This time of year, many colleges are wrapping up their academic years with final exams and graduation ceremonies. Many high schools across the nation will be wrapping up in a matter of weeks, and so will all of the sports seasons.

Of course, many of you reading this will be playing on a local club team and beginning practices for fall sports in a few weeks. Or, you might be going to a camp for your sport at a university, but those camps are often just a weekend or a full week at most. There are things the athlete can and must do during the off-season months to stay in shape mentally and physically.

Physically: Coaches often give conditioning assignments for the summer to returning athletes. If your coach doesn’t do this, do some of the warm up and cool down exercises you do at a practice. Cycling, swimming, and running are each very healthy and successful summer activities that will help keep you in shape for your sport. Additionally, if you can afford it, join a local gym or take advantage of local park districts offering open weight room hours. For some science behind why the off-season conditioning is so critical to performance, click here. And, as another article states, doing nothing in the off-season may cause one to actually regress.

Mentally: This is the hard one. You might think to yourself “how can I keep in competition mind set when I’m not competing?” Well, aside from club teams and camp atmosphere, keeping the mind active is often one of the hardest things to do. School is out, and wanting to do anything other than hang out with friends, go on vacation, or simply relax. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, reading for fun, and yes, even some video games can help keep your brain in shape. Setting physical goals will keep you mentally in shape as well. (For example, today the goal is a one mile run, and keep upping that goal to 5 miles, if you’re working on endurance). You may also want to work on visualization techniques. Keeping motivated to work out and stick to your work out regimen will also help you stay in shape mentally and physically, even though finding that motivation to stay competitive might be difficult.

EXACT can also help with the mental aspects of summer or general off-season (for example, a football player in the winter) athlete.