Staying in Shape Over Summer

Published in the June 27, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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It was the last week of the 2006-2007 school year, but Nashoba Regional head football coach John Beary was already thinking about September 9, when the Chieftains will open their season at Westboro. As the summer progresses, Beary and his coaching staff will be developing strategies to counter what the Rangers do on the field—but in early June the head coach was most concerned with the artificial turf of the field itself.

“The turf in September will be very hot. If it's an 85 degree day, on the turf it will be 95,” he told prospective team members at an informational meeting. “So conditioning is a must.”

Elsewhere, coaches of other fall sports teams—and some winter and spring sports as well —were also taking advantage of a last opportunity to emphasize the benefits of conditioning before sending athletes off for two-plus months of potentially sedentary vacation. Luckily, options for high school athletes to stay in shape over the summer come in many flavors—from general conditioning camps to sport-specific skills workshops to drop-in weightlifting programs.

The benefits of training are almost as varied. Another of Coach Beary's concerns is preventing injuries, particularly late-season injuries that can result from fatigue in athletes who are poorly conditioned.

“Now is the time to address that problem,” Beary said.

But summer conditioning isn't just about prevention. The extra hours of training in the next two months can help improve performance come fall, and may even be the extra edge that translates into a varsity slot for an athlete who otherwise might have been on the bubble.

“You'll be in better shape at the beginning of the season, so you can show off your skills and do a lot more to impress a coach than if you're not in shape,” said Amy Beckman, athletic trainer for NRHS.

Beckman runs the six-week South County Conditioning Camp at the high school, which begins on July 9. The camp, which is open to any incoming high schoolers but is geared toward freshmen and sophomores, features an array of general conditioning protocols—including weight training, agility training, and core muscle strengthening—that can benefit athletes in any sport.

Although six weeks long, the camp is only two days per week, to accommodate teens' busy summer schedules.

“It's not optimal but it's enough,” Beckman said. “Hopefully they're doing other things throughout the week as well.”

Athletes with schedules too unpredictable to accommodate a conditioning camp can come by the upper gym at the high school on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday evenings for “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” training, part of a nationwide conditioning program designed by strength coach Greg Shepard that has a heavy emphasis on weight lifting. Although this is the first year that NRHS has been part of the BFS program, Beckman expects it to have a positive impact.

“I have a colleague who's been using it for at least a year at another high school and she says it's prevented some injuries,” she said. “I think it'll be a good program.”

For athletes left to their own devices for summer conditioning, Beckman recommends starting with “body weight” exercises (where the resistance to movement is provided by the athlete's own body weight rather than dumbells or other weighted equipment) such as squats, lunges, push-ups and pull-ups. She also refers athletes to the website for basic training instruction, along with videos so that athletes can be sure they are performing exercises correctly.

“Proper form is vital,” she said. “If you're not doing the exercise correctly, you may be doing more harm than good.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239