Easy tips to avoid early season injuries!

Training in preparation for…Training?

We know to warm up and stretch before we play or race, so it should make sense that we need to prepare our bodies before a tough season.  This is especially true when we return from an extended period of time off.  In a seasonal sense, most of us take a break in the winter months to recover and rest.  In some cases the time off may even be YEARS.  So why should you train before you train?

Anyone who has suffered an early season injury will tell you that it can take the wind out of your sail.  You’ve set your goals for your biggest and best season and the excitement and motivation levels are overflowing.  The only thing is that someone forgot to tell your body to be in peak season shape.  The truth is, it’s very common to see overuse injuries start during this time.  It may not make a lot of sense that you would have an overuse injury at the start of the season versus towards the end of the season (after the body has gotten beaten up from multiple games, matches and races).  Consider this.  Tendonitis (inflammation of the muscle tendon) occurs NOT just when there has been a high load or volume of work placed on the body.  There is a greater likelihood of suffering tendonitis when the load on the body has suddenly increased whether in volume or intensity.  Take your pick: rotator cuff impingement, shin splints, jumper’s knee, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow.  All of these conditions are associated with inflamed tissue that could have been avoided if proper precautions were taken to prepare the body for more intense training.

Ideally, competitive athletes should be on a supervised year-long periodized training program.  This means you are trained for peak performance at the time of your biggest or most important game/match/race and that there is a time in the year for cross training and relative rest and recovery.   The truth is, many athletes and weekend warriors don’t have time to train all year long.  So what then?  Here are some easy tips to sidestep those early season injuries:

1)   Stretch!  Having optimal flexibility will ensure optimal joint range of motion in that throwing shoulder or those running calves or cycling hips and low back or jumping knees. 

2)   Weight train!  Progressively loading the muscles and tendons with controlled resistance is a great transition from being sedentary or less active.  You’re preparing the muscles and tendons to handle the stress and strain of the tough training to come.  Essentially, you are training in preparation for …training. 

Whether you train through an early season injury or take the time to rehab it with a physical therapist, the ideal scenario is prevention.  Taking the time to train in preparation for your training season will be gift to your body.  Any seasoned athlete will tell you, staying injury-free is as important to a great season as the training itself!