The weather is warming up all around Australia and both summer sports and winter sport pre-seasons are now getting underway. Safety on return to play and training is paramount, particularly after interrupted winter programs due to Australia wide restrictions on participation.
There are a few very important things to consider when returning to your chosen sport or area of physical activity given the way your body’s tolerance to most activities will have been reduced through the last 6 months.
Good preparation is important as well as gradual build up of load so that your body has the best chance of coping. Good technique through training sessions will help you prevent injury. The following points should go a long way to reducing your risk of injury on return to sport/activity/play.
- Active warm up and warm down, made up mostly of the movements and actions that you expect to need for your session, are very protective for your body.
- Hydration prior to training will reduce the likelihood of dehydration. Dehydration can impact both your physical and psychological performance through increasing heart rate, impairing aerobic performance, impairing judgement and reaction times as well as increasing the likelihood of cramps and impacting recovery.
- Avoid too much too soon. Your brain will attempt telling you that you can ‘pick up where you left off’. Unfortunately, the tissues involved in training don’t completely agree. Tissue tolerance requires regular and graduated load for safe tolerance. With that in mind, return to training at a level lower than your last regular session, listen to your body after exercise and aim to increase your following session guided by how you felt the day after your session.
- Program some active rest days into your program that involve exercises and activities different to the weight bearing exercise that makes up the majority of your training. Cross training sessions including bike/spin sessions, swimming (once you’re allowed to) and rowing machine or upper body ergo machines are a great way to get your heart pumping without pounding your legs too much.
- Don’t be afraid to reduce your session if you are feeling vulnerable or are experiencing pain more than training discomfort. Excellent that you want to ‘push’, however if you exert yourself past your point and pain and cause damage or an injury you’ll be missing at least a few sessions after. Listen to your body, pain can be a sign that your body is not adapting to your exercise load. You are far better to reduce your current session as required so that you are able to continue consistent training. Little bits of training regularly are far better than a lot of training rarely.
- Include strengthening exercises and mobility training with your sport specific sessions. There is no doubt that sport specific training sessions are fantastic for game day prowess. These in conjunction with a well rounded stability and strength program will reduce your risk of injury and have you running rings around your competition that have only been completing sport specific drills.
- Gradually reintroduce different surfaces, footwear and changes of direction. Similar to gradually increasing training volume, surfaces, footwear and twisting and turning all create different forces on the body. Start slow with a couple of minutes at the end of your session and increase the amount of the variables as the weeks go by.
- Consult your local physiotherapist or health professional should you experience any discomfort or dysfunction that is limiting your output. A well directed return to sport program can be money well spent in saving you lost time with injury and improving your function.