Not all injuries can be avoided, there’s just those freak accidents that no amount of training or foresight can prepare you for. However many injuries occur when the your workload exceeds your capacity.
When we refer to workload we are talking about the demands you have been placing on your body which includes not only your training load but work, gardening, moving house, lack of sleep etc.
To put it simply:
WORKLOAD >> CAPACITY == POTENTIAL INJURY
To avoid these injuries you have one of three choices: increase you capacity, decrease the workload or improve your recovery.
Increase Your Capacity
This means increasing the demands your body can tolerate.
Think of it as a number. If your current capacity is 100, your aim is to improve it to 125 or 150 (or higher if your wish)
How? Through training in all of its forms – strength, flexibility, mobility, aerobic training, sports specific skill work etc. The aim of training is to push your body as close to your ‘threshold’ as you can. With each session you may try do just a little more, whether its an extra set or few extra reps. This is called progressive overload and it forces your body to start to adapt and change.
Lets consider another example. You are training for your first marathon, and you’re not really a runner. Your first run shouldn’t be 42km, instead you will start small and slowly build up your running tolerance over a matter of weeks; as a result you are increasing your running capacity. This concept can be applied to simple day to day situations. If you don’t normally garden and all of a sudden you spend a weekend shovelling soil there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have a sore back by the end of it because your body is not accustomed to that amount of activity. On the flip side if you garden regularly you have better capacity to tolerate that type of load and your back may not get sore.
Having a greater ‘capacity’ can help to avoid certain types of injuries because the body is better conditioned to deal with greater loads.
Decrease Workload Accumulation
Decreasing workload might seem like the exact opposite of what we just discussed above BUT WAIT… the key word here is ACCUMULATION. Consider 100 as our capacity again. Each different type of workload represents demand on the body and that accumulates over time with the total being our functional capacity.
- Workout = 40 + House work and gardening = 20 + Work = 20
Which leaves us at 70/100. Then your friend rings and asks you if you can help her move house. You politely oblige and that’s another 40 points. Now your capacity is 110/100 and you wake up the next day with a sore, stiff back. It may not necessarily be the lifting boxes and furniture that caused your back pain but rather an accumulation of that weeks worth of load. What’s the solution? Say no to your friend? Of course not!! It’s more of an awareness thing, firstly to be able to acknowledge that you probably did too much but then also to be able to apply this concept to your training by understanding when you may need back off to protect your body.
A very very very important consideration when trying to avoid injury. RECOVERY.
I feel really strongly about this topic (so much so that I have actually written an entire blog on it which you can find HERE).
Let’s stick with our capacity of 100. Remember workload accumulates, and the sum of the total work is the capacity. Strategies that assist with recovery such as sleep, stretching, massages, dry needling, nutrition, hydration, de load weeks etc can all decrease the workload accumulation. They are essentially like a minus in the workload equation because you are paying back to your body. If you find yourself up near your functional capacity threshold, maybe its time to treat yourself to a massage (we have an amazing massage therapist if you need one!!)
These numbers we have used are arbitrary but I think it just helps break it down into simpler terms. Use some of these strategies and you might just notice some of those niggling aches and pains disappear for good!