By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
School’s out for the summer, but student athletes can’t just sit around the house. Football players, cross country runners, softball players and other athletes with fall seasons can’t afford couch potato summers or August will be a very cruel month.
“The main factor is trying to get acclimated to weather,” said Jeff Dews, a North Mississippi Medical Center athletic trainer who works with Itawamba Community College.
Tupelo High’s De Vonte Quinn remembers the cramps that came early in the football season during his freshman and sophomore years at Tupelo High School.
“I had a lot to learn,” said Quinn, now a senior who plays strong safety and tight end.
Between his sophomore and junior year, he paid attention to the training schedule, made sure he didn’t just lift weights inside and stopped drinking pops.
“That will kill you in the season,” Quinn said.
Any athlete, young or old, needs to keep going during their “off” season, say NMMC athletic trainers, who work with schools around the region. Summer workouts should aim to keep conditioning in place.
“You get your body used to the exertion, but you don’t want to get burned out,” said Rhea said.
Finding the sweet spot for a summer training schedule is a bit of a balancing act. The training schedules are tailored to the sport and individual.
A good training regimen should include cardiovascular exercise, strength training and stretching. Athletes burning through that many calories will need good nutrition and lots of water and sports drinks to fuel their efforts.
More isn’t necessarily better. Too much training can create problems, just like not training.
“Overexertion is detrimental,” Dawson said. “It can lead to stress fractures and other chronic problems.”
It isn’t necessary to give up your entire summer to see results from preseason training. Tupelo quarterback Luke Hobson gained 20 pounds of muscle between sophomore and junior year during summer training.
“I improved my strength a lot,” Hobson said. But because he opted for early morning workouts, he didn’t feel like he couldn’t have fun.
“My friends aren’t even awake by the time I’m done,” Hobson said. “There’s plenty of time left to do whatever you want.”
It’s important to have a plan for the summer. Coaches put together plans that are usually flexible around summer jobs and vacations. For people who aren’t on a team, certified personal trainers can help develop a plan for specific fitness goals.
However, don’t get so tied to a plan that you stop listening to your body and common sense.
“If you’ve got a nagging injury, you’re usually doing too much,” Dawson said.
The summer is a great time for cross-training.
“We all like variety,” Rhea said, and it reduces the risk of injury that comes from overtraining.
Usually athletes do well at incorporating cardiovascular exercise and strength training into their routines.
“I think we all agree athletes don’t stretch enough,” NMMC athletic trainer Donna Wesley said.
Even the biggest football players can benefit from flexibility work outs in yoga and pilates.
“A lineman’s got to have good flexibility in his hips so he can get down and get low,” Brown said.
Staying active in the summer isn’t just for athletes; just start slow so you can keep going. Adults should be active for at least 30 minutes a day; kids should get 60 minutes a day.
“Just get out and get active,” Dawson said.
Food and hydration are critical parts of summer training that are often neglected part.
“They need to fuel in their body,” NMMC athletic trainer Amy Whitley Dawson.
Ideally the kids get lots of the good stuff – lean proteins and complex carbs. But it’s especially important an adequate number of calories into the body.
Athletes often don’t eat enough to keep up with the number of calories they are expending, Wesley said. Not eating well can set athletes for vicious cycle in heat illness.
Athletes looking to get an extra nutritional boost should be very wary of supplements. A medical professional should be consulted on any supplements as some can damage the body instead of helping it.
What athletes drink is also vitally important. The athletic trainers counsel the athletes against carbonated sodas, sweet tea, Kool-aid and energy drinks.
“You want to stick with water and sports drinks,” Wesley said.