Most athletes understand the importance of strength and conditioning as it pertains to improving athletic potential for their respective sport(s).
It is not uncommon for athletes to partake in structured off-season training and conditioning programs with intentions of preparing for their upcoming season and simultaneously, their long term development.
Unfortunately, however, the role of in-season training in long term athletic development is often misunderstood.
In-season training is a combined dynamic and progressive process. A process that respects the athletes’ ability to absorb, respond and adapt to the stresses and stressors placed upon them. Essentially we are managing loads and intervening at key windows of opportunity based on the heavy practice and competition schedules that athletes are already faced with.
Imagine trying to drive a car with mud covering our windshield. It would be next to impossible to perceive our environment and therefore, equally impossible to respond and adapt to the road and other drivers around us.
Similarly, consider the level of accumulated fatigue after a five game weekend tournament. It would be difficult to for the athlete to respond and physiologically adapt to a demanding dryland training session in a fatigued state. The goal for in-season training is never to run an athlete into the ground. Active recovery consisting of mobility and aerobic (i.e. bike) work would be more appropriate.
At the same time, key windows of opportunity do exist for aiming to improve strength, power, speed and other qualities during the in season. Early on in a “normal” week, athletes are more than capable of responding and adapting to strategically implemented training sessions. Not only for maintenance, but also for progressive improvement in athletic qualities.
What’s most important is that they are in optimal states to be able to handle the loads placed upon them. As always, sleep, adequate nutrition and mobility/restorative work are of great importance to an athlete’s health. Remember, as difficult it is to drive a car with mud on one’s windshield, it is equally difficult to try and get stronger and faster in an accumulated fatigue state.