For many, the term ‘pre-season’ causes flashbacks and feelings of anxiety and terror. Knowing that it’s time to whip ourselves back into shape for the season ahead with weeks of high intensity and high volume training is enough to make us massage our sore muscles and head to the medicine cabinet before we’ve even laced up a shoe. Many of us soldier through regardless because the last thing we want is to be stuck on the sidelines injured after one game.
One of the big challenges recreational athletes face is that they often don’t have enough time to do the most comprehensive pre-season to prepare optimally. As a result, we either only do the things we like doing to get fit or we just do nothing and adopt the ‘i’ll be fine’ mentality and get up off the couch and roll straight into the first game of the season. Either way we slice it, we could be setting ourselves up for an increased risk of injury during the first few weeks of the season.
Pre-season training isn’t just about running 100’s of laps of the oval because you don’t want to be substituted off after 90 seconds. Pre-season training programs should be built around all the characteristics of your sport, including strength, power, mobility and aerobic and anaerobic fitness components. It’s important we keep that in mind when we plan out a preseason because if we only focus on one aspect, we can dramatically alter how prepared we are and potentially increase our injury risk, especially in the early stages of the season.
We also need to consider your injury history and the context around the injury (e.g. if you always strain a hamstring in the first 5 minutes, it might not be because you’re tired – it might be because you haven’t thought about how strong they are). From there we can work to assess what movements and skills you might need to bring up to reduce the likelihood of it becoming an issue.
Common winter sports injuries tend to be overuse injuries in the lower body (feet, ankles, knees). While there is a risk of strains, sprains and impact injuries in skill and match practice, these are more common during the season proper.
For those that are still lost, this is a general guide of the things to consider for a football pre-season:
Cardio fitness – session of long distance, sprint session, intervals and agility (changing directions)
Weight training – major muscle groups of upper and lower limb using weights, body weight, resistance bands (or a combination). Include core stability – train control of your core as you’re doing the skill
Stability training and mobility – stretching/recovery, pilates.
Skill work using the football – field based drills specific to the sport – passing, tactics/set plays, attack and defensive skills.
This is divided amongst three to four sessions per week.
There’s a lot to consider and it can become overwhelming – if you’re unsure or need guidance, we can help you by assessing any niggles you’ve been experiencing in the past and plan out a pre-season program specific to your sport.