Despite access to trainers who specialize in athletic healthcare, when athletes sustain injuries, they almost always turn to their primary care physician for diagnosis. And the instruction is invariably the same no matter the injury… “Take a week off.” But some injuries require rehabilitation that includes a range of exercises to help push the recovery along. While others allow athletes to still participate without further injuring themselves. Just because a student- athlete twists their ankle doesn’t mean they have to sit out for a week. Instead, they can focus on other methods of exercises, such as pool workouts, for rehab and to stay in shape.
After years of frustration with the four-word prognosis, I begin telling my athletes to ask their doctors for solutions. Instead of reporting what they CAN’T do, I’ve asked my athletes to come back with various activities they CAN do. Since coaches are liable for their athletes, it is important to know the difference between injuries in addition to activities they can and cannot perform while injured.
If the doctor says, “take a week off,” coaches have to give the athlete a full week off without any training. However, if the athletes comes back and says, “the doctor said I can do bodyweight circuits, bike and pool workouts,” then the athlete can stay in shape without putting themselves or the coach in harms way.
Though it may not seem like a week off can do much damage, it can hinder progress a great deal, especially during the short collegiate outdoor season.
Now that the indoor season has ended one of my younger athletes asked me about rest between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Here is how the conversation went down.
Athlete: “Since indoor track is over can I take a week off?”
Coach: “No…you can’t take a week off!”
Athlete: “Well…I got to take a week off between seasons in high school.”
Coach: “The outdoor season only has 10 weeks until the conference championship. If you take a week off you will only have 9 weeks to prepare. In high school, your state meet was in June. If you do not run well at the conference meet then your season will be over at the beginning of May. Do you want to end the season in May?”
Coach: “Then start training like it!”
Athletes need to understand that their body gets rest at the end of the indoor season. The key ingredient to racing fast in March is simply more physical rest. But coaches need to understand that the athletes need mental rest after the indoor season. The student-athletes are tired from the stresses of indoor championships and mid-term exams.
During this transition, I like to revisit some of the specific prep work we did at the beginning of the season and try to reintroduce techniques, drills and workouts we covered in earlier training. I shy away from hammering the athletes during this time of year and use workouts that are fun or involve the entire sprints/hurdles group. For instance, 4 x 100m relay handoffs are a great way to get in acceleration and maximum velocity workouts without adding the stress of the time component of each interval. Another example would be general strength circuits with the entire group. The “Circle of Truth” workout would also be appropriate at this time of year.
Another way to fulfill your coaching duty while giving the athletes a break is to change up the density of a week’s work. Instead of three workouts you may have them do two workouts and give them a day off in the middle of the week. By altering the training schedule, athletes will get some physical benefits to working out and have the opportunity to get caught up on their studies. You don’t have to give them a week off from track to help them get recharged. This is especially important to keep in mind because the outdoor season is much shorter.
Though it is easy to lose focus after the indoor season, athletes often need to be reminded that the outdoor season is still ahead. I usually schedule individual meetings with my athletes at the start of the outdoor season where we review their indoor performances, address any training modifications and set realistic goals for the upcoming meets. In my experience, athletes get excited when they learn their coach has evaluated their work during one season and will make individual adjustments to increase their chances of succeeding.
Yes… athletes need a break between seasons. However, they do not need to take a week off. If you decrease the density a little bit, add in some workouts that do not have huge expectations and help refocus the athletes, you can continue their training. Coaches cannot back off too much for too long after the indoor season because the spring season is over before you know it.
Best of luck this outdoor season, I hope to see you on the track circuit. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter. I try to post workouts daily. My Twitter handle is @MarcMangiacotti.