Injury Prevention - Preparation and Recovery
“No pain, no gain” is likely a quote every athlete has heard at some point in time, but more often pain actually slows down or stops training. Feeling uncomfortable and feeling pain are not necessarily the same thing, as training is meant to be challenging and breaks down our muscles. However, our bodies are amazing and have a way to recovery and become stronger than before!
Injuries can be acute or chronic, with a chronic issue leaving you more likely to have an acute injury. An example of an acute injury is spraining your ankle when landing awkwardly. A sprained ankle can be strengthened and improved so that it is less likely to sprain, but if not taken care of, it can lead to chronic ankle issues and increased chances of re-spraining.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate all risk of injuries - especially in a sport that involves jumping, spinning and landing on a slick, hard surface - we want to do our best to prepare our bodies for the best possible outcome each day we train.
What does injury prevention really mean? What does it involve?
Injury prevention is the combination of methods that help with preparing you to workout and to recover from a workout. The following is a break down of what can be involved with helping to prevent injuries whether you're training off or on the ice.
WARMING UP is a very important part in any injury prevention program, as increasing muscle temperature helps prepare your muscles to perform more challenging activities. Warm-ups can involve foam rolling, dynamic exercises, light aerobic activities, and sport specific exercises. A great warm-up will include all of these components and even add in some mental preparation.
WORKING OUT is how we improve our strength, stamina, flexibility and mental toughness. Skaters require a unique balance between all of these aspects of performance: strength and power to launch off the ice, flexibility to contort your body, stamina to make your last jump as impressive as your first, and mental toughness to work through what a lot of people would give up on! Exercises like front and side planks are great ways to strengthen the abdominal muscles and stabilize the back muscles. Having a stronger core will help you jump higher, spin faster, and land smoother (talk about some + GOE's!).
COOLING OFF after workouts with light aerobic activities, mobility, and flexibility exercises are just as important as your warm-up. It is also recommended to literally cool off with ice bags or a cold tub to help improve recovery after hard workouts. Working out breaks down our muscles and leads to increased blood flow to the muscles that are being worked. Taking a cold tub helps with moving “bad blood” out of the worked muscles so that “fresh blood” can move in and start the healing process.
EATING RIGHT can play a significant role in preparing you for training, but also to help recover from workouts. A common recommendation for a recovery meal is to have a 200-500 calorie snack that has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio at the end of moderate-high intensity training. Chocolate milk was a staple in my training as the sugars (carbohydrates) help restore glycogen stores (energy stores in muscle and liver), the sodium and potassium help restore electrolytes, and the proteins (casein and whey) help start rebuilding our muscles. Another favourite was a peanut butter banana wrap (YUM!). Recovery snacks should be consumed within 15-minutes of training and followed up with a balanced nutritious meal within 2-3 hours of training.
A personal note from the author:
While running varsity cross country and track in university I was no stranger to injuries (shin splints, turf toe, calf strain, knee pain, hip flexor strain, a few sprained ankles, and a sprained knee). Some of these injuries were things that I learned the warning signs of and could manage (e.g. shin splints often worse when I needed new shoes or if I had been lazy about doing my exercises). Other injuries came without warning... like spraining an ankle on a trail run or spraining my knee while mountain biking to cross train. Regardless of the injury I would learn the exercises I needed to help me improve, I would see my athletic or massage therapist, and I would take a cold tub for 15-minutes at the end of every workout.
These injuries did not stop me from training or competing, but it may have shifted the type of training that I needed to do more of. Through my injuries I learned how to prepare myself to exercise, how to manage my aches so they didn’t become pains, and how to use these challenges to make myself mentally tougher.
An important lesson for every athlete to learn regarding health and performance is: “Prevention is better than a cure.”
Written by David Witiluk (Off-ice instructor at GSC)