Avoiding Injury After a Training Break
There is no doubt it seems to be harder to train in the colder months. Motivation wanes, it’s cold and dark. We get it. Too often we see our community take large breaks in their training, only to return and sustain an injury in the first few sessions back. Throw in a dose of Covid-19 and your training regime can go south pretty quickly! We want to give you our top 5 tips to avoid injury and how to resume training after an extended training break.
Regardless of the cause of the training break (holiday, injury, laziness, Covid-19), the strategy to resume training depends on the length of your break.
Up to 3 days: Avoiding Injury scale: Low
No big deal, this is not even a break. Treat it as recovery time. Feel free to jump back into your usual training process, but don’t try to compensate for skipped sessions by doing more. This is a sure-fire way to injure yourself, and we are all about avoiding injuries. A good idea is to take the first day a bit easier. Ease back into your program.
One week: Avoiding Injury: Low
Still, not much fitness is lost. Athletes can get back into the original training schedule and still maintain the same intensity. However, do adjust the first week by reducing both volume and intensity by approximately 30%. This gives your body a chance to ease back into training and keep the chance of avoiding an injury high! Note – you may feel a bit sore after your sessions. So a focus on your recovery is essential. Ensuring your body is ready for your next session will also help you avoid injury.
Two and more weeks: Avoiding Injury: Moderate / High!
That’s what I call an extended training break. At this point, athletes need to re-plan their training and adjust the goal. We may also need to look at the “why” there was a gap in training. Sickness or injury is very common. If it was boredom with your program or motivation this need to be addressed. Ensuring you are enjoying your exercise program will also help you maintain your routine and hopefully see you avoiding injury.
Step #1: Addressing Mobility.
The thing that suffers the most from periods of inactivity is mobility. The less we use the full range of motion of our joints the more the body restricts it over time. Having great mobility is vital in avoiding injury.
And that has a direct effect on all areas of performance. It causes muscle tightness, lack of freedom of movement, inability to apply maximum power, and premature fatigue.
Tight and restricted muscles don’t transport oxygen well. So, athletes with a lack of mobility can’t perform to their full potential. In fact, moving at high intensity with a lack of mobility often results in injuries. Avoiding injury upon you return to sport should be high on our priority list. As this will further impact your return to sport.
Therefore, the first thing athletes need to do when coming back from a training break, is to address mobility issues. Test every joint through a full range of motion and notice any restrictions. Is there any tightness, clicking sounds, pain?
If there are, prioritize those areas. Spend time focusing on improving these restrictions. Often Osteopathic treatment can help. We can guide you and how best to work these restricted joints and develop a management plan.
On top of that, something like a yoga or pilates class or performing a short yoga sequence on your own every day will do wonders to improve overall mobility and create a strong foundation.
Step #2: Regaining Stability & Strength
Because our bodies are great at optimizing and don’t want to carry the weight they don’t need, they decrease the size of the muscles they don’t use. As a result, periods of inactivity – be it due to a sedentary lifestyle or injury – cause muscle atrophy.
While it’s obvious that we’ll lose, for instance, leg strength if we don’t run or squat much, that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest risk for athletes comes from stabilizing muscles our core stability muscles.
These muscles make sure joints move efficiently and support prime movers (legs, back, chest) to produce maximum power. All of that allows you to tolerate more training load, promotes efficient movement patterns and makes you faster and more efficient.
For example, weak posterior chain muscles cause our body to ‘hunch’ forward and can lead to pain in the shoulder, back and neck.
In fact, top athletes spend lots of time in the off-season to work on these muscles to help them in avoiding injury.
After a training break, muscles will lose not only maximum strength but also their conditioning. So, it’s best to come back to basics.
Step #3: Re-building endurance
Endurance is how long you can maintain the same power output and is directly related to the number of mitochondria ( our powerhouse) in our muscles. The higher the mitochondrial density of the muscle, the faster it can produce energy and the longer it will take until it starts to accumulate fatigue.
Out of all three – endurance, mobility, strength – it’s the first one to suffer from a training break.
On the positive side, though, it takes much less time to build endurance than to build strength or resolve mobility issues.
There are 2 ways to train endurance – long aerobic efforts and short high-intensity efforts.
It’s important, however, not to overdo it and finish the session feeling strong – not beaten up. Mitochondria grow within 24 hours after a session, so with a smart schedule, it’s possible to build endurance in a rather short amount of time.
Are you looking to achieve peak fitness? Are you looking at avoiding an injury? Or are preparing for a specific adventure? Maybe you are looking to finally fix some of those nagging injuries that keep holding you back? Whatever your goals are, we can help you develop a balanced training plan and rehabilitation any areas of concern. Feel free to reach out. We are here to help.