An Athlete’s Guide to Smart Training

A well-structured training program is tantamount to great athletic performance. As an athlete matures their training and competition demands become more involved. A smart athlete needs to draw upon and contribute to the advice and knowledge of sport and health care professionals to ensure a safe, effective, conditioning program.

The S’s of Smart Training

An athlete’s optimal training and performance depends on the development and monitoring of a solid and detailed strategy. The Fit to Play program outlines a detailed 5-point training plan for athletes that includes:

  • Structured Practice.
  • Structured Physical Training.
  • Structured Mental Training.
  • Structured Assessments.
  • Survival Strategies for Staying Healthy. 

Structured Practice:

  • Develop specific training and competition plans.
  • Develop contingency plans for adverse weather conditions (indoors or daily physical training adjustment either planned or improvised alternative training).
  • Ensure appropriate equipment and clothing (shoes, clothing, sunscreen, hats etc.).

Practice is part of your job as a player. Sure it can be hard work, but if you love your sport and want to improve it is what you have to do.

Structured Physical Training:

  • Implement proper planning & periodization of training that includes provisions for pre-competition, in-competition maintenance and post-season recovery break.
  • Include dynamic warm-ups, appropriate stretching and cool-downs in training and playing sessions.
  • Ensure appropriate recovery protocols are used both during and after training sessions to minimize the fatigue carried into the next day’s training.
  • Introduce sport specific training in the pre-competition phase.
  • Incorporate general sports involvement and cross training activities to ensure multi-skill development and to add fun.
  • Monitor signs of overstress. How you feel physically and mentally including mood and attitude to training and practice. Note sleep and recovery cycles.
  • Use a daily logbook of training is used to aid in monitoring volume, intensity and density of training loads and to help recognize potential overstress or overtraining states.

Structured Mental Training

  • Record journal or diary entries.
  • Ensure resources for appropriate sport psychology or mental training are available.
  • Practice techniques like imagery, distraction control, and relaxation.
  • Consider the effects of your personal life including: work, school (deadlines and exams), family and interpersonal relations.

Structured Assessments

i) Medical/Physical:

  • By using the expertise and experience of the sport medicine and sport science support team, several other facets are added to increase athletic performance including:
  • Comprehensive pre-participation medical screening including ligament laxity tests, blood work and urinalysis.
  • Timely assistance for any and all injuries and illnesses. Contact particulars including telephone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses of your health care professionals.

ii) Sport Specific Assessment:

  • Early identification and prevention of injuries can be facilitated by pre-season athlete screening.
  • Sport specific assessment by a sport medicine specialist can minimize pain and frustration later in the season.

iii) Field Testing and Laboratory Assessments:

Physiological assessments including field tests and selected laboratory tests will provide objective insight on:

  • Progression of training and possible problem areas
  • Strengths and weaknesses.
  • Comparison to peer athletes.
  • Test protocols based on current research and practice.
  • Proper re-assessment using the same test, conditions, and tester.
  • Have a sport scientist develop a protocol of tests based on the facilities and equipment available to you.

Survival Strategies for Staying Healthy

Due to the asymmetrical nature of training for and playing many sports the most common injuries tend to be the overuse variety. The cumulative effect of repetitive actions can cause tissue breakdown and inflammation (micro-trauma). Injury prevention should be an important part of any training plan. The best planned and periodized training program is of little use if plagued by injuries that prohibit proper training and competition.

Learning survival strategies to minimize injuries is far more productive than learning how to treat them!

Here are some simple tips to promote performance through injury prevention that all athletes, parents and coaches can benefit from:

1) Develop a Team of Sports Medicine & Science Support Specialists

The multifaceted needs of today’s athletes cannot be met by the coach or parents alone. Optimal performance needs a combination of factors including coaching, physical and mental preparation and proper nutrition and medical monitoring. As an athlete improves the sophistication of performance also increases. At this point, it is a good idea for coaches and parents to act as coordinator for the sport medicine and science needs of the athlete.  Here are some suggestions for parents and coaches:

  • Familiarize yourselves with local Sports Physician and Sports Physiotherapist. They are great resources to help you to locate other Sport Medicine & Science Specialists that you may need access to such as:
    • Sports Massage Therapist, Podiatrist, Nutritionists and Dieticians, Sport Psychologist or Mental Trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Sport Vision Specialist (Optometrist), Kinesiologists, and Strength and Conditioning Specialists .
  • Develop a network of reliable, qualified, sports medicine backup personnel that know you and understand the demands of the individual sport and the rigors of training.
  • Work closely with the Physician / Physiotherapist to determine an effective pre-habilitation or rehabilitation program for your athlete.
  • Your sport science and medicine specialists can help to plan, structure and modify the training schedule.

2) Proper Rest, Recovery and Rehabilitation Techniques

Training for and playing competitive sports are both physically and mentally demanding and recovery sessions must be incorporated into your sports specific training programs. The benefits of structured recovery sessions are well documented both in terms of improved performance and decreased injury rates. Athletes, coaches and parents all need to be aware of the importance of recovery following heavy workloads.

It is difficult to have a 100% injury free training program. As an athlete, you are working hard, pushing yourself to the limits to achieve your best performance and injuries are an ever-present danger. However, injuries can be minimized and controlled with a sensible injury prevention and management strategy at the heart of your training plan.

Finally, an athlete is often too close to his or her training program to be objective. By surrounding yourself with supportive family, a well-versed coach and skilled sport medicine and science professionals makes optimal training and performance goals attainable.

Carl Petersen PT. is a partner and Director of High Performance Training at City Sports & Physiotherapy Clinics.

Copyright held by SportMedBC. For information contact


Please check/update
your profile...

Are you a practitioner/clinic or part of a SportMedBC Program?

Please check/update
your profile...

Are you a practitioner/clinic or part of a SportMedBC Program?