Preparing your body ahead of a sporting season is vital if you want to get the best out of yourself as well as help avoid injury.
This is probably more important than ever this year as people return to winter sports that did not go ahead last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That could mean it has been 18 months or so since your last competitive sporting campaign and competition, so ensuring you have prepared your body to get back into it is an important move for the upcoming season.
So, where should you start?
Newcastle personal trainer and football coach Marc Hingston helps a range of people prepare for their specific sports seasons and offered the following advice for others looking to ensure they are ready for when their winter competitions kick off.
Q: What advice would you offer someone looking to start pre-season training for winter sport?
A: The first piece of advice I'd offer would be to identify the components of fitness required, not only for the sport a person participates in but also the role they play in the team. For example, in football the goalkeepers' structure would be quite different to the midfielders. I think there's a bit of a gap there that we can improve on as a region. Sure everyone trains with appropriate squads but it's often the structure an individual follows outside those squad sessions that gives them an advantage on their opponent.
Q: What is some general advice you could offer for someone looking to improve agility, speed or strength, or perhaps all three?
A: Technique is crucial for maximum results, but also designing a structure that is simple to follow so it can be sustainable. Finding a strength and conditioning coach who can work with the players' coach is a valuable investment to achieving the desired result.
Q: How much time during the week would you need to commit to see improvement?
A: Initially, in the off-season, two to three times per week depending on the sport and individual strengths and weaknesses. Back it off to a maintenance program of once per week in season to avoid burn-out and peak for game day. Use a day in season for mobility and foam rolling to keep the body moving freely.
Q: What importance do you place on this kind of training for injury prevention?
A: This type of training is quite crucial as you learn your body's limits and also improve reaction time and balance, gaining more confidence maintaining good body shape when under pressure. For example, challenging for the ball - body becomes more resilient.
Q: Have you got any suggestions for some key exercises people could do to improve agility and speed in particular.
A: Make sure the movements are combined with lateral drills as well as forward and back. Try also linking them to your sport. Can you do it with a one-touch pass at the end or holding a basketball, rugby ball, hockey stick et cetera. It's one thing to be agile and quick. It's another doing it in a game situation. Getting used to moving with the equipment used in your sport also gives you an edge.
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Renee Valentine is a journalist, qualified personal trainer and mother of three.