The causes of sports injuries are often complex and multifactorial. But training error has to be one of the most common contributing factors.
These errors are often easy to spot with hindsight but being aware of them at the time can save you a lot of pain and frustration.
Here are a few of the most common ones I see in my clinic and a few tips on how to avoid them!
Too far, too fast, too quickly, too hilly, too often.
This one is super easy to do, especially when full of enthusiasm! Sometimes just one of these can be enough to cause a "spike" in training volume and cause all sorts of problems from muscle and tendon injuries as well as bony stress injuries.
Often when you dig into someone's training they haven't just increased one factor but multiple factors simultaneously, such as longer run, at a quicker pace with more elevation. Be aware of these and avoid changing too much or too many at once.
Also, having a training plan can help to give structure to your progression. This is best if it is individualised to you and your health/goals, but generic ones can give a useful framework too.
A plan can be helpful to structure your training as stated above.
That said, sticking too rigidly to the plan can be a problem. I see this commonly in beginners and also very competitive people.
A classic scenario would be starting couch 2 5K (which I broadly think is brilliant by the way!), people dogmatically follow each week, even if they find it painful and overwhelmingly difficult and would be better to repeat the previous week again. At the other end of the spectrum, experienced competitive athletes who have a great ability to grind out sessions often push through when they would be better to listen to their bodies and do an easier/recovery session instead.
View a programme as a guide, not a rulebook and allow some flexibility into the system.
Often people view their training as separate from the rest of their lives, and for many, it is an escape from it!
However, as a human being, you need to view yourself as more of an ecosystem, and for training to be effective and sustainable you need to consider the rest of your life and how that impacts on your training. Illness, poor sleep, poor nutrition and hydration, lack of overall movement and stress can all play havoc with your body so having strategies to optimise those can be helpful. Being aware of those factors can also help you to modify your training when needed.
At the other end of the spectrum to the “too rigid” folk are the inconsistent folk – I’m in this gang!
People lead increasingly busy lives and it is hard to prioritise training when there is a whole heap of other things to do. Doing ad hoc sessions can lead to a lack of progression and sudden increases in training load that can lead to injury.
Planning can help here to maximise your time, along with being creative with your training – could you run/cycle back from the school run, do a quick HIIT or Yoga session in your lunch break, do a home workout after the kids have gone to bed, or run whilst the kid's cycle for example? Having a goal and accountability can also help here, so sign up for that event you’ve always wanted to do or organise exercising in a class or with a friend as it’s harder to put it off for another day then.
Most people who exercise will have made some or all of these (and more!) errors in their training at some point. As I said at the beginning, they are often obvious when you look back, but they are all so easy to do.
Mistakes are not inherently bad, it’s often how we learn our most valuable lessons but repeating them can be frustrating.
When you pick up a niggle or injury, look back through training data, review your training plan and recovery strategies and see if there is anything you can change. Work with professionals where possible to help you understand how training, recovery and rehab principles apply to your individual body and circumstances to keep fit, healthy and active in the long term.
Remember that ultimately you are an individual, learn to listen to your body and don’t be afraid to adjust training when necessary.