By Sam Donohue, Exercise Physiologist
The dreaded pre-season training…
We know you hate it. But we promise you need it!
With many sporting seasons fast approaching, now is the perfect time to take a look at what goes into an effective pre-season, and how we can avoid any nasty injuries before the fun part of our sporting year begins!
Pre-season isn’t just for the elite athletes. Whether you’re excited for the new footy season, training for a marathon, or you’re a weekend warrior trying to reach that next level; devoting that specific time and energy to a strategic training schedule can help prepare your body and mind and will have significant benefits to your performance when it’s needed.
What does an ideal pre-season training look like?
‘Pre-season’ is a term given to represent a period of training which takes place in preparation for the upcoming sporting year. It provides us ample opportunity to build our aerobic capacity (cardiovascular fitness), muscular strength, agility, speed, power, local muscular endurance, and the tactical and technical skills specific to our event. Of course, we want to make our training schedule as relative to our sport as possible, so not all of the above may apply equally. A good pre-season will develop primary training principles and then look more closely at key skills and techniques required in each sport/event.
Pre-season will often follow a period of physical inactivity where we allow our body and mind time to reset and recharge. This inactivity can be useful (for a short period only) but can also leave us lacking the fitness foundations we had the season prior. This phase where we restart movement is also where we are most at risk of injury as our musculoskeletal system must adapt to our new level of activity. The pre-season period also allows us time to reflect on last season, if any niggles or injuries were causing issues, and how we can address them prior to the new season beginning.
For many ball sports, training will commence 12+ weeks prior to the first game of the season. 12 weeks of aerobic and strength training have been shown to host long-term changes within the body. These include; improved muscle strength and size, improved oxygen delivery and uptake to muscles, longer time to fatigue, reduced lactic acid production, and improved energy system usage.
An athlete should sit down prior to commencing a program and set specific goals they wish to achieve over the next 12-weeks. This can begin with how they wish to stick to a regimented plan. A common pre-season training program will involve 2-3 sessions per week for 1-2 hours. Sessions in weeks 1-4 focus primarily on aerobic capacity and building a solid foundational fitness base. This can involve long distance running, cycling, swimming or other aerobic activities at steady state intensities. A steady state is a level in which the body can supply enough oxygen for the total demand (50-70% max heart rate).
Weeks 4-8 may start to include some resistance training or higher intensity aerobic training depending on your sport. This is a time where we have already built our base, and we wish to challenge our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems more. Then finally, from weeks 8-12 we should be feeling generally quite fit, and can place more focus on our skill development and refinement. A great time to create more specific drills and exercises related to our sport/events gameplay.
It is important that a pre-season training routine is consistent and that no more than 2 sessions in a row are missed. This imbalance in training can result in a decline in the physical adaptations we are trying to achieve with regular training. This break can also increase our chances of injury early in the season due to limited local muscular endurance and fatigue. It is known that most injuries occur in the last 10-15 minutes of gameplay during the season. This can be attributed to the same factors. Therefore it’s vital that a 12-week training program is fulfilled and matches the event-related activities as closely as possible.
Your physiotherapist/exercise physiologist at PhysioWest will be able to guide you through each phase of preseason, outline your goals, coach each training principle, and prepare you to have the best outcomes leading into the season ahead. We can also make sure that those niggles you left behind in 2022 won’t follow you into 2023. We would love to support you in being your best self this year.
Call us on 8352 3582, or book online via our website using the link below. We can’t wait to treat you.