Whether you are getting back to preseason training or preparing for a race or event, training mistakes and errors can easily be made.

The following are some common mistakes to avoid this preseason or training phase.

Mistake 1. ‘Spiking’ the Training Load

Avoid sudden spikes in training load. This means sudden increase in running/weight training volume, frequency and/or intensity. Changing these variables should only be made once a solid training base has been formed. Some common errors include sudden introduction of sprints, hill running, jumping, eccentric weight training and low-to-ground exercise. Also sudden changes in existing training – for example, jumping overnight from a light 30 minute jog to a hard 1 hour slog on the pavement… or even worse, up some hills!

Changes can often be made to your routine without choice too. If you are part of a sporting team, you must be prepared for whatever your coach/trainer throws at you. The best way to avoid being subject to sudden changes in training is preparation! Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your coach or trainer’s expectations. You need to know what level your fitness needs to be to keep up with the team, perform at your best and avoid breaking down with injury.

Mistake 2. Failing to schedule a rest day

The temptation to do more is often intoxicating. Runners are particularly susceptible to the addiction that running can produce. They can experience withdrawal signs from not running, essentially skipping their routine hit of ‘endorphins’ and other happy hormones (such as serotonin) that they would usually experience in full and uninterrupted training. Endorphins are substances that the body’s central nervous system and pituitary gland produce. Endorphins’ role is to block pain. When a runner trains they routinely experience positive happy hormone effects, and their ‘pain’ can be blocked by endorphins. It can be addictive! Not running for even a single day can, therefore, be a challenge for many runners. The risk of not taking a rest day is the body does not have the time it needs to fully recover. Risks of this behaviour include developing overuse injuries, stress reactions/fractures and illness from being run down.

Similarly, with weight training, muscles need time to adapt to the load and stress placed on them. Muscle recovery is essential to avoid injury but to also consolidate the gains of the actual training program. The saying “less is more’’ is surprisingly true for some weight training programs.

Mistake 3. Doing too much too soon

This can be a pitfall of the over-zealous beginner or the more experienced athlete. Trying to ‘’cram’’ in too much training too quickly can often occur and should be avoided where possible. For example, a beginner runner that builds up the duration (and distance) of their training sessions too quickly. Alternately, an experienced runner may increase the overall weekly volume of their training too quickly, from one week to the next in preparation for a major event or race. This can often happen when a runner has missed training leading into an event due to illness or injury. When the runner returns to training, they can feel compelled to ‘cram’ the training load that they missed. The key to avoiding re-injury is: follow through your physio or trainer’s rehab program and be patient!

Mistake 4. Going too hard on consecutive training sessions

Not every training session needs to be an intense workout. Varying the pace and intensity across different training sessions is the key. Many times the excitement of training takes hold and common sense and patience are erroneously forgotten. The result is that every single training session ends up being ‘hard and intense’. Unfortunately, when training with groups, the temptation is ever present to begin racing with your training partners. Proceed with caution! Hold each other to account on not racing and sticking to the aim of the session.

Mistake 5. Avoiding cross training

Runners might hate the bike, and gym junkies might hate the pool, but switching up your training might be the best move you make with your training this year. At times when your body is crying out for a break or injury has left you with no option, changing up your training can be your best friend. Whilst the training might not be as specific to your activity or sport as you might like, cross training can maintain your cardio, muscle strength or flexibility in ways that give your body the rest it may need from your discipline whilst still being active.

Mistake 6. Forgetting the recovery process

You hear it all the time but “recovery is king”! Especially when training volume and frequency are high, recovery is essential to avoid injury and ensure your training remains at a high level. Recovery comes in many forms and depends your training. It might be stretching, massages, dry needling, ice baths, foam rolling or active recovery like swimming or exercise bike. Whatever it is, it needs to be done to keep the range of movement of all your joints in order. Tight muscles or stiff joints might mean your next training session is below par and even worse, may leave you at risk of an injury.

If you need advice, more information or help preventing training errors, contact your physiotherapist, sports physician or trainer.