After spending all offseason preparing your body to endure the marathon style grind of the regular season there is only one thing standing between you and that opening kickoff of Week 1 – Training Camp.
No matter which league you play in, camp a beast! For two or three weeks you practice and compete once or twice per day and then you have a few hours of meetings. Once you add in three meals and possibly some therapy time, you’re left with only a few minutes to yourself each day.
This downtime is where the real battle is won and lost. Ask any veteran player and they will undoubtedly agree.
By day three or four most first-timers (more affectionately known around the world of sports as “rookies”) will be begging for mercy. Lactic acid will set up shop in the legs, perma-fatigue sets in and dehydration can become a real threat. Meanwhile, savvy vets usually don’t hit the wall until days later, if at all.
Training camp is tough. That’s something everyone will admit. But, what are those upperclassmen doing to keep their performance peaking all through camp that the young guns aren’t? How do the more experienced guys maintain a razor focus in the early morning and late night meetings?
Well, I don’t know what you do, but here are 6 Training Camp Hacks that help me keep a spring in my step during the toughest part of the year.
How to Survive Training Camp
- Hydrate Often
This one is simple. Ask anyone who studies the human body and they will tell you that it is made up of mostly water. Exercise makes you sweat – obviously. Why is that important to know? Well, most soft tissue injuries that I’ve seen (pulled muscles, strains, tears) tend to happen when you are dehydrated. With this in mind, you need to put an emphasis on keeping your body’s hydration level in the optimal range whenever you’re active.
- Eat Clean
The energy that your body runs on comes from the calories that you take in when you eat. Let it be known, not all calories are created equal, so it’s really important to fill up efficiently.Try to refuel with nutrient-dense meals so that your body can recover from the stress of long, challenging practices. Your muscles need carbs and protein to bounce back after a hard workout, so if you want to maintain your strength during training camp make sure you focus on your food intake.
- Stretch & Foam Roll
Most of us are not nearly as flexible as we could be, myself included. I spend a fair amount of time working on my flexibility and mobility during the offseason, but during training camp, I always make a point to stay on top of it.On a regular day during training camp, I will stretch and foam roll on my own no less than three times. Once in the morning when I get out of the shower. Then again after practice before I leave the field. And again, one more time after I take a shower at night.I always try to stretch my muscles when they are warmed up. This is the best way to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself. A good stretch should be held for at least 20 to 30 seconds. Likewise, when it comes to foam rolling, think about spending a similar amount of time working on each muscle group. As an athlete your body is your “vehicle to success”, so you would be wise to give it a tune up regularly.
- Take Naps
During my first four seasons playing in the CFL, I have mastered the art of the Power Nap. It is probably my secret weapon. Don’t be afraid to hit the pillow for a quick 20-minute snooze after lunch.Also, if you’re going to be napping just make sure that you bring your alarm clock. The last thing that you need is to sleep in and end up late for meetings or practice. You don’t want to make a bad impression on your coaches before the season even start.
- Cold Tub & Contrast Shower
After a few days, you will slowly start to get sore from a build up of inflammation and lactic acid if you’re not proactive. Cold tubs are a classic way to refresh the body after a grueling day on the practice field. You don’t need to spend all day in there, though. I usually notice a good improvement after a quick 5-minute dip.The only thing that I like better than the cold tub is contrasting. Contrasting is when you flip back and forth between hot and cold. There are varying arguments for how long you should spend in each. Personally, I like two minutes cold, three minutes hot, back and forth for 2 – 4 cycles. If you don’t have access to a cold tub you can always do this in your shower too.One rule of thumb: If you are about to be active, finish in the hot water so that your muscles are warm and ready to move. If you are done for the day, end your session in the cold.
- Bring Seeds!
Sunflower seeds are a tired man’s best friend! When you’re in a meeting and you feel each blink getting longer and longer, don’t reach for an energy drink. Instead, grab a handful of sunflower seeds and a paper cup. Eating sunflower seeds actually takes a lot of effort, so it’s an easy way to trick your brain into staying focused. Plus, if you don’t know too many guys on the team you will definitely make a few new friends once you bust out the package.
If I can offer you some bonus advice on meeting room seeds, share wisely. Never hand over the bag!If you let them pour, you’ll be buying some more…
These are just a few tips from my experiences over the years. Hopefully, they will help you out when you report to camp this year. If you can think of any other keys to training camp success, definitely leave a comment and let me know!