BREAK TIME: Even Weekend Warriors Need an Off-Season

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by Jennifer Trimmier

There’s rarely a time, if ever, that you turn on the TV in Texas and don’t find some sort of sporting event being televised. In the south and many other parts of the country there’s football in fall and winter, basketball and golf in spring, baseball in summer with various other sports mashed in between those schedules. The cycle seems to be neverending as there’s always a game to catch, if you want to catch it.

As recreational athletes following our favorite teams and players, we often replicate some of what they’re doing, albeit not at the same level. As fans, we play in pick-up games, hit the gym, and sometimes even join organized recreational teams to be closer to our favorite sports and to keep our bodies healthy. But as we do this, we sometimes forget to take breaks, to have our own “off season,” at least not until our bodies are screaming because of pain or injury.

In my practice, I see this often – runners who run year-round or basketball players who get in on a pick-up game every time they’re at the gym.

It’s easy to understand why people continue to do the same things over and over. Clearly it’s enjoyable to them and it makes them feel as if exercise is something fun that they enjoy. But continuous, repetitive pounding on the same joints in the same way can sometimes do more harm than good.

I even saw it in my own regimen. I loved to run, but a few years ago my body began giving me signs that perhaps it was time to run a little less and cross train a little more (at least for a few months). Not only that, but I started feeling like running was more of a chore than it was a release for me. I saw the runs on my workout calendar and continued to do them, but they began to leave me feeling drained and weak rather than refreshed and strong.

I started to look for answers to my ailments, a tight IT band and weak hamstrings, and soon found that although I was mixing in other exercise on my non-running days, I had still managed to overwork some body parts and overlook others. While searching for answers, I realized that I had been running 3 to 4 days per week for a continuous five years! In that time I had finished many 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and even a marathon and I was proud of those accomplishments. But as soon as one race was done I’d find another to sign up for, set that as my new goal and continue to run… and run and run and run.

I had never, even for a few weeks, taken a break, given myself an offseason. And when I compared myself to the professional runners I loved to read about, I found that every single one of them did exactly the opposite, they took several weeks (if not months) off to rehab, refresh and relax their bodies.

It made sense when I thought about it. Every professional sport seems to have an off-season where they typically continue to train, but in a different way. However, when I looked at the weekend warriors around me, including myself, we were pushing our bodies to limits time and time again without as much as a few days recovery most weeks.

When this realization hit me, I gave myself some time off and tried something new. I discovered a new love for Olympic weightlifting! Now, every summer when the heat ramps up, I ramp my running down. I lift weights one more day a week and use the bicycle and rowing machine instead of my sneakers for a great cardio session. My time away from the road makes me stronger mentally and physically, and ironically it makes me a better runner a few months later.

The same can work for your exercise routine. Leave the basketball at home and hit the weight room a little more; untie the running shoes and strap on some lifters instead; unsaddle the bike for a while and spend some time on the rowing machine. While it may be hard to fathom at first, in the end your body will thank you.

Jennifer TrimmierJennifer Trimmier is an ACE-certified personal trainer who owns Strong Body San Antonio Fitness & Wellness Coaching. She provides at-home and on-location personal training and wellness coaching for individuals and groups. To learn more, visit www.strongbodysa.com or call 210-445-0448.

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