Santino Quaranta training with D.C. United.
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Personal workouts to resume soon for United

WASHINGTON – After a marathon of a regular season and pressure-packed playoffs, most MLS players are doing everything they can to take it easy and recover from the deep toll suffered by body and mind. The holiday calendar usually offers such rare respite from a heavy workload.

But the short break will soon give way as the daily grind resumes in a few short weeks and personal workouts ramp up in advance of the 2011 preseason.

The foundation for the hard slog of training camp and beyond, those workouts occupy a pivotal place in every player’s fitness regimen. They often take place in an individual or small-group setting far removed from the rigid structure of team activities.

D.C. United’s players tend to head in many different directions during the offseason, so the club’s training staff tries to make the process as simple as possible for its squad, whose varying personalities inevitably affect their approach to strength and conditioning.

“You know which guys have what habits and that sort of thing,” said Chad Ashton, who is stepping down from his technical director role to rejoin the coaching staff for 2011, at head coach Ben Olsen’s request. “There’s some guys that need more phone calls than others, that you need to check up on them more.”

Those farther afield are asked to adhere to an online program that tracks their progress, while locally-based players are encouraged to perform their workouts at the team’s facilities in RFK Stadium.

“The nice thing when they’re here is you’re actually seeing what they’re doing on a day-to-day, weekly basis and you don’t have to worry about it,” explained Ashton. “It’s just a little more comfortable. But they’re professionals, they know what they need to do.”

Veterans like Santino Quaranta and Troy Perkins have carved out well-worn individual routines over the years, but some players still prefer a team environment. Defenders Julius James and Dejan Jakovic are tentatively planning to train at their alma maters (University of Connecticut and University of Alabama-Birmingham, respectively) before reporting back to Washington for the outset of preseason in late January.

“I prefer to work out with other people because offseason is so difficult,” said James. “Most of the time you’re on your own – everyone has their own agenda – and you have to push yourself a lot more when you’re by yourself than when you’re with someone working out, when you’re with a team.”

United suffered through a bout of hamstring and other muscular strains in the early stages of last season, something strength and conditioning coach Randy Rocha traced back to lower intensity levels during preseason. Jakovic, who will also take part in a Canadian national team camp based around a friendly match against Greece in February, expects spring training sessions to be more rugged this time around.

“I’ll take my mind off soccer for a little bit, maybe a couple weeks, then slowly start training and get back into shape and come ready at season time,” Jakovic said last month. “[I will] get bigger and be as fit as possible for preseason. I’m sure we’re going to be doing a little bit more in preseason than we did last year, so I think it’s going to be good.”

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