When people talk shop about performance training, they rarely want to broach the ever-so-sexy topic of injury prevention. It’s a subject that can goes hand and hand with maximizing performance, but seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the training family. However as the level of competition grows, so does the likelihood of that stepchild hitting you where it hurts for ignoring it for so long.
With that being said, I’m going to give you 5 tips that will help you keep your health meter full throughout the season.
1. Don’t Be Stupid.
I think this goes without saying, but the internet has warped my perception of what man-kind is capable of when left to their own vices during training. Things that I would classify as stupid and could possibly cause injury:
-Replicating sport-specific movements under load to help with, “speed.” (i.e. pulling on a cable column like you’re throwing a baseball)
-Plyometric drills to fatigue
-Use of ankle weights in running/agility drills
-Going to a Justin Bieber concert
-Or any of these:
2. Avoid Overtraining.
3. Recovery Work
A big reason that a lot of athletes end up with a trashed body by the end of their season is that they neglect their recovery work. This does not mean that they aren’t resting, it means that they are not recovering their movement. Throwing 9 innings or playing a weekend-long volleyball tournament is going to result in A LOT of repetitive movements that may cause some asymmetries or loss of joint function. Having a, “shake out” session of just general movement and mobility to try and rescind those deficits can keep your body out of harm's way.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated workout. It can merely be comprised of breathing drills, soft tissue work, some mobility drills and a few crawl variations. Ensure there are NO SPORT SPECIFIC MOVEMENTS. The purpose of this recovery session is to give your body a very general stimulus that will maintain joint and subsystem function. This will help to “reset” your body and mind to prevent negative adaptations from competing.
I could argue that one of the major factors in a plethora of injuries is having poor breathing patterns, but I’m sure no one is really interested in listening to me nerd out. What you do need to know is that the diaphragm is a very important muscle for your core. And I definitely shouldn’t need to explain the importance of your core. If you aren’t utilizing it correctly, you aren’t going to be able to move correctly. Do all the thoracic mobility or hip mobility drills you want, if your core sucks, then everything else will too.
During competition, you’re going to see a lot of athletes with auxiliary breathing patterns (breathing through their chests and necks) and this is ok when you are being taxed and really pushing it. BUT, if this becomes your primary method of breathing, even when at rest, then we’ve got some issues. This is usually the case for in-season athletes as they are constantly competing or keeping up their conditioning. So it is highly imperative that an intervention is implemented to prevent auxiliary breathing from becoming the dominant breathing pattern. One exercise that I like for this is below. I’d recommend trying to do it 1-2x a day, especially for in-season athletes.
5. Warm Up Appropriately
People skip warm-ups waaaaay too much, and if they don’t skip it, they half-ass it. The warm up is an integral part of the workout or competition that should prep the individual for movement. Not only is it working on mobility, and (if it’s a good warm up) activation of dormant muscles, but it even has important physiological effects. As your body becomes warm, blood viscosity decreases, allowing for it to flow more efficiently to the muscles being taxed. The warm up serves to elevate your body temperature without over-taxing your muscles so that when in competition, your body is primed for response.
The warm up also allows for the athlete to prepare themselves mentally. They should be psychologically switching from John Doe, Junior at Belmont High, to John Doe, Czar of PR’s. The warm up is when the athletes should leave their worries of day-to-day life and only concentrate on the task at hand.
Start applying these 5 tips to your training regimen and you’ll see that that red-headed stepchild can actually offer a lot on the performance side as well.