It is that time of the year again when children and teenagers make their way back to classes, homework… and sports! This also means that they come back to organised sports, whether this is part of the curriculum, or they choose to pursue extra-curricular activities.
As most will start the school year with good intentions and are very motivated to conquer the year, summer training shouldn’t be overestimated. It might be quite common that the routine has relaxed during the summer to a less active lifestyle, fewer sports practices, and less pressure.
Here are a few tips to make sure your children don’t get a false start.
Start slower, but safer
As for any athlete, starting a new season and a new year is a very common starting ground for injuries. After a more (necessary) relaxed summer, it would be wrong to assume that athletes start again as they’ve left off. Because it would represent an increased risk of injury, experts usually recommend increasing load and intensity gradually. In the beginning, it might feel easier, but as weeks continue, this is good insurance to stay away from emergency medical examinations.
Introduce variety in training
It is often difficult to impose a specific sport on a kid and might end up in a new argument. However, it has been proven that diversifying practice and introducing more cross-training is fundamental in staying away from injury. How is it possible to do so without starting a war at home? Try playing around with it: go on a family hike and picnic on the weekend, cycle with your kids to the park, organise a badminton or a football match with their school friends… It might become a fun moment for your children and you – or some downtime for you to put your legs up and breathe.
Highlight the importance of hydration
Staying fully hydrated is not only important for adults, but it is also applicable to children. As the NHS points out, “water makes up more than half of a child’s body.” They usually recommend aiming for six to eight cups or mugs a day.
If your children tend to leave glasses full, you can try out diluting sugar-free juice, and add frozen fruits or mint leaves. Some foods are also a great source of fluids such as melons, soups, yogurt, jelly, and ice lollies.
For more insights, read Enertor's FREE hydration guide.
Develop a consistent stretching routine
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to implement an efficient routine and develop habits that will be helpful throughout the year. In training, we often focus more on the main set, the workout, the number of reps, the speed, the result of a game, etc. but let’s not forget about warming up and cooling down.
As a matter of best practice, dynamic stretching is best performed before a game or a workout, and static stretches are more efficient as part of a cool-down routine. If dealing with pre-existent injuries, have a look at these specific routines designed by a physiotherapist.
Make sure they get their beauty sleep
As we’re discussing routine, one of the most overlooked aspects of it takes more than a third of a kid’s day. In general, sleep has a significant influence on a healthy lifestyle: it helps to regulate emotions and improves cognitive performance and physical development.
It is a time when the body gets a rest and the heart rate slows down, so the brain, engaged in less activity, can focus on other functions, that are not considered a priority during the day. When you sleep, growth hormones are produced, which repair cells and tissues (both needed to recover from a workout or an injury) and boost muscle mass.
As a rule of thumb, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
- 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- 6 to 13 years old: 9 to 11 hours
Stay in tune with your children’s perceived effort
In the first weeks, it might be helpful to stay on the lookout for possible niggles and fatigue to adapt to load. More stress both physically and mentally increases the risk of injury. For the youngest, it might be more difficult to identify the breaking point of fatigue and possible risks, but also voice them to their parents.
To help get an accurate picture, ask your child to measure and rate the perceived effort of a workout. Did it feel hard? Are you very tired before/after this workout? Did you feel that you could have given more or not? Do you feel sore?
You can also watch out for possible overuse injuries. If you see your children walk differently after a workout, complain about fatigue, painful feet, etc. do not hesitate to scale it down and make sure to facilitate the recovery process.