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Summer Fitness

Posted Wednesday, July 01, 2009 by Richard Butler

Welcome Summer!

Maintaining and improving all facets of your game between seasons is important—possibly more important than what happens during the season.  Why?  The skills, strength and stamina you personally bring to the table at the beginning of the season are what determine how quickly and how well your team forms and performs.

In Texas, where lacrosse is still a club sport, the coaches and the players have limited contact time with each other—especially in the off season.  So, making the most of your personal time is important.

If you are involved in other sports which play or practice during the summer months, you are at an advantage, since you are already active.  Summer lifting for football or travel soccer leagues will mesh well with your lacrosse training and training for lacrosse will certainly help your ability to play other sports.

Now, I am not going to tell you that you must go buy a bunch of special equipment, buy gym memberships, or follow rigorously painful routines.  You are all still growing young men, and overexerting yourself, especially lifting, will quickly end your athletic career.

The Components

Basic summer fitness for lacrosse consists of nine pillars for success:

1.        Hydration

2.       Proper diet

3.       Flexibility

4.       Aerobic endurance

5.       Anaerobic endurance

6.       Strength work

7.       Stick work

8.       Mental preparation

9.       Rest

Let’s address these pillars briefly:

Hydration:  Critically important.  You must drink water all day long down here in Texas.  Trying to hydrate only during exercise will not work in the Summer heat.

Proper diet:  Eat healthy.  Avoid the temptation to indulge in too much fast food, soda and ice cream.  Eat an appropriate amount of lean meat, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates for your body size and exercise regime.  Eat before you are hungry and eat multiple smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism high.

Flexibility:  Stretching all parts of your body is important each day.  If you don’t stay flexible, the chance of injury increases dramatically.  Also, without flexibility, there will be certain movements which you will not be able to do on the field.

Aerobic endurance:  This is the ability for your muscles to do prolonged athletic efforts while continuing to use oxygen to break down stored energy in the muscle.  Proper diet is important in this endeavor.  These types of workouts include distance running, cycling at a moderate pace, using a rowing machine, stair stepper, eliptical, or even vigorous walking.  Generally, you should be able to talk to a training partner because your breath should not be overly labored.  Lacrosse is fundamentally an endurance sport.  If you don’t have a strong endurance base, you won’t be able to play near your potential.   Establish a baseline for yourself the first week of what you can do without overexerting yourself.  Overexertion will lead to at least burnout and worst case injury.  Each week increase your activity 10%.

Anaerobic endurance:  This is the ability to use your muscles without using oxygen to create the energy necessary to move your body.  The result of this chemical reaction is lactic acid, which is pain.  The finest trained athletes in the world can stay anaerobic for only about ten minutes straight.  In lacrosse, the ability to keep you heart rate up above what is referred as the anaerobic threshold (where it is physically impossible for your heart to send enough oxygenated blood to your muscles) is important during the extreme efforts you will make on the field.    Running sprints or sprints on a bicycle are a couple ways to improve your anaerobic endurance.  The same rules for setting a baseline and increasing the intensity and duration apply from the Aerobic endurance section above.

Strength work:  Getting stronger, either by adding lean muscle or strengthening the muscle you already have helps round out your game.  Do you need to be a muscle-bound bodybuilder?  Absolutely not!  However, if you have access to gym equipment, following simple routines which work you chest, back, arms and legs will help you become a better athlete.  If you don’t have access to a gym, many of these exercises can be done with dumbbells, water-filled milk jugs, or can even be done with your own body weight!  If you are new to lifting in a gym, start with high repetitions (2-3 sets of 20-30 repetitions) and low weight and concentrate on your form for the first few weeks.  Then you can slowly increase the weight and decrease the repetitions.  At your ages, never handle more weight than you can lift at least ten times and always be able to complete two to three sets, unless you are under the direct supervision and tutelage of a qualified and certified trainer!  If you are at home, without access to a weight room or dumb bells focus on pushups, sit ups/crunches,  leg lunges (with milk jugs), bicep curls and tricep extensions (with milk jugs) and overhead presses (with milk jugs).

Stick work:  It never stops!  Play wall ball.  Work on your cradling, cutting, faking, dodging and shooting.  Use your weak hand 50% more than you use your strong hand during your workouts.

Mental preparation:  Improve yourself through knowledge! Spend time learning about the game—its history, how the game is played, read about new and different skills that you can add to your game!  Put yourself in game situations and think through how you would react on the field.  Read articles or books about mental and physical preparation for sports. 

Rest:  Get the right amount of sleep.  Don’t stay up late frequently.  Take a day off from exercising each week so your body can fully recover.

Putting It All Together

Now, comes the hard part!  How do you piece all of this together during each week of the summer and how often should you do each of the nine pillars?

Let me set three simple rules:

1.        Hydration and diet are constant.

2.       Combine the different types of workouts whenever as possible.  For example, attendance at open sessions, playing in a summer league or attending camp meets multiple pillar requirements simultaneously.  The same can be done by combining jogging and sprinting with your stick in the same workout.  Also, count the exercise you get by playing other Summer sports, too.

3.       Keep it fun, mix it up.  Be creative and safe.  By continuously changing what you do, your body will not plateau and you will not burn out by doing the exact same thing over and over.

Frequency of the pillars each week:

1.       Hydrate every day, all day.

2.       Eat properly each day.

3.       Stretch each day.

4.       Work out aerobically at least 3 days per week (more is fine, so long as you aren’t overexerting yourself).

5.       Work out anaerobically 2 days per week.

6.       Strength train 2 to 3 days per week.

7.       Practice your stickwork 5 days per week.

8.       Mentally prepare yourself 1 day per week.

9.       Rest well each night and take 1 day off each week.

Now, go out, have fun, get skilled, faster, stronger and smarter this summer!

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