Summer is here, school is out, and for fencers that means there’s a break in the fencing season. For those going to Fencing Summer Nationals in the middle of the summer, there is some major motivation to keep training until then. For those not going to Fencing Summer Nationals, or after the big competition is over, it can be a major challenge to find their way to keep it up.
Some downtime and recovery is good for athletes. Taking the whole summer off, or even most of the summer off, that can come back to bite you in a bad way when the season starts again. Now that the summer season has officially started (Happy Solstice!), it’s a great time to start a good summer fencing training regime. How can you know what a good summer fencing schedule looks like? Here are eight ways to make the most of the time you’ve got off during these warm months.
1 – Create a schedule
This is the first and most important step in making the most of the less hectic schedule in the summer. Sit down with the calendar and make a realistic training schedule for yourself. Fencers going to Fencing Summer Nationals will obviously have a heavier weight to their training for the next few weeks, while those who are going on vacation will need to work in some kind of training while traveling for fun.
Make sure you include things like conditioning, rest, and dietary planning in your schedule. Continue with regular training as much as you can, and if you’ve still got room for a camp or additional private lessons, this is the perfect time for it.
It’s a good idea to actually create a daily schedule for the summer. This is especially true for kids, who need structure in order to stay on track, though adults do best with structure too! Put in your wake up time and your bed time, keep meals on a set schedule. That doesn’t have to mean being on task every minute during the summer, but some kind of regularity will make a huge difference!
2 – Round your training out
Keep in well rounded during the summer! Now is the perfect time to improve your stamina with regular cardio like running, a stationary bike, or swimming. This is the type of training that will last well into the fencing season, because it’s improving the heart muscle in ways that last. The better your cardio health, the better the fencing will be. Better stamina will help support longer matches and tournaments that will be easier to withstand from the pools to the final match. It’s not uncommon for the person with the best stamina to take a match, and every bit helps.
The other way to round out training is to balance with strength training or yoga. These offer vastly different benefits, and the summer is a great time to get started with either.
Once next season gets back into swing, it’ll be easier to incorporate the new cross training into the busier routine of the school year. A few minutes running or doing yoga before school starts will be much easier to keep up if you’ve started the practice already during the summer.
3 – Get some sleep
Everyone skips out on rest, especially when there are early morning classes and evening training. Make a conscious effort to get more sleep during the summer. That might mean sleep in or juggling fencing classes so that you can get to bed earlier.
Athletes, whether they’re tweens or adults, require eight to ten hours of sleep every night, more than the average person who isn’t training in a sport. Sticking to a good sleep schedule in the summer doesn’t have to be a drag on summer fun, especially when you realize that naps are part of the equation! After a heavy workout, lie down and take a nap. Short naps of twenty to thirty minutes help the body to recovery after heavy exertion, and unfortunately there’s not always time for it during the busy school year.
Summer can be for sleeping! Guilt free training sleep.
4 – Eat well
Family outings and friendly gatherings usually mean food. There’s also ice cream and soda much more readily available when the structure of school isn’t there anymore. Of course it’s ok to have some pizza fueled summer sleepovers with friends, but moderation in the free summer is an important part of maintaining for the coming season.
Balanced meals and snacks that consist of protein, complex carbs, and fresh fruits and veggies are as important off-season as they are during the season. You can take the opportunity with the free summer schedule to mix in some of those things you’ve been pinning on Pinterest to make or clipped out of magazines. Maybe try that mango smoothie recipe you’ve been wanting to try or make the zucchini noodles you’ve been meaning to cook!
For young fencers, summer is a perfect time for them to take more responsibility for their healthy eating habits. Let the kids plan some meals or get in the kitchen. It’s a great way to have them take ownership of their athletic health, and to keep them busy when school is out. This will help them keep the treats in moderation too!
5 – Invigorate your love of fencing
You’ve got the extra time, and we know there are some summer blockbusters that are calling you to the movies, but why not watch some great films to support your growth as a fencer?
They don’t have to be fencing necessarily either. Inspirational sports movies like Rocky or A League of Their Own, or Bend It Like Beckham. The same sports spirit that you see in these movies can motivate you to get back into your own training! The guys in Cool Runnings learned how to make the most of every minute, and it’s amazing how much we can get excited about our sport by watching the fight of people in other sports.
There are of course incredible fencing related films. A rewatch of The Princess Bride or The Fencer can make you desperate to pick up that sword again. You don’t have to stick with fencing films either. Kids love YouTube for a reason, and there are uncountable fencing videos of historic matches, interviews with top fencers, and more available right at your fingertips. Instead of watching other kids play video games, encourage your young fencers to watch other people fence with their screen time. It’s not perfect, but it will make fencers more likely to get excited about their fencing training.
And, of course, there are a lot of great fencing books, fiction and non-fiction ones, including my recently published book “From Cool Runnings to World Superpower: The Rise of American Fencing”.
6 – Get into your fencing gear
All the little wear and tear on fencing gear adds up during the season. Summer, or the off season, is just right for taking apart that fencing bag, cleaning the gloves and lame, and doing some maintenance on the fencing equipment. We’ve written extensively on how to maintain fencing gear, so browse our archies if you’re not sure about how to tackle a specific piece of fencing equipment for cleaning. And of course you can always ask the staff or coaches at your fencing club about how to best take care of that equipment.
This is also a wonderful time to check all of that fencing equipment for fit. Kids grow fast and you want to check the fit of everything during the summer rather than stressing about it when the season starts. That might not mean you go out and buy everything, but you can at least have an idea of what you need so that you can make plans for it.
The thing about fencing is that the fencer is integrated into their fencing gear, it’s very much an extension of who we are as athletes. Putting some time into equipment maintenance is not only good for the equipment, it’s also good for stoking the fire to get fencers excited to train in the off season!
7 – Keep in touch with your fencing coach
Though the summer isn’t the season, it’s important that fencers keep in close contact with their fencing coaches. Staying in touch, either through email or classes or private lessons, will help with motivation and direction.
Your fencing coach surely has some great ideas about what you can do to keep your training going. If you’re headed to Fencing Summer Nationals, your coach is surely in close contact with you about what you’re doing until the competition. But don’t let that communication fall away after!
Talk to your coach about what you’ve got on your docket, and be sure to share with them the other great things that you’re doing to keep your fencing up through the summer months. They are always impressed and happy with students who put in the effort and are enthusiastic about the sport!
8 – Move outside
Yes, fencing is an indoor sport. No, that doesn’t mean you have to train inside only. We have a tradition in our club of heading to the beach every year and training in the waves of the ocean. It’s magical to get outside with the sword and experience the beauty of nature along with our sport!
It doesn’t just have to be training specific to fencing. Playing other sports outside during the summer will enhance your fencing. The cardio built with backyard soccer or the agility you get from playing volleyball with friends, these things can be part of keeping you ready for the fencing season to come. Go hiking, swim in the ocean, enjoy kayaking if that’s your thing. Getting outside and breathing the fresh air will help to ground you and get you excited about the new year.
There is a lot of agility training that can be done outside too! If you choose to take your equipment out under a tree in the backyard for some practice with a tennis ball on a string, just remember to make sure you maintain the integrity of your equipment by cleaning it when you come inside. Watch out for the heat as well!
Keeping up with your fencing training during the summer might sound daunting, but you’re going to thank yourself later. Don’t let your endurance and strength slip too much by taking too much time off, but also don’t feel guilty about taking a vacation or a nap either. Both fencing specific training and overall conditioning are good for your upcoming season! Get the extra edge you want for the fencing season by maintaining your fencing training during the off season.