By Bethany Clute, Athletic Trainer, TRIA Orthopedics
Across the world, athletes of all ages are feeling the effects of their routines taking an unexpected hiatus. Everyone is handling these unprecedented times differently. Some athletes might be enjoying the break, and some might be itching to get back into their sport as soon as possible.
It’s important to acknowledge that both feelings are okay! Even though you aren’t able to participate in practices, games, or training sessions right now, there will come a time you’ll participate with your teammates and friends once again. When that time comes, you’ll want to be ready.
So, what does “being ready” mean? It means two things:
- being equipped and empowered to navigate this unexpected pause
- being physically and mentally ready for your sport when the time comes
Before any sporting season, your coaches suggest getting prepared by getting in extra swings, shots, or miles prior to the first practice. In this article, you’ll find ways to elevate your game while maintaining safe social distancing. The tips will help you prepare for when you can finally gather up all your equipment, open the front door and head to the field, rink or gym with your teammates and coaches.
An athlete lives a life of routines: practice and pre-game routines and specific game day rituals.
Due to the pandemic, your daily routine has likely been disrupted. You may not be able to get in the morning work-out at the gym or play the sport you love each day like you’re used to. Students are distance learning at home, and many people are working from home while practicing social distancing. All of these changes can be hard to adjust to.
Even though it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas and watch your favorite Netflix series all day, it’s important to incorporate daily routines at home.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips:
- Begin with a consistent sleep routine. Your daily routine should include going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day and making yourself a good breakfast.
- Choose a consistent time for work or school.
- Take structured breaks during the day to maintain mental sharpness.
- Take time for exercise and some mindfulness activities daily to help combat stress, depression and anxiety. Activities as simple as a 20 minute walk or some quiet time with deep breathing can make a big difference.
Take a moment to close your eyes and think about how often you directly and indirectly connect with others on a daily basis. From your family, friends, teachers, coaches, classmates, teammates, to even strangers at the grocery store or ballfield. Life is full of connections, and humans need to feel and be connected.
During this time at home, it’s difficult not to see these important people in our lives. Here are a few ideas to help maintain a sense of connection:
- Find time to call or video chat with family, friends or teammates
- Send an encouraging card or note to a loved one
- Schedule a virtual workout session with your teammates
While you may not be able to practice or compete with teammates and coaches, there are still many ways you can continue training. Here are some ideas:
- Work on individual skills you’d like to improve
- Enlist a family member living in your household to help with skills that might need a partner. Put your parents and siblings to work!
- Try dryland training. This is a great way for water sports and ice hockey players to maintain a good level of physical fitness.
While rest is important, too much rest can cause problems when returning to sport. To decrease the chance of injury when you return to sport, you should maintain your normal level of physical fitness even though you’re at home. This can help prevent common ailments such as muscle strains that can occur when your body isn’t used to a certain activity. Here are a few tips for at-home fitness:
- Try out at-home strengthening exercises. There are many available online through different gyms.
- Use common household products such as soup cans, water jugs and towels to add a new level of difficulty to any current exercise programs.
- Just like any practice or game with your team, make sure you are doing a proper warm-up and cool down to reduce any chance of injury.
Unfortunately, injuries are part of being an athlete. During times of rest, injury symptoms may decrease due to inactivity, but it’s still important to complete any rehabilitation activities your athletic trainer, physical therapist or doctor recommended. Now is a great time to focus on rehabilitating an injury while minimizing any chance of re-injury.
If you do need care, we're here for you. Schedule an appointment or walk in to one of our orthopedic urgent cares.
While these times are difficult, it’s important to remember preparation for your sport can be executed on and off the field or court. We encourage athletes to value this extended off-season to become better athletes and better people. Now, more than ever, we need to be good teammates to one another.