With GAA clubs playing again after the period of lockdown, athletes across the country are stepping up their training. But when increasing levels of activity after many weeks of rest, you don't want to incur an injury that might put you out of action again and stop you from training at all.
Sports medics and physios know that prevention is better than cure. Their advice is to take things slowly and steadily, following a training schedule that will gradually build you up to peak levels of fitness without pushing your body too hard. Here are a few tips that will help you gradually raise your game and return to your pre-lockdown level of fitness, without risking injury.
One of the most common causes of sports injuries after a period of inactivity is pushing your body too hard and too fast. Work a fitness professional in your club who can help you to draw up a training timetable that will gradually boost your levels of fitness or you can find a range of training programmes online. Remember to allow rest days in between sessions.
As well as eating a balanced, nutritious diet that includes all the major food groups, give your energy levels a boost by eating a light meal between half an hour to one hour before exercising.
Hydration is another important factor. As well as drinking water while training to keep the muscles well hydrated, making sure you take in enough fluid is equally important during recovery periods.
Getting into a routine that gives you good quality sleep is essential for both mind and body. Deep sleep helps to repair any minor injury and speeds up the recovery process after exercise.
If your training schedule means that you’re clocking up more running miles, consider gait analysis. By analysing a video of your gait while running on a treadmill, experts can identify any problems such as pronation, where the foot tends to roll inwards as it strikes the ground. You can then choose running or sports shoes with the right level of support that will reduce the chance of shin splints and other injuries.
If you’re eating properly, a good diet should supply all the nutrients you need. However, when training, it can be helpful to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Calcium builds healthy bones and Vitamin D helps the body to absorb it.
Especially important if you have previously suffered an injury, strength and flexibility training will not only build up strength but will also lower the risk of the injury recurring. A cross-training session is a useful method of building up strength. By focusing on different sets of muscles in turn, you can push yourself a bit harder without increasing the chance of injury. Another option is to vary the type of exercise from one day to the next - for example, cycling on one day, running or swimming the next.
While it is often tempting to push through the pain barrier when you’re regaining fitness, athletes must learn the difference between what is aching because of hard work and what is hurting because of injury. You should never ignore a pain in your knee, your shin or your foot as this can lead to a more serious injury that could take a long time to heal. Listen to your body and slow down or rest.
Lastly, always warm-up before a workout and don't forget to warm-down afterwards. For most players, this will involve performing a set of stretches. This will warm up your muscles ready for working hard and stretching after your exercise will help to carry away toxins and promote recovery.
When returning to a more intense training timetable, looking after your health is vital. By including these tips into your training plan, you should quickly return to your former levels of fitness while reducing the risk of post-lockdown injury.