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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Managing Athletic Injuries and Setbacks with Goal-Setting

GettyImages-672323222Having something come up that changes your routine or throws off your groove can be frustrating or disheartening because, let’s be honest, we all have things that we want to do. Looking at this from an athlete’s point of view is a little different than that of the general public.

Athletes have essentially three seasons all compressed into one, that being the pre-season, in-season, and off-season. In each of these seasons, an athlete has personal goals that they want to meet alongside the team goals. Some of the personal goals might be to hit a certain weight on a lift in the off-season, or to reach a certain statistic during the in-season. Reaching this personal goal is extremely self-rewarding and makes an athlete strive for more; but what happens when an athlete gets injured?

The Emotional Impact of Injury

Many things happen when an athlete gets injured, but the initial feeling will be some kind of negative emotion, such as disappointment, sadness, or for a more extreme case, depression. These are just a few examples that an athlete can experience on the initial realization of sustaining an injury. An athlete can feel these emotions because it is messing with the goals that they set prior to this injury, just like anyone who had something that didn’t go as planned.

Now that the injury has occurred, and most likely a negative emotion is setting in, there are steps that an athlete can take to help with the rehabilitation process. This process is something that I have some first-hand experience with because I suffered an injury that required me to have surgery and 2–3 months of rehab afterward. These steps are something that I found helpful to keep me on track and stay motivated toward my goals when I was healthy.

Set SMART Goals and Keep Talking to Your Team

I did have that initial negative emotion of disappointment and sadness, but that soon faded once I accepted it, and I had new priorities. I made goals for myself and put on hold my goals from when I was healthy. Having these new rehab goals gave me a new focus, and not on my current situation. The goals that I made were “SMART” goals. What SMART stands for is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. The “specific” part should answer Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. “Measurable” is to be able to track your progress and set benchmarks along the way. “Attainable” is having that belief in yourself and that this goal is possible. “Realistic” are the goals that you are willing and able to work at. “Timely” is setting a date for when you want to complete your goal. If you don’t set a date, there won’t be any urgency.

Along with using the SMART goal strategy, I also talked to people and teammates about how things were going. I feel it is essential to talk to someone; you can feel like you are doing this alone because you are on your own schedule and not participating with all of the team activities. An isolated feeling comes, and it can make you feel distant from everyone else. But talking to a teammate, the trainer, or a friend can make you feel like you are still a part of the team and contributing in some aspect.

Goal setting is extremely important for anything you do. It’s more important when it comes to fitness goals. If you don’t write out your goals where you can see them, you’ll forget what you are trying to accomplish. Along with that, the urgency will fade and you’ll start to rationalize with yourself that you can put off one day, and one day becomes one week, and so forth. Having goals will help with any setbacks that come along because if there is one day that doesn’t go as planned, knowing your goal finish line will still keep you on track.

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This blog was written by Addison Smith. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: depression goal setting attitude injuries post-season off-season athletes smart goals

Three Summer Training Lessons for Athletes

ThinkstockPhotos-491816300.jpgSummertime is in full swing, and whether you are a competitive or recreational athlete, changes are definitely happening to your normal schedule. For high school and collegiate athletes, more time is spent at home and for general fitness enthusiasts, more options are available to you to fulfill your exercise quota (in other words, doing more things outside). These are both extremely important changes that can be used to alter a routine that has lasted for the past 8 or 9 months of your life.

Student-athletes have been juggling class, competition, and training. Amateur athletes have been working (real jobs), training, and competing as well. When early spring hits, most individuals are sick of that stagnant routine and are looking to switch it up, which is why summer is welcomed by most with open arms.

Summer can also be a time when many physical aspects (such as power, strength, and speed) can decline if adequate “maintenance” of those aspects is not applied. The increase in other opportunities during summer can sometimes lead to a leniency of training that might do more harm than good.

Here are 3 things that I have learned over recent years as a strength coach, trainer, and collegiate athlete to hopefully help minimize this detraining effect.

1. Don’t focus on too much at one time.

Every summer when I would go home from school, I had a list of 5 or 6 things that I felt like I had to get better at. Each training session, I would have a ton of thoughts about how I could make those things better. Of course, I had a training packet from the football team, but felt like I had to do even more. I had to get faster, more agile, stronger, more flexible, and in better shape. At some point, I was doing more thinking about what I had to do to get better than just working hard with what I had.

Even today, I send workout packets home with each of my athletic teams. The goal, obviously, is to continue to improve their physical and mental toughness. But for some, I just want to make sure that they don’t totally fall off of the bus with all of their training. I aim to keep workouts short, sweet, but challenging. They usually focus on sport-specific training aspects for each individual team (for example, single-leg strength for runners, and rotational power for softball players). I want to make sure that the “bread and butter” of the sport remains at the forefront.

2. Get creative.

Being creative in the gym during the summer months may be due to two things:

  1. Your gym doesn’t have the equipment you want (or need) to do specific exercises, or
  2. You are looking for alternatives to exercises you already do.

If your gym doesn’t have specific pieces of equipment for exercises that you are looking to do, think about what that exercise is trying to accomplish. For instance, your workout program might call for a kettlebell swing, but your gym has no kettlebells. Think about what the target muscle is for that exercise and plan an alternative. The main muscles in the KB swing are the glutes, so doing a weighted hip bridge or a Romanian Deadlift might suffice as an alternative. Sure, it’s not a perfect match, but it’s better than not doing it at all!

If you are simply looking to get out of the monotony of your 4-day split routine, you have a ton of options. Say Tuesday is considered your “squat” day, but you want to take a break from the barbell work you have been doing. Good news: You can squat with just about anything in the gym. Kettlebells, sandbags, slosh pipes, medballs, and weighted vests are just a few options that can give you that much-needed break from your regular program. Also, try switching up the reps. If you are used to doing 5 sets of 5 reps, try a workout where you do 5 sets of 20 or 3 sets of 50. It will definitely give a little shock to your system.

3. Don’t forget what summer is for!

Every competitive athlete, young or old, constantly thinks about their sport and how they can improve their performance. For most, there is no such thing as an off season anymore. There is never a chance to truly take their mind off of what they compete in, which can lead to burnout after a couple of seasons. Summer is meant for unwinding from heavy workloads, in class or with jobs. Mental and emotional recovery are just as important as physical recovery. If your mind has not recovered from the past year of training and competing, it will be very hard to devote the same amount of time and effort to the next season.

You still need to train for your sport, but post-training activities are a good way to unwind after a hard workout. Go to the lake, go fishing, go golfing: do something that allows you to enjoy the summer. You will only have a few months of opportunities like this. Work hard, play hard!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: summer training strength power speed off-season athletes student athletes

How to Build Training Programs for Competitive Athletes (Part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I explained training periodization, and talked about the first two macrocycles: off-season and pre-season. Now I’ll talk about the remaining macrocycles: in-season and post-season.

In-Season

ThinkstockPhotos-100324402.jpgOnce the competitive season begins, scheduling time to get in to lift is a lot more difficult due to the practices, games, and travel that are happening. To me, in-season lifting is sometimes undervalued in the competitive/athletic world because of the fact that the primary focus is to win games or matches, not lift weights. However, I believe that this is one of the most important (if not the most important) times during the year because of what lifting can do for the athlete throughout the competitive season and into the off-season.

The goal of in-season lifting is simple: maintain what you have built in the off/pre-season and make sure that no muscular imbalances develop. This is not a time to try and increase your squat or bench by 50 pounds. It is a time to make sure that your body stays healthy and you are able to preserve the muscle, strength, and power that you have built throughout your season. Doing this will not only keep you healthier for your sport, but will also set you up for better long-term development during the subsequent off-season. Think about it: If you lose the vast majority of strength, power, and muscle mass you’ve built over the in-season, you are basically starting at square one when the season is over. If you are able to preserve 85% of that strength and power, you are starting further along than you were the year before, which allows you to make bigger gains.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 days per week
Mode: Medium Sport Specificity
Volume: Low

Post-Season

When your competitive season comes to a close, there should be some time to relax and recover from it. Take time and reflect on how you performed and what you could have done to be better in different aspects of your activity. Start creating a plan on how to improve those things once your training ramps up again.

As for training during this period, it should still happen. Your body is still recovering, but you want to make sure you do not totally fall off the map by not doing any type of exercise or physical activity. This is a perfect time to play or participate in some other sports or change up your weightlifting routine. You basically have free reign on your choices under one circumstance: get away from your actual sport/complete lifting routine.

This macrocycle does not last long, but it is an important one. You have been competing for months and want to avoid being burnt out on the sport you love, so getting away will be good. Do something different; just be active. After 3 to 4 weeks of light activity, you can begin your off-season program and start the quest to better yourself for the next competitive season.

Recommendation:

Training Frequency: 2 to 4 days per week (light activity)
Mode: Low Sport Specificity
Volume: Low-Medium

***

Overall, there is no exact science that is going to work perfectly every time when you are building your own training programs. You will always need to make tweaks, even to the best programs around. This blog provides the framework for developing a solid program, but the devil is in the details. You want to make sure that you have everything planned out as you progress through the competitive season. Some things may not go as planned, but that is okay. The ultimate goal is to make you the best athlete you can be in the sport or activity you are doing!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS mini marathon training weightlifting competition post-season programs off-season athletes athletic performance