Frequently I get asked if there are particular times of the year where my work is extra busy. There sure are, and one of them is just about to come up. It is the same, year after year, and it typically starts around the third week of January and runs through February. What could be the reason for this injury season?
Typically we completely overestimate our body’s ability to adapt to new changes when it comes to fitness. Often we are not realistic about where our current fitness level is. We tend to focus on strength and speed and forget about any other component, like the importance of flexibility, and having full range of movement. You may have been the superstar athlete back in school, and that is awesome! But, if you haven’t continuously taken care of your body during the last 10 or 20 years, you cannot expect to jump right back into your old work out routines. And if you do, you should not be surprised if (when) you get injured.
Let’s use “Sarah” as an example of what it typically looks like. Sarah is in her late 30’s, has a desk job, used to be really sporty but has completely gotten out of her routine in the last year(s). She makes a New Years Resolution to get fit again, and to get back into a routine. She is super motivated and starts with running 5 times a week between 30-60minutes, even though she hasn’t really been running in the last year. She doesn’t warm up or cool down, because she doesn’t have time for that. Besides you get warm while running, right?! The same goes for mobility work. It’s only running, right? It’s not like she she going to do gymnastics or anything, so it cannot be that important.
Towards the end of January Sarah shows up at my practice. She tells me that she has been taking ibuprofen and that helped her through last weeks training sessions, but now it’s not enough to help her with the pain. She has low back pain, her left knee is sore when she runs and she thinks she might have heel-spurs, as her feet are painful. Upon examination it is very clear that her hipflexors, quads, and calves are super tight, and she does not have proper range of motion in several joints.
I will talk to her about the importance of slowly increasing the intensity and duration of a training program. And also the importance of a warm up, cool down, mobility work, nutrition and hydration.This typically goes in one of two ways.
#1. Sarah actually listens, makes the needed adjustments, and starts with a less intense training program after 10 days of active recovery and mobility work. She took a look at her nutrition and hydration. She added some strength training, is working on her running technique and does daily mobility work. I see Sarah about once a month for preventative work, and am happy to hear that she has registered for a half marathon in 5 months time. She is using the Nike Run App to help her prepare correctly.
Scenario #2. After the treatment Sarah feels better and decides to “test her body” on a long run to make sure everything is alright. Towards the end of the run she is in pain again. She goes to the Doctor and gets anti-inflammatory drugs and is not allowed to run for at least 14 days. On the 15th day she goes out to “test her body” again, but is not able to finish her run as the pain is back. She goes back to the Doctor, who gives her another round of anti-inflammatory drugs, and says that if this continues she will need injections and potentially surgery. After a few weeks on this roller coaster Sarah gives up on sports and concludes that she is just too old, unlucky, and there is nothing she can do about it.
This is just one example, but I see it all the time. We all think that we are immune to injury until it happens to us. This year, why not be smart about your New Years Resolutions. Get yourself a good coach who can help you, or use Apps like Nike Run and Nike Training to help you out at YOUR CURRENT level. Be honest with yourself here! Make a plan for the long run and slowly increase your training. Make sure that you add all the other components to being a great athlete, like warming up, mobility, hydration etc. Be kind to your body and give it a chance to adapt.
If you are interested in some serious goal setting, then check out this video with Coach Ben Bergeron.
I wish you all an excellent start to the New Year 😉