Published: June 8, 2010
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
Learn important facts about when to rest, how long to rest, when to train, and how to train during the off-season.
After working hard all fall and spring and developing a good level of fitness, it is important not to lose that and have to start over in August when the fall season begins.
It is much easier to stay in shape than it is to get back in shape. However, having said that, it is also important to allow your body to rest and recover from the demands of the season and to prevent overtraining. Finding the balance between these two concepts can be challenging.
Active rest is a term we use to balance rest and maintain fitness. Active rest means finding enjoyable ways to stay active to maintain fitness. For example, play a recreational sport. Every sport has different demands on the body and a recreational sport will allow the player to recover both physically and emotionally from the soccer season while maintaining a reasonable level of fitness. Other leisure activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming can also be good active rest activities.
As stated previously, it is easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape. Active rest is a good way to maintain fitness while allowing for recovery from the demands of the season. However, for active rest to be effective in maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, a high level of intensity must be performed.
To stay in shape, you can decrease the frequency and the duration of training with little effect, but if you decrease the intensity of training, you will lose fitness fast.
For example, decrease the frequency of training from four to five days per week to two to three days per week and decrease the duration from one hour and 30 minutes to 45 minutes at the same intensity level and you should be able to maintain fitness. Therefore, during the active rest period, try to sustain a high level of intensity during the activity.
As the season draws closer, it is important to begin training specifically for the demands of soccer to fine-tune fitness. Being fit for the season allows for faster recovery. This will allow you to stay on the field longer and prevent a decline in performance due to fatigue.
Another benefit of being fit is injury prevention. As the body fatigues, it is less capable of guarding against injury. Therefore, being fit is imperative for keeping you on the field longer and maintaining the ability to perform at the highest level.
At the end of the active rest phase and the beginning of the preparation phase, it is important to build an endurance base of fitness. This can be accomplished by running, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, or other endurance activities.
The majority of soccer is aerobic exercise, so building a good endurance base allows for faster recovery during the game.
The next step in preparing for the season is interval running or repeat runs; however, a good way to transition into the interval running is to do fartlek runs.
Fartlek is a Swedish term for "speed play." This is an easy way to increase the intensity of normal jogging.
To perform fartlek training, start out at a normal jogging pace until warmed up and settled into the run (five to 10 minutes). Then pick out a landmark up ahead (a telephone pole or mailbox, etc) and increase running pace to that landmark (this is not a sprint, but a harder run).
Then return to what you think is the original pace; do not use a watch to pace yourself. When your breathing has recovered, repeat the hard run.
Continue this for the duration of the run.
Interval running is the final piece to fitness preparations for the soccer season. Soccer is full of longer-paced runs. Going to a track and running 200-meter, 400-meter, or 800-meter repeats and allowing for recovery between repetitions is a good, sport-specific way to train.
These runs should not be a full sprint, but should be a hard-paced run. Shorter sprints can also be performed to work on sprint speed and quickness.
During this time of interval running, not every day should be spent doing intervals. Endurance training should be performed one to two days per week, intervals two days per week, and one day of shorter sprints.
One to two days are reserved for rest or recreational activities.
This information was provided by Duke Sports Medicine physical therapist Kelly Hess.