4-Part Winter Break Recovery Plan for Athletes

Katie Giberson running the 2018 NYC marathon

With just a few more training days between now and the 2018 DA Winter Showcase, this is the perfect time to plan how you’ll spend your winter break. Assuming your coach has periodized your practice sessions, you should be in peak form going into the showcase. And while it’s critical to mentally and physically prepare for this important event, it’s also important to be intentional about what you’ll do to rest and recover when you return home from Sarasota. Here are some recommendations that will help you relax and unwind – and ensure you’re mentally and physically ready to get back on the field in the new year.

Take a few days off. After months of intensive training it’s vital to give your body a break. Constant training doesn’t equal better results, so set aside a couple of days at the beginning of the break to just relax without any structured physical activity. Not only does your body need time to regenerate, your mind also needs time to disengage. Planned downtime is essential: not getting adequate rest can lead to overtraining which will prevent you from performing at your best and place you at risk for an injury. Instead, make plans to do something fun that you don’t normally have time for, or invite a few friends over for a Netflix binge session.

Focus on active rest. Once you’ve recuperated for a few days it’s time to start an active rest regimen to help your muscles recover from the last few months of hard work. This is where you switch up your routine and choose activities that are different than your normal training. Sign up for a fun soccer clinic, drop into a Pilates class or go play a different sport like basketball or volleyball just for fun. For a more relaxing activity you could schedule a sports massage, take a yoga class, do some foam rolling or even book a hydrotherapy session. The key during active rest is to keep your muscles moving but not push them to the level that you would experience during regular season training.

Prepare college coach emails. Now that your physical recovery regimen is under control, it’s time to focus on how you’ll communicate with college coaches when the NCAA dead period ends in January. Although it may seem like you have plenty of time to write and send emails to coaches in the new year, putting this task off until classes and club training resume is likely to create a juggling act that can be prevented with a little bit of pre-planning. Instead of procrastinating, set aside a couple of hours during the break to create a killer Fall Highlights reel and craft a well-written and engaging email template that you can personalize for each coach on your list. Click here for tips from Coach Chris on crafting great emails. Then, in January, all you have to do is hit “send.”

Don’t let it all go. The winter holidays can be a fun and festive time with friends and family. Enjoy every moment of your time off, but try not to overdo it. Your mantra this holiday season should be “moderation.” While it can be tempting to indulge in too much of the wrong food and ignore your body’s need to sleep, going buck wild at the buffet and staying up late every night will make January a painful journey back to your former fitness level. Instead, opt for healthy food choices whenever possible, aim to drink 2.5-3 liters of water a day and try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible.

As with everything that’s worthwhile, the more effort you put into planning your winter break the more benefits you’ll reap. Challenge yourself this winter break to balance relaxation with activities that will promote good health and also move you closer to your college athletics dream. Remember, even seemingly small steps will move you toward your goals if you commit to taking positive action every day.

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Eva Bart-Williams is a mental performance coach with a private practice helping individuals and teams achieve big goals. Eva is also CBW Soccer Elite’s head of operations, where she helps athletes embrace the challenges of high-level competition and advises families on the college soccer recruitment process. You can reach her at

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