The most exciting time of the year for most people is summer break. There is no school, you can sleep in and most importantly you get to hang out with your friends without worrying about it being a school night. Other than school, summer is usually a time when you give your mind and body a break from your hard core training schedule. The amount of time you take off may vary depending on the sport you play or the level you train at but either way it is easy to get carried away and forget about taking care of yourself. That being said, I would like to share with you 3 important things for you to pay attention to in order to stay in shape over your summer break. The last thing you want is to get injuries upon your return back to your intense training schedule.
First and formost, the most important thing to pay attention to is your nutrition. Of course you need to watch what you eat everyday of the year but it is even more important when you are not training because you are naturally burning less calories. Depending on the intensity of your training, your body is burning calories for a large portion of your day which means it generally needs more fuel during training season.
When you are not training your body burns less calories and therefore does not need as much food. During your break I encourage smaller meals throughout the day containing more vegetables and lean foods because you are simply not doing the same amount of exercise that you are used to and don’t need the larger amounts of calories.
I tried But I Still feel Hungry…
When you first start eating less you may feel like you are still hungry but that is only because your body is in a strong habit of eating a certain amount of protein and carbohydrates each day. It may take some time to get used to a different routine but try and make sure you are eating less than what you normally would during your regular training schedule. You want to make sure your body stays in tip top condition on your time off so that when you return to your full time training schedule you are not too far behind where you left off. I suggest consulting a nutritionist that specializes in sport nutrition about specific ratio’s of protein and carbohydrates that you should be eating each day because each athlete is different and what may be a great diet for one athlete may be not be for another. As a Coach I understand the basics because I deal with athletes on intense training programs on a daily basis and also because I am an athlete myself, but I would consult someone with further knowledge to make sure your diet is the best for you. I can guide my own athletes more closely because I know them personally but in terms of specific information, I would highly suggest seeking information from someone with experience in sport nutrition because that is their area of expertise.
Where Do I Find Help?
Often High level training facilities such as the Athlete Training Centre (ATC) in Mississauga, Ontario, will have nutritionists available to their athletes on site. Sport rehabilitation centres such as The Sports Clinic in Oakville Onatrio will often offer services related to sports nutrition as well.
There are also individual programs you can sign up for online such as Hard Core Training Solutions that offer personalized
nutrition plans to help keep you in shape while working with a coach one on one. Coach Sahil Mulla specializes in nutrition and personal training for high performance athletes of all kinds including world class tumblers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, MMA fighters and much more. Check out his website at: www.hardcoretrainingsolutions.com.
Another option is to read up on a few books about healthy eating and sport nutrition. These are only a few examples of trust-worthy businesses that offer nutritional guidance for athletes that I have experience with or knowledge about but take a look around your neighbourhood or talk to other people you know to try and find the program or person that would best be suited for you.
Daily exercise is the next most important thing to pay attention to on your vacation time. I cannot name one fitness professional who would tell you to not stay physically active even during your break or slow season. It is important all year long but so much more prominent while you disengage yourself from your busy life because the last thing you want as an athlete is to lose strength. A loss in strength could mean you start falling behind on your goals and on the progress you have made so far. Don’t forget safety first as an athlete. By losing strength you risk injury, injuries call for set backs and with that you may not be able to reach your highest potential. Make your exercising fun.
Go running or jogging with friends, try out some exercise classes at your local gym or even try and get your parents into shape. Anything you can do to keep your body active will benefit you.
Last But Not Least, #3
The most exciting thing of all is to keep yourself busy and don’t sit around all day. As an athlete your body is used to being active and moving around constantly. Sometimes being a couch potato sounds like fun but when you change your routine so drastically your body will start to get out of shape faster than you can say “Oops”. Your body is basically saying “what are you doing to me?” and gets all out of sorts. Does that mean that relaxing is not beneficial? Absolutely not! It is utterly important to relax and take it easy and I encourage you to do just that. In all fairness that is basically what your time off is meant for, but I suggest that you find other ways to get your mind to take a break over sitting around all day.
How Do You Do That?
There are so many different ways that you can relax your mind but keep your body active. The easiest thing to do is engage in pleasurable activities. When you do that your body lets out a chemical called “dopamine”. Dr Ananya Mandal, MD, (2015), says that “Dopamine is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek out the pleasurable activity or occupation”. Now that is a bunch of science talk but it basically means that when this chemical is released in your brain you tend to want to take part in fun activities that make you feel happy.
When dopamine chemicals are released you tend to feel genuinly happy and happiness generally contributes to a less stressful environment. That is exactly what you need while taking a break from your very active competitive life. Less stress is one of the best treats you can reward yourself with as an athlete. Bethany Brookshire wrote an article called “Explainer: What is Dopamine” in Science News For Students that says that dopamine effects our daily behaviors, how we move, learn and even how we eat (2017).
If you apply this science to giving your mind a break while still keeping your body active, I strongly encourage you to participate in activities that you find fun and exciting. Some examples could be to go to the park, outings with friends and family, go on a trip, bike ride, roller blade, go hiking, anything that you find enjoyable.
So there you have it, 3 ways to stay in shape over the summer break. I know that eating healthy and exercising on your time off is not very fun but you are an athlete and you must take care of your body both physically and mentally all year long. If you just forget to take care of yourself, you will not enjoy your time back to training as much as you could if you had been more careful. You can do it. Treat yourself right. You will be thankful.
“You are your own most powerful motivator and critic. Which will you be?”