The end of the season has reached us at last. Some of you may say, “What’s an offseason?” and I would respond, that if you do not take an offseason – you should start that right now. I know too many teams and individuals that never allow themselves even 2 weeks off of skates throughout the year, and the result is increased risk of injury, potential for mental burnout, and the chance that you are holding yourself back from progress.
The deload week is a real thing, with competitors in different sports taking a light week before competition to allow the body to heal and their neurons to finish processing the acquired knowledge of movement and balance. Some say the deload is dead, but I would argue that for a high contact sport, we should take the deload seriously. Want to read more about it? Check out this article.
Offseason is, in simple terms, a long deload period. You allow your body to
Your offseason allows your ligaments to heal and your neuro-function to rest.
Once you have completed a week or two of complete rest weeks (the hardest things for derby folks to do), you can begin working on balance and instabilities.
There is no perfect off season program, but whatever you do it should be with your weaknesses in mind. Do you hate doing lunges because you’re so bad at them? Do you avoid the Bosu because you fall off of it? Do you duck and cover whenever someone mentions single-leg RDLs? If you hate a workout, especially if you hate it because you're BAD at it, that implies you are weak at it. Take a look at incorporating things that you hate into your regular routine.
Most offseason training programs I have come across focus for up to 8 weeks on rebuilding instability and balance alongside of large muscle group endurance. From there they move into building endurance and strength, and then into explosive power. Finally, they incorporate sport-specific movement at the end of the periodization.
Ok, so getting a three week off season is pretty special in derby, much less the 12-16 weeks that something like this really requires. What should you do with your offseason?
#1 TAKE ADVANTAGE.
If you can spend two weeks off skates COMPLETELY, you should do it. Rest, heal. During this time, do not lift heavy. Do not have a grueling gym session. Do light active recovery. Do light yoga and stretching. Go to the chiro and get looked at. If you have two weeks to stop beating yourself up, use those two weeks to do just that (also recognizing that those two weeks will probably be grueling to you for different reasons).
#2 BALANCE YOUR BODY.
We skate one direction all the time. Chances are that one side of your body has better balance and strength than the other side. This is an opportunity for you to even out a bit. Do exercises on both sides, but maybe add an extra set, or a bit more weight when working your weak side. Balancing your body also means you should give attention to pieces that are normally ignored. Your chest, lats, hamstrings, delts, and stabilizer muscles are often neglected through the season as we work on larger muscle groups that we know have a direct correlation to our roller skating. Take the off season to make these neglected pieces stronger [and then carry these exercises into the new season because you need to work your full body to be successful in our sport].
#3 DON’T BINGE.
We all know the people that hit offseason and their diet goes all to hell. While it’s tempting to use “it is offseason” as an excuse to drink all the booze and eat all the fried food, I would recommend exercising your balance AND your caution. Yes, enjoy your holiday meals, but with restraint. If you’ve been eating like an athlete all year, it is going to wreck you to dive into high fat foods and tons of sugar. I recommend not binging because it will not help you progress, but it will also make you feel icky. No one likes feeling icky.
#4 SET GOALS.
Enjoy watching archives from the WFTDA, MRDA, and JRDA playoffs of and championships. Look at the things you want to do and set down benchmarks for your season. Determine what you want to get out of derby in the next year, whether that means reaching the pinnacle of your strength, or relaxing into a ‘have fun and take care of life’ situation.
#5 LEARN TO MEDITATE.
I try and incorporate mantras or statements that I can repeat to myself when training cardio, so that if I say it during game play it triggers a calming feeling. Sometimes a certain song, visual image, or just a phrase can do it. Think of it when you’re training cardio, focusing on your breathing and bringing your heart rate down. Then, when you’re in the thick of things on the track, you can go into that zen mode and bring yourself back to even keel, regardless of what has just happened in the pack or what penalty you are being sent to the box for.
I am just one person with my own experiences in the derby world. I have had a lot of “off seasons” that were not really as such. I have read a lot of books and theories. I have had a lot of people tell me that the books and theories I read were rubbish, and others telling me that those books were on point. No one has it completely figured out. I would say that if you focus on these five basics as ramp back into January 1st, you will at least have a decent head start on your new season.