Updated: May 30, 2020
Last month I released a blog post containing tips of what to do during lockdown to self-maintain
and not only avoid injury, but to also use the opportunity that has been presented to you to improve your performance. Now that we are another month into lockdown, I thought I’d write this short follow-up post to offer you further advice based on the mistakes that I feel would be easy to make in this situation. Remember – it may still be a little while until you can book in with someone like myself for treatment, so until then, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself in check. Some of us I feel are skating on thin ice, as if we continue our bad habits, then without the safety net of being able to go and see someone, we may be a bit stuck if we get injured.
1. Doing too much training/continuing bad habits
This mistake is quite understandable. We’re currently unable to partake in any of our usual social activities, and see our friends and family. This of course makes us feel isolated, and can have a negative impact on our mental health as a result of not getting out as much. One thing we can do though is exercise (especially now the government restrictions have been relaxed slightly to allow for unlimited exercise). This allows us to get out of the house, so it is comprehensible that some people want to do it a bit more; or at least just as much as usual, especially if they’re not currently working, or working from home. However, we have to be careful about this. It’s common knowledge that if we increase our training load too quickly, we are more likely to sustain an injury. So, if you do want to increase your training, do it very gradually and don’t go overboard (remember the 10% rule). If you were to get an injury from doing too much running, then this coping mechanism for maintaining your mental wellbeing will be compromised. Therefore, although the temptation may be to go out and run more often, maybe we need to consider the fact that this crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe then it might be better to go out and run 3 times a week, but be able to sustain it for the rest if the lockdown, rather than try to run every day, get injured quickly, and then not be able to go out at all?
"we need to consider the fact that this crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe then it might be better to go out and run 3 times a week, but be able to sustain it for the rest if the lockdown, rather than try to run every day, get injured quickly, and then not be able to go out at all?"
2. Doing too much walking
This is particularly aimed at those who are already injured but still want to get out. Many people turn to walking in this scenario as a means of staying active, and maintaining their fitness and mental health. I agree that doing some walking is beneficial in this respect, however, again, caution must be exercised here. Many of the patients that come through my clinic who have sustained an injury wonder why after ceasing running, the symptoms haven’t improved. When I dig a bit deeper, they then tell me that they’ve been walking long distances to compensate, but they don’t stop to think that that might be contributing to their problem. After all, a lot of the damage that results in injuries is actually done when standing and walking. For some reason though, people often think that walking is ‘free mileage’ whereby it doesn’t count towards their weekly total, but it does…
"people often think that walking is ‘free mileage’ whereby it doesn’t count towards their weekly total, but it does…"
A while ago I did a blog post on impact forces when running (which you can read here: www.willgoodbournsportsmassage.com/post/let-s-do-the-maths), and if I had to identify one mistake that I made when writing that, it is the fact that I didn’t mention forces travelling through us when walking. While walking, we are still loading and working our tissues, and there is still around 90% of our bodyweight in impact force travelling through our body, which isn’t as much as when running (hence why walking hurts less), but it still adds up. Therefore, even in the absence of pain, we are still doing the damage, but we are less aware we are doing so. However, we also shouldn’t rely on pain to tell us to stop, and just keep going until this happens – we should know when to ease off long before it comes to that…
This also goes for people not currently injured – again, don’t classify it as ‘free mileage’ and think it’s fine to suddenly start walking miles and miles on top of all the running you are doing! I’m not saying don’t do these activities, only be sensible when you do – just because you CAN go for a run in the morning and a walk in the afternoon, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should! In sum, I would encourage staying active by doing some walking, but remember to consider this as part of your training load as well!
3. Not doing anything/very little
This one is perhaps the most common mistake that people will make, and this is not doing enough – likely due to lack of motivation of not being able to train with others. I alluded to this point in the previous post, but this was explaining inactivity during the lockdown in the context of a missed opportunity to gain extra strength, improve performance and get rid of already ongoing injuries. However, by doing very little, not only will you miss a golden opportunity to improve strength and technique, and prehab and rehab, but furthermore, you may lose the strength you already have and cause new injuries. One of my firm beliefs is that most runners tend to hang on by a thread when it comes to training, as their bodies are not strong enough from a strength and conditioning perspective to hold good running form.
So, while running does strengthen your feet and legs (which is obviously a good thing), it doesn’t always target all the right areas, as due to certain weaknesses from our lifestyle habits (e.g. sitting), and our lack of S&C, we end up working some muscles more than we should to make up for the fact that we are weak elsewhere. For this reason, the individual is putting themselves at increased risk of musculo-skeletal problems resulting from mis-alignment. However, despite this, many people do manage to work up to higher levels of mileage through gradual increases in training load (i.e. the 10% rule). When training at these higher levels, whether your biomechanics is good or not, your body will start to adapt to the training load and become accustomed to it. This is what I mean by holding on by a thread – the fact that the body has adapted to this dysfunctional running style is the only thing that is keeping the individual from breaking down, even if this does catch up to them eventually. Essentially, you are training your body to adapt to the load and take the excess punishment…
Therefore, if you rest and do very little during the lockdown, you will lose this adaptation when you do return to training. This is much in the same way that it is well known that adaptations to regular physical activity include increased muscle strength, and increased bone mineral density. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the latter decreases for many athletes even just during their off-season (however, don’t turn that into an incentive to never rest, either). Doing very little now may also mean that you easily exceed the 10% rule when running clubs and events restart, as you suddenly want to do more to make up for what you’ve missed… Therefore, my advice here will be to do enough to keep ticking over running-wise, use the opportunity to get into the habit of focusing on important aspects of training you weren’t doing enough of before, and don’t get carried away when you return.
"Doing very little now may also mean that you easily exceed the 10% rule when running clubs and events restart, as you suddenly want to do more to make up for what you’ve missed…"
Here is a link to my previous post which listed several things that you could be doing which would be of benefit: www.willgoodbournsportsmassage.com/post/tips-for-self-maintenance-during-lockdown