Research In Action

Research In Action

Fall sports
Athletic Trainer Perspective: Ramping Up Fitness for Fall Sports
August 31, 2023

While the summer is quickly coming to a close, youth athlete sports are ramping up. During the summer months many adolescent athletes are focused on vacation, working summer jobs, and relaxing, rather than preparing for the upcoming sports season. It is important to remember that adolescent athletes are constantly growing and developing, and although they may still be doing some activities in the summer months, they need to prepare for an upcoming sports season to be able to perform at a high-level and remain healthy on the field.

Below I provide 4 tips to help athletes safely ramp-up fitness for fall sports:

Training Volume

Start slow! Athletes should take 2-3 weeks prior to starting practice to gradually increase the workload for a sport. For example, they should start with 2-3 hours a week of training like running, sprinting, skills and drills. The second week, they can ramp up to 4-5 hours, and by the third week increase to 6-8 hours. It is important not to go from doing minimal physical activity to 2+ hour daily practice. This could cause an overuse injury like a bone stress injury or muscle strain among other injuries.

Dynamic Stretching

Having a proper warmup is imperative prior to beginning a vigorous workout. There is debate about static verses dynamic stretching warmup, however there is evidence that a dynamic warmup is just as effective, if not better, than static stretching. Having a dynamic warmup helps the body begin to move in a way that is more sport specific to prepare for the upcoming practice or game. An example of dynamic stretching is high knees, side shuffles, and butt kicks, all while moving down the field at a steady pace. This should be performed for about 20 meters, down and back.

Heat Acclimatization

During the summer months, it is important to prepare to practice in an environment that may be hot and humid. Having fitness sessions during the hottest part of the day (usually between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm) is not recommended. There are many sports that are equipment intensive, like football or field hockey (in the goalie position), for which athletes should prepare by gradually putting on more equipment as the season ramps up and getting acclimatized to the heat. For example, athletes may start with only wearing a helmet the first practice and then increase the equipment over a week to help with the acclimatization. Practice times should start shorter, and then become longer as the season progresses for all athletes to help with heat acclimatization.

Hydration and Nutrition

Many student athletes prefer not to eat or drink before working out, but this is not recommended. Making sure an athlete is fueled for practice and competition is paramount for success and a high-level of game play. Drinking enough fluids, especially water, throughout the day is the best way to hydrate. When going to the bathroom, urine should be the color of light lemonade and not apple juice. Nutrition is also important to fuel-up prior to fitness activity. An example of a nutrition goal is for an athlete to eat all of the colors of the rainbow throughout the day: a red apple, yellow eggs, brown grains, white yogurt, blue blueberries and green broccoli, just to name a few. Young athletes need more calories to fuel their bodies and should make sure they are eating high density foods to maintain weight and energy. Meeting with a sports nutritionist is a great way to make sure athletes are prepared for their nutritional sport needs.