When Champions are Made

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The next two months offer your best opportunity to improve as an athlete. With school and regularly scheduled team practices in the rearview, you now have the time and energy to embark on the most aggressive training stretch of the year. Approximately eight weeks of focused summer workouts can take your strength, speed, conditioning and skill levels to all time highs.

Once pre-season camp or scheduled practices begin, it will be clear which athletes on your team took advantage of the summer training months. If you stick to your workout schedule, fuel yourself properly and use the right gear, you'll be a completely different athlete by the time you show up. If you coast through summer or put your training off to the last minute, you'll report as last year's version of yourself. Not exactly the move of a champion.

While your specific summer training depends on your sport and season, the importance and benefits of summer training are universal. Top athletes in every sport make their biggest performance gains during the summer months.

LeBron James and his high school teammates bonded and took their collective game to a new level each summer by perfectly combining AAU ball, elite camps and training sessions. Result: overall improvements in strength, explosion and endurance. The two-time NBA MVP recalls, "We not only got physically stronger during those summers, we got stronger mentally and stronger as a group."

LeBron's Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, added more than 20 pounds of lean muscle to his frame by dedicating himself to the weight room during the first two summers of his college career at Marquette. "I wasn't the tallest guy, so I needed to add the muscle," he says. "I went from about 175 or 180 to 205 by the end of the summer going into my sophomore year."

Joey Votto, the 2010 NL MVP, spent his high school summers at a nearby ballpark hitting, throwing and running hills for hours on end. "I did that every day," he says. "I was so lucky to have that facility and the free time to devote to getting better. I went from stinking to being a pro prospect."

Super Bowl champ and MVP Drew Brees continues to make his biggest gains in strength, power and conditioning each summer under the tutelage of Todd Durkin at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. "I come back for the summertime to get in the best shape of my life for training camp," Brees says. "Attacking the summer makes me feel like I'm way ahead of everybody else when I get back to training camp." According to Durkin, that's more than a feeling. He says, "When Drew is back with his team, I guarantee you he's going to be leading everyone during sprints and conditioning tests."

Understanding the critical importance of summer training for athletes, STACK has created a complete Summer Training Guide to help you attack every aspect of your athletic ability. The following pages provide performance- boosting summer workout plans and guidelines for your sport, keys to hydrating for the heat, tips on eating properly and advice on gear and products to maintain comfort and protect yourself from summer's heat and humidity.

You are eight weeks away from a new, more athletic you.

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