Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
“The Off Season is Really the On Season”
By Gareth J. Mole (PSY0001372747)
"You don’t get to the top by doing more you get there by being smarter." - Unknown
The “Off Season” is an odd sporting term implying almost that athletes and coaches from around the globe only have two gears – “On” during pre season and the competitive months were they give everything and then “Off” for the rest of the year whereby they go and hibernate like bears in the winter time.
This Black and White / Either Or / Binary way of conceptualising the sporting year is counterproductive – certainly from a mental standpoint. Almost without a doubt the origin of the term Off Season comes from a bygone era when training was regarded as almost entirely physical (strength and conditioning plus motor skills) and therefore there was probably some logic – particularly in physically demanding sports – to a few months of allowing the body to recover before “going again”.
However, this whole idea falls apart pretty quickly when you look at high performance preparation through the lens of 21st century sports science whereby more than half of the areas of improvement require little or no physical movement whatsoever.
As regular followers of the Mental Toughness Digest will know and current and former monthly clients of ours will know even better we like to “Simplify” and “Complete” preparation into the following five pillars Physical Capability (PC), Mental Toughness (MT), Tactical Wisdom (TW), Technical Consistency (TC) and LifeStyle Choices (LC).
If we assume these 5 pillars are roughly of equal importance then really only Physical Capability (PC) requires more body than mind with the other 4 pillars being dominated by “above the neck” processes. So for highly demanding physical sports (for example CrossFit, rugby union, rugby league, American Football, AFL and endurance sports – to name the first few to come to mind) then it’s really only Physical Training that might want to be reduced during the gaps between the end of the competitive season and the start of the next preseason.
In terms of time frames at Condor Performance we are strong believers that the sporting year / season is not a particularly useful “performance” concept when compared with months and weeks. We encourage our 1-on-1 client to use months in order to monitor progress (through the use of what we call Monthly Checks) sometimes known as Performance Goals or Key Performance Indicators in academic and business circles respectively. Then, we urge them to switch their attention to arguably the most valuable unit of time of them all – the week – in order to plan and them complete the highest possible quality training across all five pillars. As a general rule, when this is done well it frees up large amounts of time (as the higher quality reduces the amount of quantity / time required for equal or greater improvement) and typically results in 52 weeks of “the right amount” of effort instead of 40 weeks of overdoing it followed by 12 weeks of undergoing it (oh, how very common this is).
One of the biggest clues is how you feel mentally and physically at the end of the competitive season. If you are desperate for the break then there is a good chance you’ve been overextending yourself and would benefit from exploring one of the best kept performance secrets out there – you don’t get to the top by doing more you get there by being smarter.
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