Zero To Hero Injuries!
During my last clinic in Deddington I had 3 clients with injuries stemming from the same cause – overuse. Each year we see a spike in new and returning clients in spring, shortly after the first sun of the year.
Over the winter many of us become less active. We prefer to stay in and hide from the rain and cold. Those of us who manage to stay active during the bleaker months may change our training to be more indoors oriented – working out in the gym or taking a yoga class for example.
When the sun comes out we celebrate by brushing the cobwebs off our trainers or investing in a new bike! Our joy for the change in weather makes us feel optimistic and we want to make the most of the sun. Unfortunately our bodies may not be conditioned enough to keep up with our optimism at the start of their season!
This sudden increase or change in training can result in overuse injuries and can increase your risk of acute injuries such as sprains and strains. This post aims to describe how you can program your training to reduce your risk of these types of injuries.
Peaks and Troughs
The training pattern described above follows a “peaks and troughs” pattern. It involves periods of prolonged inactivity interjected by sudden spikes of intense activity. The body often can’t cope with the sudden peaks and forces us to rest with DOMS and fatigue.
Who’s ever been out for a longer bike ride than usual and then had to take a week off because they’re too stiff to move? ME! Although it’s not sensible, a one off occasion shouldn’t affect your training too much. However over time, if you’re only exercising once per week due to DOMS, it will be difficult to improve your fitness!
Studies suggest that it takes 7-14 days of full rest before we begin to lose aerobic fitness. People with a longer history of training in a particular sport will retain fitness better than people who are new to that sport, and age and general health will come in to it too. But if you’re following a peaks and troughs training pattern you’re fighting an uphill battle!
The FITT Principle
To avoid unnecessary injuries and ensure we continue to get fitter we need to condition our bodies using progressive overload. This means asking a tiny bit more of our muscles or cardiovascular system each time we exercise. But we need to get the balance right. We can use the FITT principle.
FITT stands for:
Frequency – How often you train
Intensity – How hard your training is
Time – How long you spend training per session
Type – What you do when you train
You should only change one FIIT factor of your training at a time.
We will use an imaginary Brenda as an example.
Over winter Brenda went to the gym 3 times a week for an hour each time. Whilst there she did a gentle warm up on the static bike, followed by 10 minutes each on the static bike, treadmill, and rowing machine. She then spends 15-20 minutes using the weight machines as the gym instructor demonstrated.
Brenda doesn’t really like the gym so when the spring comes around she decides she’d prefer to run. Brenda is sensible and heard about the FITT principle from her therapist at Reset Sports Massage 😉 She asks her therapist to support her to make the change.
Brenda’s therapist recommends Brenda swaps ONE gym session for a running session for the first 2-3 weeks. On her run day Brenda should warm up well at home using mobility and activation exercises (supplied by her therapist). She should then begin by walking for 5 minutes before gradually increasing to a jog or run. Brenda should start with ‘Jeffing’ – a few minutes of jogging or running followed by a few minutes of walking. The duration of each section will depend on her fitness and experience.
Soon, Brenda is ready to increase to 2 runs a week (changing the frequency of her training). But she keeps the intensity, time, and type the same for a few weeks. Once this habit is established, Brenda can start to increase her running. She could either run or jog for a few minutes more before stopping to walk, or perform more sets.
Over time Brenda builds up to a half marathon distance and is very proud of herself. It’s taken some time, but at least she’s stayed injury free!
Sometimes, we’re forced to take time off training due to illness, holidays, work, or injury. In these cases you should try to stay relatively active. Try to take regular short walks (even if it’s just to the loo and back!). Perhaps join some yoga or Pilates classes. Schedule a massage to keep your muscles ready for your return to training.
When you return to training remember you may need to regress for a short time. The extent of regression depends on how long you have been out and for what reason. For example, if it’s been a week due to holiday but you were active while away you may only need to scale a little bit. But if you’ve been on bed rest with the flu for 2 weeks you may want to ease in more gently!
We hope that this post has helped you to understand how to program your training in a sensible and realistic way. If you’d like support in programming your training, speak to your therapist.