Injury Prevention: rest with the same intensity that you train

When and why do injuries happen?

The overuse injuries we see commonly occur when the load a tissue is exposed to becomes greater than its tolerance. In other words, it works too hard for too long and breaks down, just like the brakes on your bike. In the body this can manifest as pain, but overworked muscles can also seem excessively tight.

When you train hard you put your body tissues under stress. Micro damage occurs which is normal and your body then works to repair this during rest. Many things can affect your body’s ability to heal or absorb load. Stress, lack of restful sleep and poor diet can all lead to decreased tissue tolerance and a decreased ability to heal.

You can improve your body’s ability to rest or heal by doing some simple things outside of your training:

Diet is extremely important, especially in the 30 minutes after a hard training session. You’re looking to provide your body with what it needs to replenish glycogen (sugar) stores and the building blocks for your muscles, proteins. A 3:1 mix of sugar and protein is a good start and this can be found in many recovery drinks and is conveniently the approximate make up of chocolate milk. Be careful though as some people won’t tolerate dairy too well after a hard session and even more likely during one.

Gentle exercise, active stretching and compression clothing all help to improve your venous return, getting rid of post training metabolites and bringing in new blood allowing repair to take place. Movement is key to decreasing blood pooling in the legs, the action of muscles pump away oedema and metabolites through the veins back to the heart to be filtered away. Delayed onset of muscle soreness or DOMS is a common side effect of hard sessions especially when your body is not well adapted, so cool downs plus active stretches can help to decrease this.

Another effective way to help this healing process is a good sports massage. It shouldn’t be hard for the sake of it, it requires a trained pair of hands to know the correct areas of the body to apply the required pressure. Too much pressure can irritate tissue and you’ll be left feeling sore and groggy for a day or two as your body goes in to a state of inflammation. Regular sports massages or soft tissue treatment can really improve your body’s ability to recover and improve your ability to train harder for longer.

So just remember as you start to up your training this summer, don’t disregard your cool downs, stretches and sports treatments just because you have less time. These aspects complement each other and play just as important a role as the training itself.

So, get resting!

Ricky Davis. 2015. Pure Sports Medicine. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16 March 15].

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