Off Season - By Chloe Maleski
Seasons of the year and sports seasons occur annually, and people look forward to their favorite season and their favorite sporting event. However, for the athlete, one could argue that the most important is their off season when they’re not immersed in their sport. For this is when they have time to reflect, recoup, and recover.
The mantra for athletes in the U.S. is to completely devote oneself to a sport. And, while grinding is important to be successful in sport, it is more important to be intentional and know when to work and when to rest and recover. For student-athletes off seasons begin once competition ends. However, this habit of making the most of the off season is also a life lesson that will help you in your career path if you choose to let it. Off seasons are the optimal time to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit after an intense season of competition.
What does replenishment look like? Well that varies, for most people this means sleeping more, spending more time with the people you love, catching up on other projects, schoolwork, spending time outside, relaxing, or any other hobbies you might have, and playing! Yes, I said PLAY. Sometimes we forget that our sport started out as something recreational and fun, so getting out and playing your sport or another sport in a recreational manner can oftentimes refill your emotional tank and remind you why you started in the first place. Finding time for unplanned outdoor exercise can supply assorted emotional and cognitive benefits, improve stress management and therefore enhance your off season.
Off seasons promote sustainability in sport. It’s impossible to go 100% all the time. The off season allows you to show up refreshed and better than ever for the following season. Much of this can be accomplished by slowing down. Embrace the fact that you don’t need to grab a snack and rush to practice then to class and then to film (hopefully), and you have a bit more time to slow down, sit down, enjoy your meals with full awareness, at a comfortable pace, and in a calm, relaxing environment.
Getting adequate sleep can also improve your off season to support peak performance. Optimal sleep involves regularly syncing your sleep and wake cycles to the rising and setting of the sun; creating a calm, quiet, dark, relaxing sleep environment; napping when you fall short of sufficient evening sleep; and avoiding excessive artificial light and digital stimulation after dark (step aside TikTok). Neuroscience tells us that your sleep regions of the brain, responsible for emotional and social function, are resting so that you can face the day refreshed.
Our addiction to a hectic daily pace and multitasking behaviors undermines personal relationships and individual fulfillment—not to mention physical health. A slower pace engages the brain and relieves stress and worry, prompting a state of relaxation—even flow. Think about after a week of work how much most people look forward to the weekend, the change of pace, change of activity. The same can be interpreted into the off season. I would take it a step further and encourage athletes to find more silence during the off season.
Nature is the ideal setting, but if 10 minutes in your car or a secluded area away from chaos, that can work too. Focus on getting into a routine with minimal difficulty. It isn't about the duration so much as it is about just doing it. Disengaging from everything, even for only a few minutes, suggests that you care enough about yourself to slow down and balance the perpetual business of daily life and even more so, that you are honoring the off season.