Plan Your Summer to Peak and Play

Get better at the sports you play and the life you lead at STACK. Improve your training, nutrition and lifestyle with daily

Being a great athlete, contributing to a great team and getting the most out of a great training program require more than showing up. Those who achieve the highest level of success create a plan, work the plan and reap the benefits.

During summer break, you need time for rest and recovery, but don't let it set you back. Jobs, family vacations, friends coming back from college and the simple desire to enjoy the downtime can put a dent in the dedication and determination you need to follow a summer training program.

With a little advance planning, you can enjoy the summer of 2011 and still achieve your sports performance improvement goals.

Take Control of Your Schedule.

If you're not careful, other summer events and activities will make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to squeeze planned workouts into your schedule. Take control by planning ahead. Get a calendar and mark the days when you will have other commitments. Note big things first, such as the annual family vacation, summer camp, family reunions and your cousin's wedding. If you're playing a summer sport, note practice and game times. If you have a summer job, review your assigned work days—most employers post a weekly or monthly schedule—and write them on the calendar. If you have schedule conflicts, try to resolve them up front. Most employers will allow you to switch days with other employees for good reason.

Plan Your Workout Time.

Once you've noted all your other obligations, schedule dates and times for your workouts. If you're lucky, you'll be able to train at around the same time each day. If not, at least by scheduling your workouts in advance, you'll be sure to get them done.

Don't forget to check whether the gym will be open during your scheduled workouts. If it's not, make alternative plans so you can stay on track (see Alternative Training Methods).

Create and Follow a Plan.

With a workout plan, you'll know exactly what you have to accomplish each day, and you'll have a pretty good idea of how long it will take. Elite athletes and programs at all levels follow a periodization model. Periodization achieves stated goals over specified time periods. All of the eight-week workouts in STACK's Summer Training Guide feature periodization. For example, the baseball workout is divided into two four-week segments, and all of the exercises call for specific intensity (how much) and volume (how many).

Daily Routine. Establishing a daily routine will ensure that you are well rested and properly fueled to achieve all that you set out to do each day.

Sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day. Irregular sleep habits can slow training progress. You don't need to get up at the crack of dawn, but a consistent sleep schedule really helps. Research at Stanford University found that athletes who got 10 hours of sleep per night performed better on athletic skills and physical tests. You need at least eight solid hours of sleep each night for optimum athletic performance.

Nutrition. Regular sleep habits lead to proper eating habits. Knowing when you'll eat breakfast makes it easier to plan the rest of your day. When you leave home for more than a day, carry healthy snacks such as almonds, fruit or beef jerky. Pack some recovery drinks to make sure you'll have the energy needed to get the most out of your training sessions. (For guidelines on proper nutrition, see page 18.)

Hydration. For athletes, proper hydration requires a 24/7 plan (see page 20). Carry a water bottle at all times, and stop to sip at water fountains. If you're not hydrating all day, you will be unable to compensate by drinking fluids right before a game or workout. All-day hydration is critical for high level performance.

"There will be countless distractions and opportunities to lure you away from your desired goals. There is no easy way to become a great athlete—that 'way' doesn't exist." —Author Unknown

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock