Sports Conditioning

Written by Daniela Walsh, DPT

The weather is finally warming up on the east coast, and I’m ready to hang up my skis until next winter.  As the busy ski resorts can attest to, many people are looking forward to being outdoors more than ever in our Post-Covid 19 world.  As you look toward being active in your sport of choice, it is a good idea to be aware of your current conditioning level before taking on more than your body can handle.  No matter what place you are in life – from a young adolescent getting ready for your spring sport to begin, to a long time athlete with miles and decades of conditioning under your belt – it is important to keep in mind some basic principles.  


First, consider your sport and try to break your athletic year down into phases:

1. Post Season – one to two months – Although often overlooked, this part of conditioning is essential for the body to heal both mentally and physically.  Keeping active is always important, but this phase is a great deterrent to burnout.  This is a great opportunity to try a different sport all together and can strengthen different muscle groups for a more balanced body and mind.

2. Off Season – four to five months -The focus here is on flexibility, strength and endurance.  Intensity, duration and frequency of exercise are the key components to reduce compared to regular season.  Any intense exercise should be limited to 2 times per week.

3. Pre Season – one to two months before the regular season – Now there is a shift from strengthening to sport specific training and agility drills.  An increase in intensity, duration or frequency of exercise is possible on a gradual level.

4. In Season – three to five months – Finally, intensity of training is maximized at a frequency of up to six days a week.  Weightlifting can now be minimized to one day per week as the focus transitions to competitive sport specific training.  

Keep in mind some of the general factors of conditioning:

1. Warm up / Cool down and stretch.

2. Consistency of training is key.  Don’t start a training schedule you cannot sustain.

3. Progression should be gradual with modifications to ONE of the following variables at a time: 

  • Intensity – work harder for shorter periods of time. 
  • Duration – Increasing duration of training should decrease the level of intensity 
  • Frequency – Gradually build up to 6 days per week.

4. Rest and less intense days are critical!  As you train, muscle is broken down for your body to have the opportunity to build new stronger tissue.  Without rest, the body will not be able to complete this part of the cycle.  Make sure to work in less intense days or a day off to allow the body to recover.  Build up, don’t break down!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments