No Shortcuts. Blog from Hey Mama Movements in house Physiotherapist.
Sounds easy right? One of the number one reasons that bring people in for treatment is training error. Injuries or niggles that are caused by going too hard and too fast. Missing steps. Taking shortcuts. We get inspired, and on a mission, we want to be fit, lean, strong, and NOW!
What we often do not consider is that the person you admire or that inspired you is on a totally different journey to you. Has a different training base. Different goals. Different motivations. A different level of fitness or strength to you.
This is where you need to be real about where you are at. And understand what working hard looks and feels like - at your level.
No one wants to be injured. We know that injuries are one of the reasons that people stop exercising or participating in sport. But the good news is that you can minimise your risk of sustaining an injury! Injuries are often are a case of bad management… and not always just down to bad luck.
With good planning, gradual increases in activity and a balance in the type of exercise that you do, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting injured.
The principles are the same - wherever you are on your training/exercise journey.
Listen to your body
Have a rest day.
Elite athletes have a rest day from training and so should you! Your body needs at least one rest/recovery day a week, especially if you are doing a lot of higher intensity training/exercise or just starting out.
Don’t feel bad about having a day off – this is when the magic happens! It is during the recovery periods that your body works away at adapting to the training that you have done - so that it can tolerate more over time! But don’t have too much time off or there will be nothing to stimulate your body to change!!
If you are just starting out or have changed the type of exercise that you are doing it is quite normal to have some muscle soreness. This usually occurs the day after your exercise session and should settle within 24-48 hours. Doing a hard, high intensity session whilst still having muscle soreness is not ideal – switch that HIIT session for a walk, yoga, pilates or a rolling and stretching session.
Have a plan
Plan your week.
Most of the time we know what is coming in the week ahead. Sometimes we don’t. Things change and I get that. I often used my ‘busy-ness’ as my excuse for not prioritising my own exercise. It was easy to let this fall off the schedule into the abyss and then boom 2 weeks, 2 months, a year would pass, and I had done nothing. There are loads of strategies to keep you accountable. The biggest key here to remember, when considering reducing your risk of getting injured is that consistency is key.
Your body adapts to what it gets used to. When there is a sudden and significant change to your activity level, this is when you are at most risk of getting injured. So, the stop start approach to training opens you up to having a higher injury risk.
On the flip side if you are super keen and go nuts and do a huge amount of training in a short time frame without giving your body a chance to recover and adapt to the training you are doing, you are also increasing your injury risk. Rip S^&t and……. Bust.
The Sweet Spot.
What we want is a so called ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to exercise and training. Nope, sorry this is not a sweet treat to have after training, but a term coined by Dr Tim Gabbett a strength and conditioning and exercise physiologist researcher, to describe the ideal training balance that minimises injury risk (1).
In basic terms – if you do too little your risk of injury goes up, if you do too much (compared to your previous months activity level) your injury risk also goes up. There is a happy medium in the middle where you do more activity than the week before, but only just!
For example – if you normally exercise three times a week and want to increase how many sessions you do either add one more session a week OR increase the intensity of the sessions you already do, NOT both. Or if you suddenly jump to 5 or 6 sessions a week (when your normal is 3 x a week) your body won’t have had a chance to adapt to that level of activity and is at much higher risk of sustaining an injury.
Mix it up
Your body needs time to recover from the stresses that you put on it during an exercise session. Consider both intensity and the type of training you are doing as ways to ‘mix it up’
Intensity – mix it up! – exercise sessions do not all need to be hard to get results! There should be a mix of easy, moderate and hard sessions throughout your week.
Type of Training – mix it up! – variation in the type of activities you do really challenges your body. It is great to have a mix of a few different activites i.e high intensity interval sessions (HIIT), strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, walking, running (the list really is endless).
The basic advice here is don’t do only one type of activity over and over and over and over again – add in some variation to the week by picking a complementary type of activity - I’m certainly not suggesting that you need to fit in all of the different activity types in a week!
An example training week
The example below shows how you can balance your week. The two harder sessions in the week (Monday and Saturday) are a reasonable time apart to allow for adequate recovery. A lighter session is usually the day after a harder one. There is a rest day.
What those sessions are is totally up to you and what type of exercise/activity you enjoy!
Monday 9/10 intensity
Tuesday 3/10 intensity
Thursday 6/10 intensity
Friday 4/10 intensity
Saturday 7/10 intensity
Sunday 2/10 intensity
Putting it all together
Get out your calendar and lock in your plan! Your week should have a mix of different types of activities that vary in how hard they are and a rest day every week. Then be consistent with your training week to week, gradually increase (if that is what you want to do!). No Shortcuts. By having a plan and considering the above principles you have already reduced your risk of getting injured!
- Gabbett TJ The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? British Journal of Sports Medicine 2016; 50:273-280.