How to get the most out of pre-season training.

It’s that time of year again, where the coach does the call around to advise that preseason training is commencing next week, even though the winter sport season is still months away. Many dread the thought of running countless court or oval laps or the high intensity sweaty gym sessions.  But don’t let these negative thoughts impact on your participation. The goal of pre-season training, is to get the body and mind prepped and primed for when the season starts to ensure season longevity.

Preseason training should focus on the athlete becoming prepared in various aspects of the game.

Cardiovascular fitness is the one area that everyone can always improve on. Most of the winter sports require fast explosive movements over short distances. Ensuring you have the speed and fitness to get you to the ball, make a pass or out run an opponent is what wins you the game. Cardiovascular training should be a gradual process over the pre-season training period. The type of cardiovascular training being adopted should also replicate the level and demands of fitness required for that sport. Training on how your body is required to perform on the day is what allows for carry over in a competitive setting. Performing long distance running for a sport that requires sprint efforts to middle distance running is unlikely to give the body adaptations that are required for fast explosive movements and vice versa. Other modes to running, such as rowing machines, stationary bikes, cross trainers and swimming are great aerobic variations that allow for less load on the body while continuing to build fitness. Multiple modes of aerobic fitness should be adopted to reduce the likelihood of overload lower limb injuries before the competitive season has already started.

Flexibility is an important component to sport. Stretching is often overlooked, or limited time spent performing due to the focus being on fitness and strength. Having flexibility allows the body and joints to move more freely through various positions. During sporting matches, quick motions and reactions are often required when an intercept, tackle or throw is required.  Appropriate stretching pre and post training prepares the body for these movements and assists in the reduction of soft tissue strains. Assistance equipment such as foam rollers and massage balls are effective for self-release and muscle manipulation and can sometimes be more effective for the individual who complains of muscle tightness.

Body Conditioning or strength training allows for muscle bulk, improved overall strength capacity and support to the joints. Pre-season training should include a strengthening component. The strengthening exercises should focus on movement control as well as ensuring good form is utilized. Strengthening the main muscles groups reduces the likelihood of injury within season. Functional or sport specific patterns should also be adopted to ensure strength is gained in the necessary positions the body is required to put its self in for that particular sport.

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and focusing on the tasks at hand without comparing them to past experiences. It is about active engagement in the present moment focusing on awareness rather than judgement. Focusing on what the coaching staff are saying or the feedback that is being given by other team mates is important for skill and self-development. They say that how you train is how you will perform. Giving that 100% effort at training will allow for that 110% effort come game day. Being able to block out the background noise or the external stresses from home or work and entrusting your full attention to the training, game day and those on your team allows for greater team success.

Hydration and nutrition is an area that coaches should address early on in preseason training. The individuals who are training, need to ensure that they are having adequate and appropriate eating and drinking intake. The food intake gives your body the required fuel to perform the activities while fluid intake is important for temperature regulation, nutrient optimization and muscle function. Regular drink breaks should be encouraged throughout the session and more so when the temperature is hot as fluid is lost more easily from the body due to high levels of sweating.

Adopting these components to the preseason training period will assist you and your team in achieving the desired outcome while also assisting with injury prevention.


Author:  Annabel Hodsdon, M.Physio, BSc.(Exercise & Health Science), BSc. (Exercise Rehabilitation Science)

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