Ways to Improve Your Game (While Reducing Your Risk of Sports Injuries)
Better, faster, stronger. We can always strive to increase our performance and endurance, no matter where we might be in life.
You might have been sitting out, but now want to get moving. You’ve set a goal for yourself, like running at Storm the Bastille in East Town or the Run & Walk for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. (Being part of those crowds can be quite a rush!)
Perhaps you’ve already run these races several times, and want to pick up your personal best, or even train for a marathon!
It doesn’t have to be running, either. Maybe you want to be faster on the court or field; build that drive that gets you noticed by scouts—or at least that cutie who you always see on the sidelines.
Self-improvement is an exciting goal, but it’s also one that takes patience and smart planning. Your body must always have time to adjust to new and increased stresses.
Think of your body like a car. You don’t want to floor it if you know the engine can’t handle it, right? Luckily, it’s a lot cheaper to improve our own internal systems than it is doing auto work.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when working on your athletic performance:
Build Yourself Up Gradually
Game day accidents get all the press in professional sports, but there are plenty more injuries that happen on the days leading up.
Overtraining can be the bane of any athlete’s existence. Having a laser focus on one type of activity or cranking up the intensity of a workout too quickly can both lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis.
So how should you address these concerns?
Work a slow buildup into your routine. A general rule of thumb is to increase your weekly performance by no more than 10 percent over the previous week. However, different sports and training routines have different forms of stress. Talk with a professional to determine what the best rate of buildup would be for you.
Cross-train. While your goals likely focus on certain areas of your performance, do not spend all your time working on just those areas. It’s a ticket to an injury if we’ve ever heard one.
Instead, dedicate a portion of your training time to working other parts of your body in different ways. If you’re largely an endurance athlete, take some time to focus more on strength. If you lift weights all day, take some time to run or jog. And remember: Don’t. Skip. Leg Day.
Swimming, biking, and walking are all great, lower-impact exercises to work into a routine that might otherwise be setting you up for burnout. Your overall performance will improve and your body will thank you!
And speaking of avoiding burnout…
Factor Recovery into Your Program
Our bodies grow stronger by literally rebuilding themselves from the stress and damage our exertion causes.
If you don’t provide your body that chance, you’re setting yourself up for disaster as stress and fatigue build.
Cross-training, as mentioned above, is one way to help give your body the time it needs, but it’s not enough. There’s another big step that a lot of athletes surprisingly set aside.
Get enough sleep. Sleep sets your body into recovery and growth mode. It is essential that you give yourself 7-9 hours of quality Zs. This is especially true if you are very active or work out first thing in the morning before heading into a long day.
In addition to sleep, give your body what else it needs to prep itself and recover.
Drink enough water. Water is not only essential to, you know, life; it also keeps your body prepared for working efficiently!
The fascia—including the plantar fascia in your feet—are largely comprised of water. When you are dehydrated, the fascia can become “sticky” and less mobile, which can lead to tears and inflammation.
How much water is best? Experts recommend multiplying your body weight times 0.6 for the recommended number of ounces. Going somewhat over isn’t bad, of course, but don’t guzzle more water than feels comfortable to you.
Overall, rest and recovery strategies should be implemented into your workout routine just like your workouts are. Nobody is trying to be Cal Ripken Jr. on a professional level anymore, and there’s good reason for it.
Know and Respond to Your Weaknesses
Almost nobody has a body perfectly attuned to everything the sporting life may ask of it.
Sometimes, this is due to the focus on training. A pro athlete in one sport can injure themselves playing a pickup game of another sport, usually because that second sport is making their body move in ways they aren’t used to.
In other situations, people may have a natural or inherited weakness when it comes to certain demands. We tend to see this in a person’s biomechanics: what your gait is like, how tight your tendons may be—that sort of thing.
We have some easy recommendations for this situation:
Get yourself checked out. Knowing whether you have any natural risks based on your body structure will help you take the necessary steps to mitigate those risks. In addition to an examination, a professional who knows your goals and how you currently train can also help you develop ways to build up areas of neglect.
Follow the recommendations. In the case of your feet and ankles, this may involve wearing orthotics or inserts while you play. You may find that they help your performance by adding more comfort and stability to your movement! We might also recommend certain stretches and physical therapy as part of your routines, such as during warm-ups and cool-downs. Knowing what to focus on can go a long way!
From couch-to-5K upstarts to those looking for their professional shot, we want to help everyone reach their goals without suffering the foot and ankle injuries that have claimed so many dreams. If you would like help determining the best protections for your lower limbs or have already suffered an injury that requires treatment, please give us a call at (414) 425-8400.
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