Every sport, competition, and season has an end. This end also marks the beginning of preparations for the next season. In sports parlance, this is called the “offseason.”
During this time, athletes tend to recover from their injuries, recover mentally, and begin planning and training for the upcoming season. Done right, the offseason is a critical training period that can pay dividends. This gives the athlete time to build muscle mass, increase mobility, and correct deficiencies with special training modules.
However, the length of this off-season varies from sport to sport and also from individual athlete to athlete. India’s golden boy, Neeraj Chopra, started with cheap training at Loughborough University in the UK. For Chopra, getting back to your training weight is the first step before starting any sports-related training.
This is followed by mobility and strength training before moving on to specific exercises. But wrestler Ravi Dahiya trains at the Chhatrasal Stadium in New Delhi. His main goal in the offseason is to fully heal his knee injury. Dahiya is also conscious of her weight in the off-season, with the Olympic silver medalist dropping almost eight kilograms to bring her competition weight to 57 kilograms.
In athletics, the season usually starts in October and can last until February or March. Wrestling has a two-month window, while boxing has a three-month window.
What exactly do athletes do in the off-season? Athletes are constantly developing their skills, and we usually go back to basics in the off-season. This allows them to strengthen their foundations and systems before adding new layers, giving them an edge over their competitors. For example, the aerobic system of the body replenishes energy with oxygen. It is responsible for replenishing energy in the anaerobic system, i.e., in the absence of oxygen.
As an athlete, it is important to strengthen both aerobic and anaerobic health during the off-season. It promotes faster recovery and gives better results during competitions.
Athletes return to old training routines to ease the transition back into season form. All this allows the bodies of athletes to be ready for competitions. How is the outdoor season in India different from other countries?
The Indian sports calendar does not give athletes time to start an off-season. In athletics, most of the athletes have already started the off-season, right after the Diamond League finals held in Zurich in September. But the Indian stakeholders still decided to host the national games. Athletes had to compete in them despite the risk of injury, which extended an already long season. To make matters worse, the athletes belonging to the people’s camp were asked to participate in one more competition.
In the interim, universities force athletes to compete in inter-university meets, and individual states ask athletes to represent them at Khelo India. Both competitions are organized by different interest groups, so they are never part of the regular public calendar. They mess up the off-season preparation of athletes.
While elite athletes are exempt from these competitions, the development groups suffer the most from the uneven calendar. Given the circumstances, Indian sports stakeholders need to take a more holistic approach while planning the season calendar. All parties must be invited to come up with a calendar that takes athletes’ training schedules into account and prioritizes their well-being, which will improve the country’s sports ecosystem as a whole.