At the Soccer Fitness Training Centre, the month of December is typically one of our busiest months of the year. Part of the reason we are so busy this month is that many of the young athletes we work with are part of academies or clubs that schedule a break from training in December, and they have more free time to train with us. This ‘December break’ is used partly to allow players to rest ad recover and also partly because of the Holiday season. Personally, I am in favour of allowing players small breaks from soccer training (and specifically from competition), and there is plenty of scientific literature that supports the rationale for young athletes not training and competing hard year-round. The problems with the typical December break here is Canada, however, are:
- The total amount of time off can be too high (sometimes as much as 6 weeks)
- Some players (and their parents) interpret this break to mean that they should do no exercise at all
In general, a small break of 2-3 weeks is more than enough time for players to rest and recover both physically, and mentally (many adults who have taken only a week-long vacation from work would understand this point). Extended periods of time spent being inactive (more than 2 weeks in duration) in young athletes will lead to significant decreases in their aerobic endurance and. eventually, muscle strength as well. This loss of aerobic fitness gets compounded when training and competition resume in the new year because, although aerobic fitness can be lost in as little as 10 days, making sustained improvements typically takes a minimum of 4-6 weeks. Thus, a soccer player who is completely inactive over the month of December will not likely return to their pre-inactivity fitness level until the middle of February, at the earliest. Players in this situation will also be more at risk for over-use and soft tissue injuries, because of the aforementioned loss of muscle strength and also resulting form having to train and play while tired.
The simple solution to the problem of the December break is to use it only as a break from soccer, not as a break from exercise. There are several safe, convenient and fun ways for young athletes to stay active and maintain their aerobic fitness for 4-6 weeks without playing soccer. Among them are:
- bike riding
- weight training/circuit training
- other sports such as tennis, volleyball, basketball, etc..
A young soccer player should find that participating in a low volume (2-3 days per week) of any of the above activities (or other sports/activities of interest) during the December break will result in adequate maintenance of aerobic endurance and muscular strength, and a more successful and injury-free return to play in the new year.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.