It's a somewhat frustrating side effect of training; finding the balance between stressing your body enough to improve, without stressing so much you get sick or injured. In this blog, we will discuss preventing sickness and injury. Some of the information is fairly common place in this COVID world, but worth remembering for when we get back to the 'norm'.
Covered in this blog:
- The fundamentals of preventing sickness and injury
- How others influence your sickness risk
- Why some injuries occur
- Noticing the warning signs of sickness and injury
- Decreasing your sickness and injury risk
The fundamentals of preventing sickness and injury
The more training stress you put your body under, the more likely you are to get sick. You can take precautions; ensuring you eat a balanced diet full of quality ingredients and getting all the necessary macro and micro-nutrients into your body. But, also think about external influences; washing your hands regularly or washing your food before you eat it (even if it says pre-washed).
How others influence your sickness risk
What about other people? Try to identify when your body feels like it will get sick, this can be at the end of a big block of training, after a very tough session or ride, maybe it’s even in your recovery week. Once you know this, can you start to avoid certain influences? Mainly these are other people, especially children. It’s not that hard to do, just consider that if you do get ill, you might have to spend more time at home anyway. If you can’t avoid people, can you simply avoid contact with them? I always tell my athletes that, after they’ve raced, to treat everyone like they have some horrible contagious disease, no handshakes, no hugs and if anyone asks, maybe you’re the one with the slight cold…
Why some injuries occur
Most injuries occur when the body cannot adapt to the stimulus you are putting it under (of course, there is the unpredictable nature of accidents, which we can't always account for). If you cause your body to be under too much stress, with too much volume or intensity, you might become sick or you might suffer an injury. This is where a qualified coach is a valuable asset. Being able to read the warning signs, removing bias and understanding the principle roles of all the body’s systems equate to far less risk of sickness or injury.
Noticing the warning signs of sickness and injury
What are the warning signs? Some are really obvious like a niggle in one of your muscles, maybe a joint is hurting and there’s no reason for that, maybe you just aren’t feeling that great. If you are using a system like TrainingPeaks, you probably have a complete record of all your previous training and injuries. Armed with that you can work out exactly how much training is too much. Maybe you got sick after a very hard week of training. Maybe it is cumulative over a few months. Maybe you skipped the crucial preparation phase after a week or two off the bike. If you don’t have this data, then start saving it! Regular notes on your training and how you feel are gold. Using products like Whoop or an app like HRV4Training can also help you have all the info you need to correlate your injury risk.
Decreasing your injury or sickness risk
What can we do to decrease your injury risk? Start with an adequate stretching routine. Maybe you include some yoga, Pilates or other similar sessions into your training. Maybe your gym strength work also compliments what you have been doing and if you have that previous data, you have an indication of what weaknesses your body might have and areas to strengthen.
The next step up from that would be regular visits to a qualified sports therapist or physiotherapist. These professionals will identify any areas where injuries may occur. A sports therapist will easily be able to tell if your training is imbalanced and they might give you some exercises to take away to work on. Regular sports massages or the use of a foam roller might reduce muscle damage, help flush the lymphatic system and increase the body’s ability to recover.
It’s worth me finalising this blog by saying that nothing is going to guarantee that you don’t get sick or injured, all you can do is take precautions. If you do get sick, you must allow your body time to recover. Seek professional help and be honest with yourself. Too many people train while sick or injured and it causes the issue to get worse. At best you might simply drag out the problem even longer. Try to take 2-3 days getting back into your training for each day you lose. If you lose more than a week, consider starting back at the beginning again and doing another preparation phase.