You’ve just come off of a pretty intense run: you have had (mostly) nonstop softball since the preseason in January, and now you are finishing up your final fall tournaments and showcases. So what do you need to do?

You need to make an actionable game plan that will leave you balanced, well-rested, and ready to do it all over again this coming January.

Fortunately, I am here to help you do just that.

This post is applicable to both parents and players because parents truly do so much work for their athletes. Driving to practices, tournaments, games, lessons and clinics can take away some much-needed “me” time from parents, and it is time to recharge those batteries in a positive way (as opposed to a “sitting on the couch watching netflix for four hours” way). So here’s what to do:

Recognize that time off from your sport should not mean that you turn into a couch potato
You have just been very active for at least 10 months. You might be tempted to just shut down completely and not do any physical activity. Not only would that be very detrimental to your progress when you try to come back in January (athletes who are out of shape always struggle when the pre-season rolls around), but you may have missed an opportunity to do some prehab, or, at the very least, missed an opportunity to do some things to balance out the asymmetrical motion that you have been doing for months on end. This is therefore a great time of year to get an exercise program from a physical therapist. Many of you go to see personal trainers, and that can be good sometimes (I mean, I have been a personal trainer for nearly 15 years, so I definitely believe in it), but often personal trainers aren’t familiar with your sport or don’t know enough anatomy to prescribe you exercises to stop you from getting hurt. To me, if you are thinking of hiring a personal trainer, you would probably be better just doing Beachbody On Demand, and skipping any overhead exercises in the programs. I am a big fan of their yoga program and I think that it also really helps to clear your mind and help your breathing. If you want something a little more challenging though, you can search the programs for 80 Day Obsession or P90X3. P90X3 is only 30 minutes a day and wonderful total body conditioning for the off-season. 80 Day Obsession is a greater time commitment but wonderful for using your glutes (a muscle group that is so important to recruit while your pitching). You can have access to all of these programs simply by getting Beachbody on Demand. For parents exercise is absolutely a must-do right now. You have spent tons of time in the car and your body needs this movement: particularly as the cold weather arrives.

Keep your nutrition in line
Let’s face it: tournaments are kind of the worst for eating well. You have access to concession stand food, 7-11, and fast food, but that is generally it. I always used to make it a habit to bring my own food to avoid being hungry and making bad nutritional decisions. The off-season is the very best time to make some positive nutritional changes so that you have already developed some good habits by the time the spring season rolls around. Keep in mind that the kind of foods that you take in affect your ability to perform, your ability to recover, your ability to sleep at night, and even your mood! Yes, your weight is affected, but, to me, that is of secondary importance to all of the things I have previously mentioned. As far as quality of nutrition, and making sure that you are getting all of the right micro and macronutrients for your energy expenditure, I think that using the Portion Fix System is the best way to do it by far. After you plug in all of your personal data, you will know exactly how much of each container to eat, taking all of the guess work out of your nutrition plan. These were a lifesaver for me when I was pregnant since I knew I needed to increase my caloric load, but I wanted to make sure that I was increasing the right things. I am also a huge fan of daily shakeology, since it is easy to do on-the-go, is filled with superfoods and micronutrients, and is a complete source of protein. I typically recommend that my athletes use shakeology to help their muscles recover directly after games in season. For parents, it is an amazing meal when you are rushing and definitely satisfies that sweet tooth.

Start making good sleep habits now. Sleep affects your hormones, your ability to learn, your ability to focus, and so much more. Getting up at 5 am on weekends can wreak havoc on your sleep, so now is a really good time of year to get into a good sleep schedule. I recommend getting up the same time every day and going to bed the same time every day. If your workout is early enough during the day, a nap afterwards is ideal for recovery. This will also help your immunity as we head into cold and flu season.

Spend time getting your head right
Most parents and athletes feel a little burn out when they hit the end of the fall season. For this reason, it’s good to find some relaxing, fun activities that you can do as a family that don’t involve your sport. I also recommend using this time to work through any little mental hiccups that appeared in season. If you are the parent who was screaming at your kid the whole car ride home from the tournament because she had a bad game, this plan might involve some family therapy. I know it sounds a little extreme, but it can really help everyone. You can work through other issues with hypnosis and Havening provided that you find a good practitioner near you.

Research your potential colleges
You temporarily have a little more time right now. You should be doing the bulk of your research on the schools you might be interested in NOW. This is also a very good time to be contacting schools and looking for clinics and showcases that you will potentially attend in the coming months.

Let’s make this off-season count!

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