Survival guide: Your young athlete and two-a-days practices
For many young athletes, two-a-day practices are a common part of early-season conditioning in football and other fall sports.
These extra training sessions help to accelerate physical conditioning, skill development and team cohesion. However, athletes can experience increased amounts of physical and psychological stress during these multi-session practices. Troy Smurawa, M.D., is the Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. He shares a few tips to help your athlete survive two-a-days and extended practices while gearing up for a great season by getting the most out of each workout.
Tip #1: Beat the heat
“The heat and humidity of summer practices can add additional stress on your body,” says Dr. Smurawa. “The high energy requirements during this time of year are major concerns for players, parents, coaches and medical staff. Proper hydration and nutrition are extremely important in order to achieve adequate recovery and prevent injuries. Good preseason conditioning and acclimatization can decrease the risks of heat-related illnesses and injuries.”
- Avoid heat illness by acclimating to the heat, staying cool and keeping well hydrated.
- Drink at regular intervals throughout the day and during exercise to sufficiently replace lost fluids.
- Know the warning signs of dehydration and heat illness.
- Watch urine color and volume to monitor hydration status. Urine should be clear, plentiful and frequent. Dark urine is a sign of dehydration
Tip #2: Fuel up for good health
Dr. Smurawa says that several factors, including dehydration, physical exertion, poor nutrition, inadequate sleep and increased psychological stress, can play a role in suppressing the immune system and lead to injuries and infections. “Having an existing infection, a cold or diarrhea will also make the problem worse. Adequate rest and recovery are vital during this time of training. A good preseason conditioning program and acclimatizing to the environmental conditions is necessary to help reduce the risks of encountering injuries and illnesses.”
- Get a proper amount of sleep and adequate nutritional intake for effective rest and recovery. Avoid overtraining.
- Prepare with preseason conditioning that includes flexibility training, strength training and a graduated aerobic conditioning program.
- Stay well hydrated and fueled with carbohydrates to keep your immune system strong.
- Consume a daily carbohydrate intake of four to five grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (nine to 10 grams/kg).
- Eat regularly scheduled meals (four to five nutritionally well-balanced meals).
- Avoid sick people and large crowds, wash your hands regularly and get a flu shot to help avoid infections.
Tip #3: Watch your weight
“Many athletes will experience fluctuating weight measurements during these intense trainings sessions,” says Dr. Smurawa. “But losing body weight during practice comes from fluids, not fat. A football player may lose more than 12 pounds per day during two-a-day practice sessions. Dehydration, heat stress and physical activity can cause a player to go into a catabolic state that leads to loss of lean muscle tissue.”
- Check your weight before and after each practice session.
- Maintain weight within 4% before leaving the training room. (For example, an athlete weighing 175 pounds should maintain a weight greater than 168 pounds.) Weigh within 2% before starting the next practice session. (The same athlete weighing 175 pounds should weigh 171.5 pounds or greater.)
- Drink fluids on a regular schedule before, during and after exercise (start drinking fluids immediately after practice). Avoid caffeinated drinks.
- Replace every pound lost with 600 to 720 mL (20 to 24 ounces) of fluids Replace fluids by drinking 150% of weight loss prior to the next session. (If the athlete weighing 175 pounds lost 4% of body weight, he would have seven-pound deficit, which equals 3.150 liters [105 ounces]. He should drink about 4.725 liters [158 ounces] within 24 hours.)
For additional information, Dr. Smurawa recommends taking a look at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM’s) position on “Exercise and Fluid Replacement” that contains a summary of practical recommendations in regards to the health and safety of fluid replacement during exercise.
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