According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 people between the ages of 6 to 19 has obesity, which is excess body fat. A contributing factor to this problem is taking in more calories than are being burned. While it’s recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, many are falling short. There are millions of young people who participate in sports, but when their season is over for their sport of choice, they often don’t know what to do to keep fit until it starts back up again. The good news is there are things parents can do to help their kids keep fit during the off season.
“By taking steps to keep fit during the off season, your young athlete will be a better athlete once the season starts back up,”explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength &Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “It’s important that they don’t hang up their equipment and call it quits for a few months. They need to do things to keep in shape all year long.”
Many athletes have the idea that in order to get better at their chosen sport they need to just keep playing more of that sport. Some end up playing their chosen sport 10-12 months out of the year. However, this is too much and will increase injury risks from not diversifying movement patterns. It’s important to take a break from the favorite sport, but keep active and fit during that period. Here are Coach Walls’ tips for keeping young athletes fit between seasons:
- Strength train. Focusing on strength training during the off season will help create a stronger athlete when the new one begins. Find a sports performance training center that can help young athletes enhance their physical abilities and reduce risk of injury.
- Cross train. It’s always a good idea to get kids cross training by playing other sports during the off season from their main sport. Choose one that compliments the primary one, but works on skills, movement patterns, and conditioning that are similar to the primary one. For example, if your young athlete’s main sport is soccer, encourage them to do some track during the off season. They will gain speed and endurance skills that will can be put to use when they are back on the soccer field.
- Stay active. Encourage kids to stay active all week long, aiming to get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Whether it is taking a walk, bike riding, or actively playing outside, they will benefit from daily exercise.
- Focus on nutrition. This is a great time to get kids into healthy eating habits. Get them involved in learning what healthy fuel sources are before they workout. Learning about nutrition and practicing making healthier choices will go a long way toward helping them to keep obesity at bay.
- Teach mindfulness. Playing sports is often half-mental. Teaching kids mindfulness can give them a huge boost when it comes to playing sports. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness entails being aware of the present moment and accepting things as they are without judgment. By doing this, they explain, people are better able to shift their focus to their performance, rather than distracting negative experiences such as anxiety.
- Don’t overdo it. While you want to help keep your kids fit between seasons, you also want to give them some down time to relax. Maintain a balance between keeping them physically active, but giving them the rest their body needs.
“Most athletes focus only on their season, overlooking how important what they do during the off season can be,” added Coach Walls. “When you take the time to work on the off season you will see how it improves athletic performance all year long.”