Training doesn’t stop when the season stops

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For student-athletes, such as the Ryerson Rams, workouts are a year-round gig

Harlan Nemers
Eyeopener (Ryerson University)

TORONTO (CUP) — Running from one side of the squash court to the other, Shannon Cosgrove chases a soccer ball as her teammates play keep away. Gasping for breath, she strides forward with her left knee outstretched and manages to swiftly steal the ball from her teammate.

“[Practicing in the squash courts] really teaches us how to defend and makes our touches better,” said Cosgrove, a first-year midfielder for the Ryerson Rams women’s soccer team. “It helps us work on out-thinking defenders.”

Cosgrove works on speed, passing, and defending skills twice a week at the Recreation and Athletic Centre on campus. Soccer is just one of Ryerson’s many CIS teams that look to boost their strength and conditioning in the off-season.

In her next drill, Cosgrove has to dribble the ball around a cone as another teammate does the same on the opposite side. The goal is to try and fake out the cone, which represents an opposing player, with a powerful sidestep.

“Basically, what we’re doing is working on a fundamental skill set … in position-specific drills,” said Kevin Souter, assistant coach of the men’s soccer team, who is currently training with the women. “The goal is to provide a strong foundation for the upcoming season.”

The players on the women’s soccer team train anywhere between 1–3 hours a week.

“During the summer, [the] majority of them are playing with their own team like the Markham Soccer Club,” women's soccer interim coach Ramin Mohammadi said. “If not, we try to book a field and try to play against other clubs with players which are available.”

Those who are not playing for a club team schedule training sessions that focus more on agility, speed, and strength, as well as body movements.

“It doesn’t really matter where they do it as long as they can compete come Aug. 15,” Mohammadi said. “They need to keep up with the fitness program if they want to stay in the program.”

Stephanie White, head coach of the school’s women’s hockey team, said proper off-season training is a vital component to a successful team.

“The off-season is the time for the biggest gains in your conditioning and overall fitness,” White said. “During the season, you don’t really have the opportunity [to train]. It’s really important that they stick to the task at hand and it’s only going to improve their game throughout the season.”

This year marks the first time the women’s hockey team will take part in a serious summer training program, as they will officially take on Ontario University Athletics status for the upcoming season.

But, unlike most off-season training programs that have athletes training two to four times a week, White’s program will have her players practicing up to six times a week.

“You do fitness testing to see where they are at the end of the season. And then when they come back at the end of the season, that’s where you’re going to see the gains,” she said. “If there are no improvements, it could be conditions for the athlete not to make the team.”

While not as intense as White’s program, men’s volleyball head coach Mirek Porosa has a very structured program.
Starting in March, each player practices three times a week for an hour and a half. This time is spent focusing on upper body and lower core exercises, as well as endurance.

Porosa said 80 per cent of his team usually comes back in better shape than they were in last year.

“When they’re coming back, they should jump higher – like four or six inches – and they should be faster and stronger,” said Porosa. “They’re charging the batteries for the next season. Some of them go to school [in the summer] so they have a smaller load for the next school year.”

While coaches like Porosa have their players abide by a very structured training program, the same can't be said about their eating habits, as there isn’t a strict nutritional program for them to follow.

“They have basic information that they get during the season, which is based on some knowledge and common sense,” said Porosa. “But it’s hard to monitor their eating habits during the off-season because they are in a different environment. They’re going back home, working and doing what other people do at this young age.”

Jenny Young, captain of the women’s hockey team, said that although there hasn’t been a set nutrition program, her has met with a nutritionist this year.

“We’ve had meetings with a nutritionist and she’s given us information based on what we weigh and how we should be eating,” she said. “I’m definitely going to try and eat well along with maintaining a solid weight routine.”

Cosgrove is also looking forward to the summer months of hard training.

“We have our priorities set and we just want to work hard to become champions next year.”

Train like an athlete

Step 1: Get the right apparel

Before you can start training like an athlete, you’ll need to dress like one. Proper footwear is essential, and any sweats will work, but I would recommend that you invest in Under Armour. While a bit more expensive than its competitors, Under Armour’s light and durable material is worth the extra few bucks.

Step 2: Cardio, cardio, cardio

While you may want to go straight to the weight room to work on your gun show, do yourself a favour and start with some cardio. You can pump all the iron in the world, but you won’t see any results unless you get your heart rate up. If you’re not a fan of the treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine, go to the gymnasiums and play a few pickup games of basketball, soccer, or whatever sport the other gym goers are playing.

Step 3: Pre-game

Before you even think about lifting a weight, stretch. Not only does it lower the chances of you pulling a muscle and hurting yourself, but it will also serve as a quick break.

Step 4: Hit the weight room

Once you’ve broken a sweat and have your heart rate up, you can finally hit the weights. Before you start lifting, decide what part of your body you would like to work out. Don’t sporadically change between your arms, legs, back and chest. The more detailed and specific your plan is, the more effective your workout will be. During your workout, remember to give yourself enough time to rest between sets and make sure to stay hydrated. A common myth about lifting is that you should lift as much weight as you can, but doing more repetitions with less weights is more effective.

Step 5: Cool down

So you’re done your workout, you are all tired and sweaty and all you want to do is sit on your couch and chug a bottle of Gatorade. Don’t. Resist the urge to stop by jogging on the treadmill for a few more minutes. Follow that up with a few quick stretches and you can hit the showers knowing that you won’t feel nearly as sore as you would have otherwise.

Step 6: Drink chocolate milk

It rebuilds muscle and tastes great. Enough said.

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