Benefits of Conditioning
The quality of one’s athletic performance depends on each individual being in optimum physical condition. Proper conditioning allows the athlete and team to function at the highest possible level. A well-conditioned athlete is a successful athlete; a well-conditioned team is a successful team. The benefits of conditioning during practice sessions are considered as important or even more important than the contests. Developing a proper appreciation for the benefits of conditioning can carry over into later years and lead to an improved quality of life. The health benefits derived from a regular exercise program are well documented. Pursuing lifelong habits are important goals to improve or maintain cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.
The following guidelines have been developed to foster optimum athletic performance. This listing is not all-inclusive, but is designed to provide guidance. In addition to these general guidelines, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association encourages all athletes to develop the specific skills involved in their sport and to be aware of the rules governing their athletic endeavors.
- Athletes should engage in appropriate conditioning programs for a minimum of six weeks before the start of daily practice.
- Athletes should focus on developing muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.
- Good nutritional practices incorporate the basic food groups: grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat/poultry/fish. Athletes’ diets should be high in complex carbohydrates while also including essential proteins and fats.
- Athletes practicing or playing in warmer climates should become acclimatized to high levels of activity in hot weather. Workouts should be held early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- The night before an event, athletes should hydrate with electrolyte fluids to reduce the risk of dehydration.
- All athletes should use appropriate equipment that fits properly. This equipment should be checked before and after each use to ensure that it is in proper working condition, and replaced or repaired immediately if any problems are noted.
- Appropriate protective equipment should be worn in all practices as well as during competitions.
- Shoes should fit appropriately and provide the necessary support for each individual sport.
- Any and all types of skin diseases and lesions diseases should be treated immediately and fully to avoid more extensive problems.
- Mouth guards should be used in all collision sports, including ice hockey, football and rugby; and recommended for all sports where contact could occur, including basketball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, etc. Not only do they help to prevent dental injuries, but they can also absorb shocks from blows to the jaw or head and reduce the severity of these blows.
- Players should stretch properly before and after workouts of any kind.
- A minimum 15-minute warm-up period before any game or practice, and an appropriate cool-down period afterward, is recommended. Athletes should also warm up for five minutes during any prolonged breaks in activity (including half time, between periods, etc.).
- Ice should be available on the sidelines of every game and practice to apply to appropriate injuries.
- A licensed physician should examine injuries involving bones or joints.
- All injuries should be evaluated immediately.