Slow and steady wins the race!

Winter is fast approaching and the return of cold weather activities is imminent. With this change in skilled movement, appropriate training is required to help prevent injury and ensure a smooth transition into the level of sport you want. We have to consider the amount of load we can tolerate and the capacity of our body to manage that load. Load is the amount of strain applied to our body in the muscles, bones, tendons and our tissue capacity is our ability to withstand a certain amount of strain.

You can help prevent injuries when:

LOAD < CAPACITY

The ideal balance of load and capacity is tissue capacity being greater and able tolerate the load we place upon them. However, sometimes the equation can become unbalanced where the load exceeds the capacity of the body. For example, an increase in load is when there is a change in frequency, intensity and duration of a certain activity as well as partaking in a variety of different activities. The overload of your tissues’ capacity can present as one occurrence like an ankle sprain or repetitively over time like a shoulder tendinopathy.

When your training starts to increase or a switch to a new activity happens, your muscles, tendons and bones should adapt to the changes in demand on your body. As well, there are factors that can decrease your capacity and increase your risk for injury even without a change in load, such as when you are ill, lack of sleep, poor hydration or nutrition, stress, etc.

You are at greater risk of injury when:

LOAD > CAPACITY

We can reduce the risk of injury by tipping the scale up of your tissue capacity and managing the load appropriately. When we increase load gradually and slowly over time, our capacity can grow and adapt to our needs and the greater demands placed upon it. This is seen in our muscles getting stronger, bone density increasing and tendon growth. Our tissues will be able to handle larger loads that then can be challenged further by increasing the repetitions, weight, time, pace, etc. of our activity. Therefore, don’t start or return to an activity too quickly or suddenly change the amount of training you are performing.

A great analogy for this is the phenomenon is blisters versus calluses that can develop on the hands or feet. Blisters form when you do too much too soon without the appropriate adaptations in the skin to the load. Over time and with modified activity, the blister will heal and start to turn into a callus. Calluses happen when you do things regularly and often and protect the skin from blisters. The callus analogy applies to all your muscles, tendons, and joints.

The load and capacity equation to help reduce the risk of injury is just one component of the complex nature of the human body and as outlined above, there are many factors that can influence both sides of the scale. Your physiotherapist can guide you how to address many of the elements that can affect your capacity and training.

 

By Alison Parker
Registered Physiotherapy Resident
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