When we start a training programme, there’s a reasonable expectation that the result of our efforts will be improved fitness, energy and a reduction in body fat levels.
However, things don’t always go according to plan and there will be times when illness and injury will slow down or even halt our progress.
At times like that, it can be very frustrating to have to take a break from training – especially when you’re enjoying it and starting to see some positive results. When this happens, it can sometimes be hard to get back the motivation that got you started in the first place.
On the basis that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, we can look at some ways to help prevent illness and injury.
Make Sure the Training is Appropriate for You
Weight-Training, running, cycling and swimming are all great ways to get fit and strong – as long as you’re training at the level that’s right for your current strength and fitness. Attempting to lift something that’s too heavy for you, or running or cycling further than you can manage are injuries just waiting to happen.
Get a Balanced Programme
In the gym, some people pick up injuries from doing the same exercises on a regular basis. In the case of some lads, there’s a tendency to over-use the bench press and other chest/“push” exercises. These tend to be done to the exclusion of back/ “pull” movements. This can cause an imbalance in the muscles of the upper body and often leads to poor posture and shoulder injury.
A similar issue can happen with runners and cyclists who are doing a lot of hours per week, working on the same movement pattern. In the case of runners the problem can be worse due to the force of impact while training, especially for long distance events. Cyclists can often develop lower back as well as shoulder/neck issue from holding the same posture for hours at a time.
In all of the above cases, it is very important that some part of the weekly training plan should be given to restoring balance in the body. This can include strength exercises for the muscles that are being neglected as well as stretching/flexibility work for the over-used muscle groups.
Monitor Your Recovery
Training breaks you down and it’s only through proper recovery that you will come back stronger and fitter. There are many forms of recovery including massage, compression garments, ice baths and stretching. They are all useful but I believe that the 2 best recovery methods are food and sleep. They are probably overlooked because they don’t seem as “cutting edge” as some of the other methods. However, without them you’ll end up with less impressive results and may even end up sick and injured.
Anybody who is training on a regular basis should aim to have a protein and carbohydrate recovery meal or drink after every training session. They will also do best on 7 to 9 hours sleep every night.
I use an assessment form with my clients on which they give a score for quality of sleep, appetite and willingness to train. These are all good indicators of the individual’s level of recovery and will let me know if they are ready to train hard again. If they score too low, it will be a waste of time putting them through a training session, so they get the day off to have more rest!
Listen to Your Body
Assessment forms are great and will give a measureable score in a few different categories. However, if you’re so tired that you can barely get out of bed or if it feels like it would be easier to eat a barbell rather than lift one, then you don’t need an assessment form to tell you that you shouldn’t train.
Sometimes we mightn’t feel great at the start of a session but as soon as we get moving everything starts to kick in. Other days, it just won’t happen. On days like this, just listen to what your body is telling you and leave the goals and training programme to one side and focus on getting better.
Making sure that your training programme is balanced and that you are getting the right quality and quantity of sleep and nutrition will help reduce your chances of picking up illnesses and injury and get you closer to those training goals.