The daily grind of a sport season can take a toll on the body, mind, and spirit of even the most talented and dedicated elite athletes. Unfortunately, some athletes might not notice the subtle signs of over-training until the very end of their sport season when they suddenly get hit with feelings of complete exhaustion. This is especially true for young athletes and those new to sport.
That’s why it’s important for athletes at all levels to take some time for physical and mental recovery at the end of a season. Below are some tried-and-true personal routines and tips for post-season recovery from TrueSport Ambassadors and Team USA athletes Tyler Carter, a two-time Paralympic alpine skier; skeleton athlete Veronica Day; and Kara Winger, a three-time Olympic javelin thrower.
Question: How do you decompress once your sport season ends?
Tyler Carter: When you hit the end of the season, you need to decompress a little bit. You need to take a little time off. I like to take about a month, get away from the sport to get out of the gym, and get away from skiing. Read, travel, watch movies, have fun, and do something not related to skiing.
Veronica Day: I never really feel like my season is complete until I have put away my equipment. There’s a huge equipment component to skeleton where we have to maintain and upkeep our equipment on a daily basis, and until it’s away in the basement and I don’t have to look at it, I don’t feel like I can really truly relax. So, that’s my step number one for decompressing post-season.
Kara Winger: I like to go outside to decompress once my sport season ends. This year I went to Big Bend National Park for a week with a friend and backpacked and paddle boarded. It was a blast. I think it’s important to stay physically active, but check-in with things you don’t get to do during the season. I also like to decompress by cooking new recipes and just being home. I deep clean my house, and that’s therapeutic and fun for me. Trying new stuff in the kitchen makes me really happy too, because a lot of times when you’re training, you’re tired. You’re working really hard physically, so you maybe get lazy on the cooking part of it.
Question: How long of a break do you take before you get back to training?
Tyler Carter: After about a month, I will get back to work because the most important thing is to physically and mentally prepare yourself for the coming season. Skiing is a very physical sport. I need to make sure I’m strong, agile, and ready to go. It’s the same with any other
sport, you want to be prepared. Spending time in the gym, getting strong, and making sure you’re taking care of your mindset by getting yourself focused with goals for the season are really important things to do.
Veronica Day: I take about a month off after my season ends and I don’t do anything related to my sport. That’s when I do all my cross training, any distance running, swimming, anything like that usually happens in the springtime.
Kara Winger: I take at least a month break from everything physical after a season. I went to the gym one time in the month following my season in 2019 and did a couple different really lightweight circuits, and that was it in the whole month…it was just complete physical rest. But it ultimately depends on the year and how long the season lasts. I really value rest, so I take at least a month.
Question: What kind of post-season exercises do you do?
Veronica Day: Once I start my off-season training, which usually happens around May, I can really buckle up and start doing my Olympic lifts, my sprinting…anything that’s going to help me be fast and explosive. Those are the kind of workouts and exercises that I’m going to do because that will translate to pushing a skeleton sled fast. That push started at the beginning is so important and I really have to work on being fast and explosive in the off season.
Kara Winger: I cross-train in the off season after my period of rest. I’m not an endurance athlete, so running is really hard for me – sustained pace running, but I enjoy the challenge of it. I swam in high school, so I also love endurance swimming to make my body feel better. And I consider hiking to be a cross-training activity for me. There are benefits to cross-training for me since the activities I do have less bilateral pounding on my joints. What I do in javelin is unilateral. I throw with my right arm all the time. So, balancing out the body by doing a bilateral activity is important for me in cross-training.
Question: What tips do you have for young athletes as they approach their off-season recovery?
Tyler Carter: Take care of yourself, your body, and your mind. Make sure everything is looked at because sometimes we tend to forget one or the other. One of the most important things is to have fun. That’s why we do sports in the first place. If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point of it?
Veronica Day: Reward yourself. You just competed all year. You wrapped up a presumably long season and you deserve it. Make sure you find something that you can do in the off-season that you typically would not be doing in your regular season and really lean into that. Make sure that you have fun doing something completely outside of your sport, so that you’re not feeling drained when your season starts back up again.
Kara Winger: Try to have the foresight to recognize the benefit of rest. It’s really easy to think that you should just push through and make yourself better by building on what you already have, but your body needs an opportunity to rest and recuperate before you can add more gains to it.