Rule #2 of training club: don’t get injured.
I heard this idea from Eric Horst’s “training for climbing” podcast. It makes perfect sense. One of the simplest ways to improve at your sport or in the gym is to reduce the risk of injury.
For training to be effective, we have to keep showing up. Staying healthy is a great way to keep improving. Consistency is key and injuries scupper consistency. Injuries often result in going backward not forward.
We have variables within our control that reduce the risk of injury. Let’s get started…
Reducing the risk of injury
- High-quality sleep and nutrition
- Build and follow a training plan that factors in your training history, time availability, and stress levels (consider professional help)
- Build de-load periods into your training plan
- Listen to your body, adjust as necessary
- Warm-up effectively
- For strength exercises; use correct form and stop exercising when fatigued
- Utilize active recovery
- Reduce stress
Leveling up these domains is relatively intuitive. Implement what you can and consider taking some time to research these further.
Beware the purple patch
If a long-term training plan comes together and you are peaking and hitting PBs for a few weeks, it is the perfect time to ease off. The likelihood of injury just got high.
A common pitfall is that search for more when everything is going well. The extra motivation may lead you to hunt for more performance. Now is a great time to take it easy. You have likely been overloading your body to get to this point. It responded. It has not snapped yet, but it may not be far off!
When you are in peak shape you want to be able to perform. This performance comes from staying healthy and being well-rested. Use this as an opportunity to taper, reducing the volume of your training by about 50% for a week. This is known as a de-load week. You can still keep the intensity of your sessions high, performing at your best, but cut the volume considerably.
De-load weeks are great to build into a training plan every 4–6 weeks, especially a plan built on progressive overload. These can be scheduled intuitively, routinely, or to fit your calendar on busier weeks.
Breaking rule #1 & rule #2
It isn’t all doom and gloom when injuries occur. They happen to everyone. Ideally, you catch injuries before they progress to a larger issue. Niggles are much easier to recover from. Taking it easier for a few weeks or switching your focus might allow you to keep moving forward.
Another approach is to focus on the training you can do. Sore elbow? You can still train core! Athletes that bounce back best from injury have the mindset that they will be stronger as a result. They use the time to enhance different aspects of their sport. Think skill drills, core, reflexes, antagonists, and their mental game. You get the picture.
A deeper dive
Take a moment to ask yourself these questions:
- How can I improve my sleep, diet, and recovery?
- How can I reduce my stress levels?
- Does my training plan contain de-load weeks?
- How could my warm-up be more effective?
Use your answers to add a layer of kevlar to that beat-up body of yours.
Listen to your body and don’t mask its signals. Sleeping for 4 hours, and double-dosing caffeine and paracetamol to get through a workout is problematic. Use your body’s intuition to inform what you do each day, don’t ignore it!