The holiday season is fast approaching, organized sports are coming to a halt, work is winding up and many of us are embarking upon holidays. The Christmas break is a time where we are often given the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family while having a break from a regular schedule. While this opportunity to recharge may be necessary, it can also be to the detriment of any fitness progress and goals you have achieved throughout the passing year. Fitness loss is commonplace, not only during the Christmas holidays but during any extended period of reduced physical activity and we often refer to this effect as detraining.
Detraining and the Residual Training Effect:
Lets talk about detraining, you may have heard about it somewhere along the grapevine or maybe you have had first-hand experience with it, most likely the latter. The relationship between detraining and the residual training effect revolves around the idea that after cessation of training or an acute reduction in volume the body begins physiological processes which slowly untie any positive adaptations to training we may have made (detraining/deconditioning). It is these physiological characteristics that when grouped together make up what we call fitness components. These components include speed, maximal strength, aerobic endurance, strength endurance and anaerobic endurance. Now, while these may not all relate to you, there are most likely one or two which are inclusive in your fitness goals (no matter how basic or specific they are).
However, it may not be all doom and gloom. It is important to know that not all of these characteristics deteriorate at the same rate, some are much more resilient to detraining than others.
The table below gives an outline of how long the physiological adaptations are maintained during a period of detraining.
The Residual Training Effect
What effects the residual training effect?
Duration of training before reduction or cessation
Training age and physical experience
Intensity used during the detraining period (moderate to high-intensity exercise reduces rate)
You may be asking “how does this relate to me?”
As shown in the table above we can see that speed is the most susceptible to change (2-8 days), whereas maximal strength and aerobic endurance are the most resilient (25-35 days). If your goals are to maintain speed and strength endurance it would be counterproductive to completely stop training, these components would best be maintained with a few short sprint and full body hypertrophy sessions during the break. Whereas if your goals are to maintain maximum strength and aerobic endurance; While it would not be ideal to completely stop training, the reduction in training volume would not have such a detrimental effect as the components mentioned previously.
So what should you take out of this?
Try to integrate some moderate to high-intensity training into your break to slow down these detraining effects.
Short sessions with a focus on the components that are most susceptible to change or relate closest to goals are recommended.
Sports where repeated sprint ability (RSA) is critical to performance (AFL, Soccer, Basketball), should focus training on sport-specific needs for the athlete and include short sprint sessions. There is not a great need to prescribe or complete long aerobic/anaerobic endurance sessions during the break where time is often scarce.
Reflect on your current and previous goals and how this concept relates to you if you are planning on taking a break.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a review of the evidence for Strength Training as a strategy to reduce injuries in Athletes- and the results are impressive! For those that tend to just read the first few lines of an article, take this away. If you are an athlete, or you coach athletes, strength training should be a priority in your programming if you want to reduce injury risk. For the rest of you, please read on.
This article was by Lauresen, Andersen and Andersen (2018). Below is a summary:
6 studies were included, totaling 7738 participants aged between 12-40 y.o.
The average intervention duration was 21.39 weeks.
Average volume of training was 80 reps per week.
Average intensity was 8.39 RM (these means the maximum number of repetitions that can be performed for a given exercise).
Strength Training reduced sports injuries by 66% with a 95% confidence interval of 52% (combined results from 4 of the 6 studies).
A 10% increase in strength training volume resulted in reduced injury risk of 4%.
No injuries occurred as a result of the strength training throughout the interventions.
Strength training was both safe and effective for adolescents as well as adult athletes.
Why? The Mechanisms
The authors can only speculate as to why strength training helped protect athletes from injury, but their proposed mechanisms to explain its effectiveness are:
Preconditioning- effectively toughening up the muscles/tendons so they can deal with greater loads.
Variation of loading across the body so that parts of the body that are not stressed by the sport take more of the load in the gym.
Improved coordination and technique in the gym crossing over to movements in sports.
The authors concluded with the following recommendations for strength training, and I advise that if you choose to trust an Exercise Professional to help you or your athletes commence a strength training program that they can demonstrate an understanding and adherence to these principles.
Commence with a familiarisation period so that the athletes can develop the confidence and capability to perform the exercises correctly.
Ensure the athlete is supervised in the gym so that exercises can be completed well and loads are monitored accurately.
Loads are individualised to the athletes capability and are altered appropriately over a training cycle.
Exercises are varied across the year of training.
I would add in that it is also important that the strength training program is correctly synchronised with the training and competition schedules, so the Exercise Professional must be in regular communication with the athlete’s coach. For example, during an athletes off-season they can focus on improving function and technique; during pre-season switch to muscle building; and within season aim to build/maintain strength and power. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform have extensive experience managing the strength training programs of athletes across many sports. If you would like to speak to one of our EPs about the services we offer athletes, please contact us!
Lauersen, J. B., Andersen, T. E., & Andersen, L. B. (2018). Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2018.
Recently the Journal of Sports Sciences published a Systematic Review detailing the factors associated with injury in Elite Junior Tennis players. It is important that coaches and parents of such athletes are aware of the findings (Oosterhoof et al, 2018).
Risk Factors for Lower Back Injury
Previous Lower Back Injury:
Previous injury is often a good predictor of future injury. Why? That is not clear, but one reason may be that rehabilitation of injuries is often not done to the level that it needs to. Rehab is often done adequately to get a player back on the court, but functional deficiencies can remain. This can predispose the athlete to recurrence, or to injury of another part of the body due to compensation. Elite Junior Tennis players should undertake their rehabilitation under the guidance of a Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist that are experienced in this field.
Training Loads > 6hrs p/wk:
Elite Junior Tennis players will be training and playing at least this amount. So how do we mitigate against this as a risk factor? For one, the athlete needs to have a good recovery repertoire and be diligent with it. A recovery program should be personalised for the athlete, but some common features of an athlete recovery plan are; adequate sleep; good diet, hydration and nutritional support (protein especially); massage; stretching and cold-water immersion. Secondly, Functional Resistance training can help build strength in muscles and tendons, mobility in joints, stability in movement, balance and spatial awareness. If your child, or an athlete under your guidance does not have a recovery plan, and/or is not undertaking a quality, personalised functional strength program I would speak to a qualified and experienced Exercise Physiologist to help them build one.
Risk Factor for Upper Extremity Injury
Fewer Years of Playing Experience
The authors do not specify what it meant by ‘fewer years of experience’ so we can only speculate. But generally speaking, when a young person starts at a new sport, their body is going to be exposed to forces that they may not be conditioned to deal with. I recommend that young people new to tennis undertake an overall movement capacity assessment, such as the ‘Movement Screen’ (Movement Screen ). This will identify any functional limitations that can be corrected through a functional strength training program. We use the Movement Screen with all of our young athletes at iNform.
Risk Factor for Lower Extremity Injury
Interestingly, in the studies included in the aforementioned review players that regularly stretched the muscles of the lower body had an increased risk of injury than those that didn’t. This is counterintuitive for most, as stretching is supposed to be good for us, right? Stretching can be useful for increasing the mobility of a restricted joint. However stretching can also acutely reduce our muscles responsiveness and power. So there are pros and cons to stretching for athletes. If an athlete is going to be prescribed stretches, they should be recommended only for areas that display movement restriction (and have shown a positive response to stretching) and should be timed so that performance is not impacted negatively. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform can easily identify whether a young tennis player would benefit from stretching, and recommend when is best to do it.
Whilst there are injury risks associated with playing Elite Level Tennis at the junior level, they can be mitigated by taking an intelligent and strategic approach to the young athletes programming. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform have extensive experience helping Elite Young Tennis players stay strong and healthy and on the court.
Jacobien H.F. Oosterhoff, Vincent Gouttebarge, Maarten Moen, J. Bart Staal, Gino M.M.J. Kerkhoffs, Johannes L. Tol & Babette M. Pluim(2018)Risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries in elite junior tennis players: a systematic review,Journal of Sports Sciences,DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1485620
My Father-in-law absolutely loves wine. As long as it is a big, smooth Barossa Shiraz. I on the other hand like a bit of diversity- a cold, crisp Riesling on a hot summer’s day; a big brooding Cabernet on a cold wintry night; a Pinot, well, there are a lot of contexts where Pinot is appealing! It is much the same with running for me. Some people like to do the same 5km Park Run every week. Great! I however like to run in lot’s of different ways and contexts. So here are my top 5 types of run and where I enjoy doing them the most.
5: Flat Road Running
A long, straight, flat stretch of tarmac in front of me. Feet tapping away with the consistency of a metronome. Breathing in an easy rhythm- every 3rd foot strike. Mind clear, basically meditating. Km’s ticking away without really noticing. This is running relaxation.
Where I do it: The Riverland; Yorke Peninsula (Around Port Broughton or Ardrossan).
From a crouched starting point, then accelerating up to top speed. Driving the knees forward, ripping the elbows back. Completely releasing the brakes. I am sure it feels more impressive than it looks, but in my mind I am flying. The lungs start to bite which is the cue to take the foot off the the accelerator. My legs gradually wind down. I let myself recover, then go again.
Where I do it: Balhannah Footy Oval; Amy Gillett Bikeway
Yes I am serious, I love running uphill. As I approach the incline my mindset shifts. This hill will be like a big meal- just take your time with it and take it one mouthful at a time. I lean forward, focus on pulling my knees through, and get into a nice easy rhythm. I imagine the little engine that could; chug-chugging it’s way up the winding track. The revs are oscillating close to, but always under the red-line until the crest is spotted, then comes an acceleration. Relief as the gradient plateaus.
Where I do it: The (Old) South Eastern Freeway; ‘The Guts’ Track at Fox Creek.
I love narrow, rocky trails. If there is a steep drop-off on one side, excellent. Creek crossing, boulder hopping, ducking under low branches. It can be more like an obstacle course than a run. Agility and power are required to negotiate what the trails offers. One minute I am scampering up tight switch backs; next I am weaving down the other side like a slalom skier. This is an extreme sport!
Where I do it: Sturt Gorge; Morialta
1: Beach Running
This is running stripped (almost!) completely back. Barefoot, wearing just shorts and a hat. Along the shore line, the waves are the soundtrack. Always on a hot day. When the heat gets a bit much the hat gets chucked to one side and in the ocean I go. The first beach run of the summer results in blistered feet and sore calves- but both toughen up pretty quick. For me beach running is heaven.
Where I do it: Normanville to Carrickalinga; Aldinga Beach
I hope to see you out at one of my favourite spots!
The fours lads were ready to ride. Their backpacks were stuffed with water and sugary snacks. Their bikes were good to go. They planned to head off into the distance, but they didn’t know exactly where. What they did know is that they’d end up muddy, sweaty, hungry and ready for dinner.
This could be written about my 10 year-old self. Heading off for adventures with my tribe of little buddies from my street. Or it could be written about me last Friday, heading off for a Mountain bike ride with mates after a solid day’s work.
Mountain biking as playtime for adults
I adore Mountain Bike riding, and I am sure it is mostly because of its reminiscence to my childhood. For me, and the guys I ride with, Mountain Bike riding is not about competing, or personal records, or elevating my status on Strava. It is about adventure. It is about letting go of all of our adult roles and responsibilities for a few hours and becoming kids again. Getting muddy and soaked by rain when out on a forest trail is an ageless, timeless experience.
I am about to become a Father. We want to establish consistent routines and boundaries for our child so that they can grow up knowing we will be consistent, reliable and fair. I will also need to do a little bit of growing up, but I am excited to begin growing into my new role as Father.
But I also hope to keep reserving time for me to be child like. I want to keep having adventures, heading off into the distance and coming back muddy, sweaty and hungry, even if it is only for an hour or two every fortnight. We encourage active play for our children as we know it helps development of many important physical traits like agility, strength, aerobic fitness, and balance. We also know it promotes creativity, memory, decision-making and teamwork. As an adult, should I not also value these traits? As an Exercise Physiologist, of course I do. And I want to set an example for my child to spend time playing throughout their entire life also.
We learn to do it from around the first birthday mark and continue to work on it through our younger years until it becomes an action that we really think very little about. In this time we are building a base level of strength and function. When we want to go somewhere we just get up and our legs somehow get us from point A to point B. For the most part this serves us well and we can deal with the stresses placed on the body.
What happens when we choose to get out and be a little more adventurous?
Walking hills = Increased demand + increased need for strength
Let’s look at a popular local walk – Waterfall Gully up to My Lofty summit. The walk itself is fairly short, 2km to the top and a total of 475 metres of elevation gain.
Now let’s hypothesise that you weigh 65 kilos and are carrying a couple of litres of water, a snack and a camera. You need a camera to capture the waterfalls, abundant wildlife or the children/grandchildren running ahead. So you’ll have maybe a total of an extra five kilos (maybe 20 kilos if the grandchild gets tired and you have to carry them). So now you have 70 kilograms or more and you’re asking your body to haul you 475 meters into the sky, whilst covering 2 km of distance.
That’s a fairly big increase in stress that the body now has to deal with. What should you do now? Read on.
Add some strength training sessions to your week
Our bodies adapt to the stresses we place upon it and they do this quite efficiently. If you add increased load a few times per week (strength training) our bodies will adapt to these stresses and will become stronger and more able to cope with higher levels of stress. This results in a few things:-
You will have a lower risk of injury
A higher enjoyment rate during your walks
You may even be able to keep up with the little ones.
Additionally, you also have the ability to test yourself more in some longer or more challenging walks. All in all, you will be more resilient and capable than before.
If you are unsure how to build strength, seek advice
Strength training can be beneficial to your health and well-being in many ways, if done incorrectly it can also potentially cause injury. If you are not experienced in strength training I would strongly advise you to seek professional advice and ensure you are both doing exercises correctly and that you have exercises prescribed that suit your specific needs.