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    Staying in Shape During Sports Season

    Whatever your sport, these tips can help you stay in shape and avoid injury.

    During the Season

    Once your sport's season is under way, you can tone things down a bit, says Monica Hubal, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

    “You want to go into a maintenance phase,” Hubal says.

    In other words, instead of trying to build more muscle, you simply want to maintain what you built up in the pre-season. Your body is working hard enough at practice and during games. When you bring too much intensity to your personal workouts, you are overdoing it -- and that is a recipe for injury.

    Hubal also recommends that you focus your workouts on the muscles that have to really perform in your particular sport.

    “A lot of boys lift weights like body builders, focusing on the pretty muscles,” Hubal says. “But you have to tailor your routine to what’s taking place in your sport. Nice biceps might help you get the girl, but they won’t be much help in your sport.”

    She points to soccer as an example. “If you are going to training for soccer, building upper-body strength won’t help a lot.”

    Think Cardio

    Keep in mind: It’s not all about lifting weights.

    “When teen athletes hit the gym, they don’t add aerobics their workout,” Chesnutt says. "Take football players: They train with weights but they don’t run.”

    That’s a mistake. Your heart needs a workout, too. So include cardio exercises in your routine. Spend some time on a treadmill, an exercise bike, or an elliptical trainer. Or just get outdoors and go running.

    Know Your Limits

    Exercise is essential, but too much exercise can be a quick ticket to the bench. Your muscles, after all, can only do so much before they need a break. Working them too hard is courting injury.

    Don’t skimp on warming up and stretching. Do five minutes of light exercise, followed by a few good stretches before working out. Stretching may help make the tendons more flexible, which could help prevent injury. There’s some debate about that, but Hubal says “stretching gets more oxygen to your muscles. That revs them up and helps them perform at their best.” Remember, never stretch before warming up, and don’t stretch so far that it hurts.

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