Exercisers: what should you do over the Christmas break to be ready for 2020?
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
So let’s begin by saying that the answer is NOT to consume endless servings of turkey & Christmas pudding, drink copious amounts of alcohol, put the feet up and do NO exercise over the break. Now this doesn’t mean we are telling everyone to forget Christmas, but it’s important to realize the consequences of having too much time off your given sport over the break.
This blog is written for those of you who are currently in season (i.e. athletics, cricket, triathlon, tennis), in pre-season training (i.e. AFL, soccer), OR exercising for health & fitness (i.e. running, gym, Crossfit). We will touch on the importance of workload, and give you some practical tips to help get your through the festive season.
Why are we writing this blog?
Well it’s not unusual for us to see patients present to us in late January, who’ve done very little over break, then resumed playing or pre-season training and suffered an injury. Enter sports science to explain something called the acute chronic workload….
Workload is how much work is done to stress your body over a certain period of time, and this can be measured in lots of ways such as total time trained, distance ran/swam/cycled, weight lifted, balls bowled etc. Acute workload is usually the workload performed in that week. Chronic workload is usually the average amount of load performed over 4 weeks, and is also referred to as your “fitness”.
In its basic sense, you don’t want to be doing something to your body that it’s under prepared for. This is why having a high average chronic workload (fitness) will help to protect your body against the stress that weekly training puts on it.
So what would happen to this acute:chronic workload if we decided to do nothing over the 1-2 weeks of the festive season? Having 1-2 weeks of NO training lowers your chronic workload, and your fitness declines. Then when you resume training, a common error is to simply start where you left off, but with 2 weeks of no training, this load is now higher than what your body can handle, and an injury may result.
A handy table prepared by the Australian Institute of Sport can also help to see how long it takes to safely build up to full training after time off. For example, if you were to take 2 weeks off and do absolutely NO training (0%), it would take you a whopping 4.6 weeks to safely regain your pre-Christmas fitness levels!! A much better option would be to do 40 or 60% of your normal training load for the 2 weeks, then it would only take 2.5 or 1.4 weeks to get back to fitness.
So now for some practical tips on what to do over this time:
Field based athletes (cricket, AFL, soccer): Whilst there is generally no organized team training during this time, try and get out for a run at least 2-3 times per week. Include some high speed sprints as part of this e.g Warm up run of 2km, then 8 x 30m sprints flat out, with jog recovery, lastly followed by a 2km cool down.
Cricket fast bowlers: ideally get a couple of bowling sessions in the nets (5-6 overs) to keep your weekly bowling load up, but if unable then simply perform shadow bowling (imitating your run up and bowling action without a ball).
Triathletes: hopefully your coach has already programmed this, but try and have an easier recovery week where you might reduce your training by 40%
Runners: you can reduce your weekly mileage by 30-40% but keep the intensity at the same level (i.e. don’t slow down your runs)