The scenario: you have been working out with a pretty consistent training program for years. You are enjoying the benefits of your efforts; improved strength, better endurance, getting close to hitting that PR in your goal race. Since things are going well, you decide to ramp up your routine by increasing your mileage, lifting heavier weights or adding in some weekly tennis matches for cross training.
Then, one day, you feel a little ache in your knee. It isn't so painful that you have to stop working out, and you don't want to lose momentum, so you keep training at your heightened intensity. Fast forward several weeks or months, and now the achy knee has become more of a problem. The injury has become constant, and you are struggling to finish your workouts.
Sound familiar? You're not alone. We see many patients coming to our clinic for the first time with this same story.
So, what causes us to feel run down during heavy training cycles?
Any increase in training load (for example, higher mileage, increased speed or type of training) changes the demands on our musculoskeletal system and can disrupt the normal tissue homeostasis (or the body's ability to maintain balance). This makes sense, physiologically, that the body can only handle a certain amount of load before it breaks down. However, there are other factors, that may not be so obvious, that come in to play, affecting the body's recovery mechanisms. Stress, anxiety, sleep quality, and nutrition also contribute to our ability to perform optimally.
This infographic from a 2020 article* published in the Journal of Athletic Training explains non-pathoanatomical factors that contribute to running injuries. While the authors of this article specifically discuss knee pain in runners, we can apply this concept to other musculoskeletal injuries. Load and the capacity to maintain this load need to be balanced properly. If our body is not capable of withstanding changes in the external load (because of stress, poor dietary habits, or depression), the risk of injury can increase.
The good news is that everything that drives decreased capacity can be addressed with the guidance of your physical therapist or medical doctor. Stress, sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc can all be improved to set your body up to withstand the loads placed upon it. Collaborating with your medical "team" can often be game-changing when it comes to improving your outlook on healthy living.
Thinking about manipulating your training program but, unsure if your body is prepared for it? Your physical therapist can help you devise a plan that safely helps you achieve your goals. The more confident you are in your training routine, the more likely you are to succeed.
Contact the experts at Prevail today and we will guide you in the right direction!
*Esculier JF, Maggs K, Maggs E, Dubois B. A Contemporary Approach to Patellofemoral Pain in Runners. J Athl Train. 2020;55(12):0. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-0535.19