Even though summer is only beginning, now is the time for athletes to start getting ready for fall. That's because of the big difference between summer and winter sports.
Summer sports are usually aerobic in nature. In running, cycling and even skating, athletes make the same kind of movement over and over. This movement can be extended for long periods of time, such as in a marathon or long bicycle race.
In aerobic sports, the respiratory system supplies the energy. Breathing in provides oxygen for the heart and lungs, and if the athletic effort becomes more intense, both the breathing rate and the heart rate increase. Aerobic energy can be improved quickly, with the body even making tiny additional blood vessels, called capillaries, to provide extra oxygen to working muscles.
Winter sports are more active, and usually require more effort. They are often anaerobic in nature, meaning they use stored energy called glycogen, a type of sugar. It takes time to build up your store of glycogen, which does not rely on oxygen.
Improving the amount of glycogen that is stored is the aim of elite and professional athletes, and it should be your aim as well. Glycogen is used by the body for intense sports, but when it's used up, you're done.
Getting your body ready for fall and winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding, hockey, ice skating and others, requires a longer time period than getting ready for aerobic sports. The word for the effort of sports done in the fall and winter is 'anaerobic,' which basically means 'without oxygen.' To be a winter athlete, you'll need muscle. Building it means each fiber in every muscle must be built to sustain the output of energy.
This doesn't mean that winter sports are not aerobic. They use both aerobic and anaerobic energy. While summer sports may at times increase in intensity, they call for less anaerobic energy.
To begin training for the fall and winter season, start slowly. An exercise ball, which allows a body-weight workout, is a good place to start. Using the weight of your own body instead of standing in one place and lifting weights is a good way to improve conditioning for the fall season.
It's a good idea to test yourself frequently and write down the results in a notebook. One very good test is a sprint. Be sure to warm up first before practicing sprints. Your muscles should be full of blood and all your tissues should be pliable. If you try to work out anaerobically with contracted, unworked muscle, tendon and ligament fibers, you will end up with an injury.
A good warm up can be anything from dancing around, moving your limbs and core, to going through resistance motions of exercises like the squat and deadlift, which use muscles in the core and lower body.
Once you've warmed up, use a stop watch and a location to test yourself. Suppose you're sprinting 300 feet. How many seconds did it take you to do it? Give your body some days to recover, then try the same sprint again. This time, you may be half a second to more than a full second faster. At the same time, you have increased your body's ability to store glycogen, making you more athletic for fall.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly , which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.