Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring and Summer Are On The Way; Hello Exercise Injuries

Ahh spring.. Birds singing, fresh air that doesn't freeze your face off, the sweet sound of snapping tendons, and cry's of agony from athletes sustaining muscle injuries.

While most Canadians, in fact most people around the entire globe, don't exercise much, there is still a small steady growth in people who do exercise who are starting to get more interested in taking their fitness to a higher level.

Whether a high school or university athlete or a 30 to 60 something recreational athlete, more of the active crowd are taking part in more demanding exercises. Which is great.  It feels really rewarding to experience the fitness gains from high performance training.

For the general exerciser, spring and summer see more physical activity than winter.

In Canada leisure-time physical activity is 86% more likely in the summer than in the winter. (1)

My most difficult challenge as a coach is not getting sports enthusiasts and athletes to put time into training, the challenge is getting them to recognize when to go easier and placing importance on mastering the basics, avoiding overreaching, and injury prevention.

Here are some interesting stats:

  • High school students who play sports all year long have a 42% increase risk of overuse injury, and potentially had the greatest reduction in injury risk by taking one season completely off from sports each year. (2)

  • 1st year college/ university swimmers were more likely to become injured than later year college/ university swimmers. The reason is thought to be too rapid of a transition to more demanding training and competition. (3)

  • Pro rugby players have significantly more injuries when they did more strength training or more field training. (4)

  • Overuse (training too much) accounted for 68% of preseason and 78% of competition season injuries in triathletes (5), and a training volume of around 8-10 hours per week seemed to be associated with fewer injuries compared to greater or fewer training hours for triathletes (6). 

This spring, whatever activity you're into, put a lot of that enthusiasm into easy and progressive basic training.  It's a slow start, but if we can learn to associate the reward of greater future performance, we can really connect with the value of a progressive long term plan.  Go easy now so can you can go harder later, when it means more.

Muscle strength imbalances are very common, and cause plenty of performance and movement impairments.  These strength imbalances are insidious; we don't really feel them, and most people don't really know what they are and are aloof to these gremlins doing dirty deeds affecting hip mechanics, core stability, and muscle coordination.

The first step is getting assessed.  Look for a coach or trainer who knows how to do a movement screen or basic technique analyses.  They'll run you through a series of movement challenges to look for knees going the wrong way, lumbar and pelvis instability, and poor movement patterns due to either strength imbalances, old bad habits, old injuries, or insufficient range of motion (inflexibility).

Your exercise plan will then be built on the results of these tests with the goal of progressing you from the prehab/ rehab stage, to full on performance training.  Be ready to devote up to 8 months or more to this process before really hitting training hard on all cylinders.

Yes, 8 months or more.  I know.. I just lost 95% of people who may have been buying into this.

"I don't have 8 months.  The season starts in 8 weeks".  The only real response I can provide that has any resonance or reason are the research results I've linked here.  They all demonstrate that training too much too soon results in injury, and that more focus should be placed on building gradually as performance allows.

We've developed a consumer mentality towards increasing performance.  We think we can demand someone sell us a program that supplants the longer path to performance with a short cut.  We're so accustom to this we now think the short cuts are the real deal and the idea of long term gains is an uninformed concept.  The thing is we can't apply our consumer demands to our DNA or our cells biological processes that dictate adaptation to exercise.

We can use our consumer power to get a lower price for buying more volume, or even go high end and demand a product be custom made to our ideal demands. But that only works for things that can be easily formed the way we want.  Human biology on other hand is what it is.  You can't lay down $100.00 and expect muscle cells to absorb the money and subsequently get bigger or stronger.

You could argue that for dopers this is sort of how it works; they buy illegal drugs that do manipulate the natural response to exercise.  But for the rest of us it's up to us learn the natural capacity of our bodies to respond to exercise then model our exercise based on that understanding.  We have to be humble enough to accept that this is the way it is, and also disciplined and excited enough to reap the benefits of the long term approach.

There is a limited sweet spot for training intensity and progress that our cells can respond to.  Go beyond that, and we're simply exceeding our cells ability to adapt and no matter how loud a trainer yells at your muscles, or how much you paid for the latest training gimmick, it won't do a damn thing.

Let's step back from that and tune into how fit we really are or aren't, learn about our specific strengths and weaknesses, and follow a long term injury and overuse resistant program.

I've seen it over and over: six to eight months of correcting muscle imbalances and getting back to basics catapults a persons following seasons to a higher level of performance.  Nothing motivates like success and once we get passed this current trend of over-doing it and experience the success that comes with healthy long term exercise plans, more of us will be motivated to take it easy more often.

Taking it easy when it counts is what allows us to maximize performance when it counts.

1. Seasonal variation in leisure-time physical activi... [Can J Public Health. 2007 May-Jun] - PubMed result

2. Overuse injuries in high school athletes. [Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2010] - PubMed result

3. Injury patterns in Division I collegiate swimming. [Am J Sports Med. 2009] - PubMed result

4.  Relationship between training load and injury in p... [J Sci Med Sport. 2011] - PubMed result

5. Factors associated with triathlon-related overuse ... [J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003] - PubMed result

6. Training patterns and sports injuries in triathlet... [J Sci Med Sport. 2004] - PubMed result

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