too be looking for a break, liaising with them to get some good rehab and prehab work done can only work better for all parties for the forthcoming season.
Packing a foamroller, Theraband, SwissBall or Dynadisc into your luggage as you head off to warmer climates isn’t likely to push you over your allocated weight limit! Great, simple tools however to help you get your body back to 100%!
INDULGE A LITTLE!
Without wanting to go overboard, it’s also time to let your hair down! Eating different foods (some of which may be off-limits during the season), having an extra drink (or two) and having a few nights out are to be welcomed. Many sacrifices can be made in the life of a competitive or professional athletes and so come the close-season it’s time for a little bit of pay-back. After all, if you’ve made the sacrifices, you should be able to claim some of the rewards!
Whatever your close-season period’s length, remember to plan your time though as you don’t want to find yourself having lived the highlife and then find you’re behind when pre-season starts back. Get your training done so that you’re ready to go, but make sure all of those batteries are topped up because it’s a long time until you’ll be back at close-season again! But close season football preparation is the key to a successful pre and competitive season performance!