During the offseason, a lot of officials don’t get the same physical fitness benefits as when working their full schedule of games during the regular high school season. So it’s easy to slough off. But doing so is detrimental to overall health and fitness. It negates all the good things officials physically do during the season in terms of conditioning, and then have to start all over to get in shape for the next season.
Why waste that investment in fitness by not working out in the offseason? The point: Little or no exercise in a high school sports offseason is not good for physical fitness or overall health and wellbeing. However, going to the other extreme is not good either.
Be careful not to over-exercise
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is absolutely possible to exercise too much. For example, I think we could all agree that running is good exercise. However, one recent medical study concludes that there is minimal benefit from running more than five miles at a time and in fact doing so could actually be detrimental to your health.
Walking and jogging are also good forms of exercise. However, when you walk, jog or run, you are putting extra stress on your lower extremities. Every step you take when walking puts a force of 1.5 times your body weight on your feet. Jogging and running can cause an impact of four to six times body weight of force. High impact sports such as tennis, basketball, racquetball, and yes, even officiating in some of the "run-and-gun" games can have an impact of up to eight times the body weight of force. That’s a lot of stress for feet, ankles, muscles, ligaments, and bones to handle.
Another factor is frequency of exercise. Good athletes, especially in college, try to build in a day of rest each week as part of their conditioning regimen. Rather than engaging in strenuous exercise daily, you should take a day off to give your body an opportunity to heal from all the physical exertion.
The consequences of too much strenuous exercise can be serious
The potential negative impact on your health from over-exercising varies depending on such factors as the type and amount of physical activity and the age and overall health of the individual. But according to a recent medical study published in a journal of the American Heart Association, strenuous exercise four to seven days a week versus two to three days week increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The study defines strenuous exercise as “any work or exercise causing sweating or a fast heartbeat.” Put simply, overdoing it taxes the muscles, and one of those muscles is your heart, which is a very important muscle to protect.
On the plus side, the study found that those who exercise experience fewer increases in adverse vascular effects than non-exercisers, but the dangers of overdoing strenuous exercise remain.
Guidelines for healthy exercising
Walking at a four-mile-an-hour clip is a good pace that helps keep your muscles, ligaments, and aerobic systems in good working condition. It’s easy and anyone can do it. By the way, walking is not only good for the body, it’s good for the mind. It’s a good distraction from the stresses of your day. Jogging and running are also good, even if you do just two miles at a time. Remember though, as noted above, do not exceed five miles.
Also, try going to your local swimming pool – not necessarily swimming laps, but doing what we call aqua jogging or walking. Just 20 minutes of this sort of activity will burn calories, benefit your aerobic system, and benefit your muscles by combining isometric and isotonic activity in a way that’s good for your lower extremities. That’s a particularly good thing for sports officials. Remember that isometric exercise is designed to build and strengthen muscles, while isotonic exercise is designed to tone your muscles. There’s a difference. You can have good muscle tone without strength. Ideally you’d have both.
Cycling from 20 to 45 minutes a day is another good form of exercise. Just be sure you do so in an area where the roads are safe. If you prefer to ride a stationary bike at home or in a gym, that’s fine, too. Don’t try to do too much, though. If you bike strenuously, keep it to no more than three times a week.
Whatever the form and frequency of your exercise regimen, there are three things your body needs in the right amounts to help prevent breakdowns, injuries and ill-health effects: Water, calcium and potassium.
A body needs all three to prevent muscles from cramping, or worse. Strenuous exercise causes you to sweat and lose water, so stay hydrated by getting plenty of fluids. If you don’t get enough calcium, your muscles will draw it from your bones, resulting in potential cramps, stress fractures, or even osteoporosis. For more on that, see one of my previous archived articles about calcium. Potassium is also important. Good sources of potassium include winter squash, baked sweet and white potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupes, and bananas. It’s tricky because too little or too much potassium in your body can cause problems. With strenuous exercise, potassium levels initially rise significantly and will stress the heart until the potassium is redistributed into other muscles, so you have to be aware of your potassium levels.
Offseason conditioning is important to your health, stamina and overall well being. That’s especially important for high school sports officials. Various forms of healthy exercise are available and easy to do. Just don’t overdo it. As with many things in life, moderation is the key.
Dr. Dan Davis is a long-time Connecticut high school basketball official and a well respected podiatrist and surgeon who has successfully treated many fellow officials to keep them on the court and on the field.