Why do you play your sport? Fun? Competition? Camaraderie? Whatever the reason, here are some tips to keep playing longer and stronger:
Build or Maintain an Athletic Foundation
Key components include: cardiovascular endurance, strength, dynamic alignment, body composition and mobility. Limitations in these foundational capabilities can lead to decreased power, agility and performance, along with potential increased risk of injury. Every sport differs, but every athlete should have a reasonable reserve of each of these abilities to perform their sport optimally without excess fatigue or loss of form. Targeted assessments can be helpful to identify areas for improvement.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that athletes under the age of 16 participate in a range of sports and activities rather than specialize in one sport year-round to minimize risk of injury and burnout.
Monitor Your Volume
Two common culprits for injury are:
1. “Too much, too soon” – when an athlete ramps up training volume too quickly, often after the off-season or injury.
2. “Too much” – when an athlete plays for multiple sports or teams with not enough rest time to recover (the AAP recommends at least 1-2 days off per week).
Limit your weekly volume increases to 10-30 percent beyond the previous four week average. For example, if you trained an average of five hours the past four weeks, don’t increase beyond 5 ½ to 6 ½ hours of training this week.
Fuel to Perform & Recover
Athletes can be like high performance race cars – they need gas, an effective cooling system and a strong body to go far and fast. Good nutrition practices can help accomplish this:
• Don’t skip meals.
• Eat some protein with most meals or snacks.
• Have veggies and fruits with at least two meals or snacks.
• Drink water throughout the day.
• Before training or competition: Be sure to have a meal or snack with carbohydrates, moderate protein, electrolytes (sodium) and fluid. You should start training neither starving nor stuffed. Sensitive stomachs may want to minimize fiber or fat.
• During training or competition: Aim for 12 to 20 oz. of fluid per hour. A gulp is about an oz. More intense, longer and/or hotter sessions require more fluid and a source of carbohydrates and electrolytes.
• After training: Have a snack or meal similar to the pre-training meal or snack.
At the HSS Paramus Outpatient Center, my colleagues and I provide a full range of physical and occupational therapy to address injuries and pain in the hand, wrist and elbow, low back and neck, sports and general orthopedic injuries. As a performance specialist, I design personalized performance training programs including nutritional guidance. In Paramus, we provide expert treatment without a doctor’s prescription through direct access.