Unfortunately, injuries and sport go hand in hand. The odds are if you run, ride or do any form of sport you will at some point encounter one.
But, while they cannot be prevented, the risk of them can be reduced with a proper strength and conditioning programme.
This blog entry will look at two common types of injury, one in a cycling context and the other in a running context. However they are both transferrable.
Let's get into it:
Short story: How does strength training reduce injury risk?
In short, strength training builds muscle around the body, it increases in size (not massively) but it also increases in stronger tendons and ligaments. Ultimately increasing the resistance they have to repetitive strain and impact.
Now, let's dig further into that:
In the sport of cycling (on and off road) impact injuries happen. At some point on the bike your are going to hit something. And most of the time what you hit will be stronger than your body, trees, rocks and cars for example.
Having a layer of muscle around your exposed areas and help your body absorb these impacts, while regular strength training helps you to condition your joints and connective tissue.
Strength training can also help improve your bodies range of motion, perfect for when you crash and land in a funny angle. Having a strong body not only increases cycling performance but it can also reduce the risk of injury from the above.
So, if you are new to training, what exercises should you do to help reduce injury risk?
I would 100% recommend focusing on the upper body. Particularly the muscles in the chest, shoulders, upper and lower back.
While legs are very important for cycling performance we are talking injuries here.
These muscles and joints are what will soak up a lot of impact. For example:
I had a pretty scary nose bonk on a step up yesterday that could have easily lead to an over the bars. It hurt, I could feel the impact all the way down my lats (side of my body) and my shoulders. I am also 100% confident if I didn't have the upper body strength to move my weight back and stay back on impact I would have been over the bars.
The exercises for this don't even have to be complicated, press ups, tricep dips, shoulder presses and lateral raises are all great starting points.
If you want to go further, invest in a set of resistance bands like you see pictured below. These are incredible tools for strength training and are very cost effective.
So, to summarise then:
Strength training benefits the bodies resistance to impact, it can also improve range of movement, this reduces the risk of crash damage from landing in awkward positions.
You don't have to train heavy and can use your own bodyweight to start you off.
or. at the very least, get some resistance bands for about £30 off amazon and you
will have a very effective set up.
Impact injuries happen, but you can do things to reduce the risk.
Now, let's cover running, and repetitive strain.
If I said the words tennis elbow to you, I bet you would have a certain idea of what I was talking about?
Tennis elbow is an elbow pain that people who play racket sports, or lift heavy weights can get if they do not manage their body properly.
It is essentially caused by too much of the same movement, without any movements that strengthen other areas around a joint up.
In running. This can come in the form of shin splints, shin splints are an incredibly painful experience that are caused by high impact road running (or hard ground in the winter).
While you can buy special socks to help with this. It isn't a prevention, and is more a means to skirt around the problem. So, how can you actually reduce the risk of shin splints with training?
Aside from regular strength training, the solution is the problem itself.
Conditioning your body to impact with plyometric exercises like box jumps, box landings, squat jumps, single leg hops (hopscotch) and such.
If you don't have access to a box due to gyms being closed. Find a park bench, your stairs, drop off your decking. Have a think about elevated surfaces near your that you could use.
Conditioning the body to impact improves the strength of the connective tissue in the joints that take the hits while you run.
I would also look into your routes and pace. Look at your running technique and analyse how you move.
But from a training perspective the above would do runners the world of good.
So, to summarise:
Repetitive strain comes from constant hammering of the same joint. Is very common in runners in the form of shin splints and can be remedied and the risk of it reduced by strength training, and doing basic plyometric work.
When it comes to injuries, you can't ever fully prevent them. They are a part of sport. But, you can significantly reduce the risk of them by correctly conditioning your body for your sport.
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Have a great day.