The off season is about resting the body and mind after the last season, so you are ready to go again next season. However, the challenging part is finding a balance between recovery and not losing all of your hard work from the previous season. If you spend the entire off season on the couch, then you can’t expect to be match-fit come week one of the competition. Furthermore, going from no-load to suddenly trying to sprint around for 2 hours significantly increases the risk of injury.
You can’t build speed without fitness to recover from the efforts, so use the off season to build your cardiovascular fitness by going for longer, slower runs. The off season provides a great opportunity to mentally recover from footy, but is also a great time to build your fitness and strength.
At elite levels, the average AFL player covers 12-18km in a game. If you cannot run at least 10km straight, then trying to run 12-18km at a high intensity in a game is only going to significantly increase the risk of an injury. For this reason, it is essential to stay fit during the off season by undertaking exercise such as running (for example completing Park Runs), attending the gym to lift weights and attend classes such as body pump, and/or cross-train by participating in sports such as cycling, swimming, triathlon or touch football.
Tips for Off Season Training:
- Don’t leave the running to the last minute – It takes a minimum of 6 weeks to return to your fitness from the end of last season. You can’t play catch up a couple of weeks out.
- Focus on endurance in the off season – it is the best time for building your cardiovascular fitness.
- Add strength training in the off season– Due to increase muscle fatigue and soreness (delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)) when you first start weights, it is best to commence weights in the off season. Use the off season to address your strength and movement deficits.
- Learn new skills – While it is critical to be able to complete skill tasks when fatigued, as this is what you need to do in the game, when learning a new skill or developing a skill, it is best to practice while you are fresh. For this reason the off season is the ideal time to practice new skills.