Over training is often seen in the beginning of the cross country season. This often presents itself as foot pain, shin pain, sore hips, muscle soreness, fatigue and illness. Too often young athletes do not condition enough prior to their competitive season. This results in a lack of flexibility, endurance, tolerance to the weather and strength.
When an athlete embarks on a competitive season they must be prepared and take care of the small injuries before they become major. Athletic Trainers often see athletes who have shoes that have been worn in another sport, as well as for recreation, and then run the cross country season in the same shoes. There are shoes for a specific sport and/or foot type. If there is a lot of running to be done on the track, road or hard surface, a certain shoe will be chosen. If running in the grass, crossing water, dirt and hills then another shoe may be in order. These are important topics in which to speak with the coach of a cross country or a track team before making your purchase. Often they can save you money and get you the best shoe for the job.
Stretching is one of the quickest and most disrespected parts of a practice. Too often when athletes are late, they’ll catch up with the group by shortening the stretching time or will go through the motions. Proper stretching allows an athlete to maintain better body mechanics, improve stride length and decrease chance of injuries.
When stretching for cross country-the hips, lower back, knees and ankles are all important because these are the load bearing joints. An improper loading on these joints contributes to joint pain. Stretching of the calf musculature is critical to reduce the strain or amount of work needed to bring the toes upward, which in turn can reduce shin pain. Stretching of the hamstrings will allow for a longer stride length and a smoother run. Stretching hips and outer thighs decreases the tight hip or snapping hip syndrome. Remember this rule: A stretched muscle will contract more forcefully than an un-stretched muscle.
Improper loading or focused pressure comes in the form of muscle imbalances, and poor body mechanics. Running on uneven surfaces consistently and wearing improper footwear are just a few contributors. When training for long periods of time during the beginning of the season, joint structures can become very irritated or damaged, creating a painful environment in which the athlete may compensate to avoid the pain they are feeling in the injured joint.
Reduce these overuse injuries by ensuring a proper stretch before and after a workout, as well as proper cool downs. Appropriate running shoes, training on different patterns/surfaces, icing and taking care of minor injuries before they become major will benefit athletes in reducing the chances of overtraining, as well as increase his or her performance.
Prevention of Overtraining Syndrome:
Do not perform the same workout routine for two or more days in a row
Alternate your course daily; for example, run clockwise on the track one day, and counter-clockwise the next.
Listen to your body; pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong
Schedule rest days in order for the body to recover from the stress placed upon it during training
Alternate high intensity speed training with lower intensity endurance training
Have proper sleeping habits—get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night
Consult with a professional to ensure your caloric intake is balanced with energy output
Colin Kolosky, ATC is the Head Athletic Trainer for Wayne Memorial HS in Wayne, MI