Summer is over. Winter has yet to come. If you want to compete in any sport, you can't afford to slack off now. Unfortunately, this time of year, known as the transition season since it's between the major individual competitive sports seasons, is when a lot of athletes take a break. But sometimes, that break stretches into atrophy.
If you run or bike, a short break is good. Giving your body time to recover from the competition season will allow all your stress injuries to heal; little micro-traumas you may not even be aware you have. Let those nagging aches and pains heal up.
After a few weeks, it's time to start training again. That's especially true if you intend to do any winter sports; whether skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing. But rather than going back to the gym to lift weights or do a treadmill or stationary bike, get into functional training, the kind that prepares your body for sports.
Mountain biking and road biking are very ski specific sports. So is hockey. You can continue to bike until the buildup of snow makes the road or dirt too slippery to be safe. Go easy on the bike at first. Whether you are in the healing phase or the building phase, you want to spend the first few weeks doing easy, non competitive rides. It's a time to work on balancing your body.
Do you push the pedals harder with one leg than with the other? Test yourself: ride at a moderate pace, pedaling with only one foot for about a mile. Then ride that same mile again using only the other foot. Was it harder to use one particular foot? That means the other leg is stronger. Work on building up the weaker leg by using it more and allowing it to pull---or pedal, its own weight.
Nearly every city has an ice rink, and there are usually drop-in hockey games several times a week. It doesn't matter whether you're a female or you can't skate or the idea of hockey gives you the shivers. It's a great sport to learn how to coordinate every part of your body, while building both aerobic and anaerobic endurance. It's nearly impossible to skate as hard at a public skating session as you will during a hockey shift. Plus, going after the puck, while avoiding the other players in your way, builds agility and quickness.
Even if you don't intend to enjoy any winter activities, or don't want to play hockey or bike, using the transition period to play games like soccer or basketball will help you become a better athlete. It will stretch your athletic ability, forcing you to move in different patterns, with different rhythms. Much of this expansion of your muscle memory will be transferred to whatever other sport you do. Kicking a soccer ball will give you a more forceful foot push as a runner. Hiking up steep hills amid the beauty of leaves changing in fall will do more than provide a nice view; the uphill and downhill hiking will activate different parts of your leg muscles that your regular sport may not build.
Try Something New
Use this transition period to do something different for your body. Are there machines in your gym that you have never used? Give them a try; not just once, but as part of your regular routine. Next, duplicate the movement of the machines you usually use with dumbbells. Using free weights will improve your balance, and also work the helper muscles, smaller muscles or sections of muscle that you may not have been giving much of a workout. Building helper muscles will get rid of those weak spots in your golf shot, your ski turn, your bike handling or your running gait.
Use this transition period to do something different, not just work on more of the same. It will help you discover your body's weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
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