Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Ice and acute injuries.

[Note: Acute means sudden onset, chronic means has lasted a long time]

Putting ice onto an acute injury is common practice. One rationale behind this is that the ice reduces swelling. However there has been substantial research and it has not shown a conclusive effect for icing. Whereas there is strong evidence that compression is effective in reducing swelling. 

So is ice redundant?

Not at all – lowering the temperatures of the effected area reduces pain. Ice is cold. So in the first few hours after injury repeated ice treatment could reduce the level of pain and help make the injury feel better sooner. 

Ice Compression

When applying a bandage for compression you can apply crushed ice at the same time. Don't apply the ice directly to the skin or you may cause an ice burn. Alternate ten minutes compression with ice and ten minutes compression without ice, for as long as possible immediately after injury.

Ice Immersion

Another technique is ice immersion. Over the following days and weeks immersion can play an important role in rehabilitation by getting you moving and working the injured area. Early movement helps reduce swelling as the muscle contractions pump out the fluids associated with the swelling. It also enables you to regain full pain-free movement quicker. 

For ice emersion you place the injured area into cold water with a few ice cubes for about 20 minutes. When the area feels numb you can start moving the affected joint or muscle.

Friday, 5 December 2014

How to minimise your injury risk on the Yorkshire Half Marathon-Sheffield.

Entries are now open for next year’s brand new Yorkshire Half Marathon (http://www.runforall.com/half-marathon/yorkshire/). It will be staged in Sheffield on Sunday 12th April and is a unique course with the first half all uphill from Sheffield city centre to the edge of the Peak District. The second half descends all the way back down, finishing back in the city centre. Overall there is around 250m of ascent and descent.

I did a practice run of this exciting course a few weeks ago and can confirm that it will provide amazing views over the city and the moors. It will also place very different demands on your body compared to a flat half marathon, combining the injury risks of hill running with those of road running:

Uphill running:
• Increased risk of developing injuries to your achilles and hamstring tendons.

 • But.. it can reduce the risk of injuries to other areas - knees, shins, feet.

Downhill running:
• Increased risk of injury to ALL areas from the hips down to the feet!

• The effect of gravity causes you to land more heavily, which means your body has to absorb more force before pushing off. This puts more loads through the legs thus increasing your risk of injury.

• Running downhill also encourages you to stride out too much and land your foot too far in front of your body. This leads to a breaking force through your leg again increasing forces and injury risk.

• Increased pace also contributes - as a generalisation the faster you run the greater the forces you are placing through your body.

If you already have a known weakness - glutes, kneecap, ITB, calf, foot - then racing 10km downhill on roads is going to test it.

So… how can you ensure you are ready for race day and minimise your risk of injury both in training and during the race?

1) Get strong - by doing standard leg strengthening exercises you can build up the strength in all the main muscles of your legs, helping you to power up the hills and better absorb the forces of the downhill section.

2) If you are not used to running hills on road add them gradually into your training program, initially at a steady pace (especially downhill) before adding some faster hill work.

3) Ensure adequate recovery between hard sessions - with 48 hours (or more) recovery between hard or long sessions your tendons, muscles and joints can recover from the loading before you put the next load through.

4) Work at your downhill technique - practice landing your foot under your body and not over-striding.

5) Practice long descents - downhill running and fatigue are a dangerous combination as you can lose the capacity to manage the landing forces. Practice runs that mimic the nature of the race help you build up your body’s tolerance to prolonged descents. Start with runs of 2km uphill followed by 2km downhill, and then build up slowly till you can comfortably manage the 10km up and 10km down.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The role of sleep in training optimisation and prevention of injury and illness.

Intense exercise reduces energy levels and breaks down muscle, bone and tendon. As your body recoveries it over-compensates, making you stronger.

If your next session is timed optimally to coincide with the peak of this supercompensation period then in theory you achieve optimal performance improvement. Too late and you miss the maximum benefit. Too soon and your body does not recover fully. If you repeatedly leave to little recovery time you enter the cycle of over-training, injury and illness.

Sleep allows your body to recover more quickly, helping to reduce the necessary recovery time. Given the above propositions, the performance benefits of reducing necessary recovery time are obvious.

What happens when your body gets inadequate sleep?

Research has shown inadequate sleep to be associated with:
• reduced exercise performance
• mood swings
• depression
• decreased immune function
• decreased glycogen production
• decreased protein synthesis
• reduced reaction times
• reduced attention span, alertness and concentration.

Inadequate sleep can not only reduce your performance but also put you at increased risk of overload injuries and illness. Slower reaction times and reduced alertness could even increase risk of traumatic injury e.g. ankle sprain, knee impact injury etc.

How can you ensure adequate sleep? Again, based on research:

• Aim for regular sleep patterns
• Limit alcohol intake
• Limit caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening
• Avoid drinking too many liquids in the evening - AIS athletes cited night time toilet visits as a common reason for sleep disturbances
• Avoid eating a big meal just before bedtime
• Avoid sources of emissive light, particularly short-wavelength light, before bedtime as they can suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep patterns. That means no TV, computers, phones or tablets before bed.
• If possible avoid high intensity training sessions in the evening.

What if I can’t ensure adequate sleep?

For many people a good 8 hours sleep a night is not realistic for various reasons (stress, insomnia, young children, hectic schedule etc). If this is the case then you need to take this into consideration when planning your training sessions. You may need more recovery time between hard sessions or be more flexible with your training, such as delaying a hard session by a day because you have been up all night with a sick child or had a unavoidable early start.

It's always good to listen to your body, but also think about building in "buffers' that allow you to delay a session even if you are feeling good but know you have done activities that place you at risk.

But most of all, if you aren't sleeping try not worry about it. Any rest is better than none.