This tip is a remedy to prevent the damage caused by repetitive stress to one or a few parts of the body. It can apply to just about any athlete, young or old. I know many of you who just want to get in shape cannot imagine taking three months off from jogging or weights. You might consider another tip to prevent overuse injuries from exercise – cross training – several days each week.
For competitive athletes in team or individual sports, long periods of rest are critical. Look at all the major professional sports – football, baseball, basketball, etc. They all have off-seasons for their players’ bodies to rest and recover. You need that same recovery period.
Any sport places repetitive stresses on certain parts of the body. Overhead sports, like tennis, swimming, baseball and volleyball, involve repetitive motions of the upper body. Likewise, running sports, such as soccer and cross country, place a large amount of stress on the lower body. Over time the stress on the shoulders of the overhead athletes and the knees and feet of the running athletes builds up. Without time for rest and recovery, that stress will eventually lead to injuries.
Athletes often resist the idea of taking time off for fear of falling behind others in terms of performance. I would take the opposite view. If you suffer a stress fracture or rotator cuff tear, your performance will certainly suffer, and for months.
I’m not advocating you become a couch potato for three months. Play another sport or train in a different form of exercise. Make sure to choose one that stresses different body parts though. If you are a baseball pitcher, take one season off and play soccer. If you run marathons, rest your legs and feet for a few months and stay in shape through swimming.
As I mentioned in another tip, burnout is real issue in youth sports. It can also affect adults who perform the same types of exercise day after day, year after year. This recovery period of three months off might not just help you physically, but mentally and emotionally too.