The other day we met with our Cross Country team about summer training. One athlete asked why we were starting our summer training so soon? It seems more and more teams are giving their athletes one or two weeks off and then beginning their summer training. Some teams give less time off. Coaches realize how important summer training is for a successful season.
How important is time off and how can nutrition play into this?
Much of this depends on how athletes are treating their bodies during the year. Many runners are finishing the outdoor track season with a nagging little injury that they lived with for part of the season. The goal then should be to have these injuries heal. However, many of these runners also do not follow a nutrient rich diet and unfortunately, consume many inflammatory foods which may lead to extended recovery times. Athletes, may spend hours in the training room icing down and then may leave and eat foods that aggravate inflammation such as gluten, sugar, and caffeine. A cool tool to use to see if you are eating foods that are promoting inflammation is https://inflammationfactor.com/.
There are also foods and supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties such as Vitamin C, Amino Acids, Fish Oil (be very careful to choose a quality fish oil), curcumin, and Magnesium in measured doses to name a few.
So if you are not hurt then you should just eat whatever you want right? Hmmm....How about using the summer to take stock of how you eat? Keep a food journal, even for a few days to really see how much coffee you drink or how many sugary drinks you consume. Then try to change a few things at first. If you drink 5 sodas per day cut it to 2. If you eat pop tarts and cereal for breakfast, try Eggs and protein one or two days a week. Small steps can make a big difference coming into a new season.
Another thing to consider is proper mental recovery. Coach Jay Johnson, states that athletes should have enough of a mental rest to train through the entire Cross Country season. That can be a long season if you are going from mid-June until late November. Many states and leagues recognize this and don’t allow “organized” practice until August. Coaches and athletes find a way since streets and trails are fair game and meeting a few guys for a run is not considered an organized practice.
The key here is to be flexible and gather information to determine what is right for your team or for you individually. Everyone is a little different and coaches should plan accordingly. Athletes also have to keep a pulse on how they are feeling and adjust their workouts accordingly. That may not mean a day off, it could just mean an easy day.
Greenfield, B. (2014). Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life. Victory Belt Publishing.
Johnson, J. https://coachjayjohnson.com/time-off-after-outdoor-track/
Disclaimer: This Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.