University sports pre-season is a lot of fun, but it can be gruelling and it can be dangerous! Maintaining optimal health for training will not only help you avoid injury, but will also help you maximise your training time and reinforce your performance. Here are a few top tips to remain healthy and happy during your week of extra training!
1. Stay hydrated: This seems obvious but it is important to reiterate. Mo exercise, mo water. Simples. Particularly when pre-season tends to coincide with St Andrews’ September “heat wave.” I know, max temps reach highs of like… 18 degrees C, but that’s warm for some people and it’s warm for intense exercise. Just for perspective, on a normal day you are advised to drink 2 litres of water. Now add in an extra four hours of sweating and heavy breathing. Now add in the alcohol you’ll definitely NOT be drinking at all those pre-season parties and nights-out-in-Dundee you’ll definitely NOT be going to. (Or so you tell the coach/your parents).
2. Eat carbs: This is not the week to go on a carb-free diet. Load up on carbs to keep yourself energised with healthy slow-release energy.
3. Eat protein: Load up on extra protein to help yourself repair any muscle or tissue damage and MAKE THOSE GAINS. Instead of snacking on crisps and chocolate, replace these with nuts and seeds and make sure all of your meals have a good protein source.
4. Replace your salts: Exercise = sweat = salt loss. Make sure you’re replacing all of the salts and minerals you are losing through sweat. This doesn’t just mean extra bacon or an extra crack of salt on your dinner (although that will help); make sure you are getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals and more. If you don’t, you’ll feel drowsy, faint, nauseous and you will risk injury.
5. Stretching: Always stretch before and after exercise. Do some more stretching when you get home as well, because your normal cool-down might not be enough. Not stretching enough and not warming up properly increases your chance of injury and, funnily enough, pre-season exists to get you into optimum shape before the season starts, not debilitate you before you even get to a match/competition.
6. Rest: Get as much sleep as you can. You’ll be expending vast amounts of energy this week, so you need to make up for it. Drowsiness will make you less alert and more likely to make mistakes and injure yourself. Becoming overtired may also cause or exacerbate mental health issues and that is the last thing you want to do after a nice long relaxing summer holiday.
7. Use all of the health facilities available to your club: If you’re offered a free athletes’ massage, take it; if there is an ice bath around, use it; if you’re injured, go to the physio.
8. Lastly, don’t get carried away: If you are struggling or in pain, then stop and talk to your coach or captain. If you’re on a night out and don’t feel well, safe or comfortable, remove yourself (or have someone else remove you) from the situation and get some help. Training is about pushing yourself to achieve your goals, but don’t push yourself to the point of injury, illness or danger. Stay sensible.