Here at PhysioCentral, we’re proud to work extensively with sports players ranging from professional athletes to social sports enthusiasts – as well as school kids of all levels and abilities. With the pre-season being a vital component of any successful sports season by creating a seamless (and painless) transition into competitive games while minimising injury risk and fatigue, today our physios have shared ten top pre-season tips to help you have your best season yet.
Note: not sure exactly what the pre-season is or why it’s so important? Find out why the preseason is your key to a successful season.
Don’t Go Too Hard, Too Fast
The number one mistake we see people make that end up with them needing rehab? Going too hard, too fast in their pre-season training. We know you’re eager to dive into it, but the load your body can safely manage after months of downtime is much less than what you could handle mid-season last year. Starting slowly and building up your training intensity gradually allows your body to effectively adapt to the small load increases without exceeding the ‘maximum’ before something fails and pain starts.
When you lose just 5% of your body weight in water, your sports performance can be reduced by up to 30%. Even losing as little as 1-2% is enough to start significantly decreasing your endurance and performance – while increasing your risk of on-field setbacks like nausea, vomiting, intestinal problems and more. Studies show that dehydration also limits your strength and power – very large consequences for an issue that can be easily prevented. With the humidity here in Hong Kong, it can be difficult to gauge how much water you may be losing – so keep that water bottle with you at all times and use it regularly.
Know Your Weaknesses
We all have weaknesses that impact our performance, whether we realise them or not. Notice that your pelvis tilts lower on one side when standing on one leg? It could be a weak gluteus medius muscle. Getting pain in the ball of your foot? It could be a tight Achilles that’s causing your heel to lift early off the ground, turn inwards, and overload your forefoot. Feel unsteady on your feet sometimes? It could be repeated ankle sprains that – even though your ankle feels great now – has left you with a little bit of ankle instability that makes you more vulnerable to ankle sprains during sport. These are just off the top of our heads.
There’s no better example of knowledge is power than this – by knowing exactly what’s going on with your body, you know which areas to focus on to optimise your performance. You can have your weaknesses assessed, identified and managed with our physiotherapy assessments available here.
Prioritise Your Technique
The pre-season is the time that lets you focus on getting your technique right – and you absolutely must take advantage of it. When you apply a poor technique to any movement, you end up overworking muscles that don’t need to be overworked. When an improper technique is performed repeatedly during training, games and so on – it adds up to take a significant toll on your body, leading to pain and injury. For many, their technique fails when they try to rush through movements, or amp up their training intensity before they’re ready. When you compromise your technique, you’re compromising your safety.
As the wrong technique may still feel painless at the start, we recommend having your technique assessed by your coach, teammate, or for best and most accurate results, your physiotherapist.
Refresh Your Best Practices
While it’s easy to forget best practice principles like what an effective warm-up looks like, the body of research and evidence around what works best is also always growing. For example, we now know that using active recovery (compared to passive recovery) has shown to:
- Enable runners to run three times longer during their next run (compared to those that used passive recovery)
- Dissipate 68% of the lactate that had accumulated in the blood of swimmers that would have otherwise settled in their tissues
- Preserve peak power output and average power in a power performance test (compared to greater decrements in power after passive recovery)
(Not sure about the difference in recovery types? Learn how active recovery differs from passive recovery)
Take this time to refresh your best practices to help retain all the benefits of your training and keep your body working optimally throughout the season. Alternatively, book in and see one of our physiotherapists who can help you implement up-to-date, evidence-based best practices.
Shoes Are Foundations Too
Need a new pair of shoes? The pre-season is the time to get them so you can get used to them gradually and not play a complete intense game in them straight out of the box. Your shoes become the ground you play on, so have an essential job of supporting your feet and helping them work their best. Plus, they may have other sports-specific features like studs.
Your shoes can be the difference between whether you end up with pain or not – so don’t take them for granted. Go now and check whether your shoes are still in good condition to keep doing their job – and make sure you don’t make one of the top mistakes we see during the Oxfam Trailwalker every year – doing the event in a brand new pair of shoes!
Don’t Have A Team? Train With A Friend
If you’re a dancer, golfer, swimmer, gymnast, cyclist or other solo sportsperson and either don’t have a team or want to partake in more training sessions than they’re offering, then having a training buddy can give you more benefits than just extra motivation. They’ll be there to observe your technique, share tips and advice, and help add consistency to your pre-season training.
Review Your Last Season
As we tend to get into similar routines and patterns, reviewing what did and didn’t work for you during your last season may offer key insights into what you can implement, scrap or adjust for this season – and the pre-season is the perfect time to make these decisions. A key aspect here that we prioritise as physios is any injuries or problems you sustained last season and understanding why they occurred. We often see players battling the same injuries over multiple seasons, despite not showing any symptoms during their off-season. When we identify these problems, we can prevent them – from specific strengthening exercises to braces and other preventative devices.
Keep Your Mind On The Game
During the on-season, lapses in concentration create an opening for poor techniques and painful mistakes to creep in. They may also impair your performance in solo activities like goal kicks, free throws and target shooting. By focusing on getting these things right and to the point that they feel almost automated in the pre-season, you can set yourself up to have the best season ahead.
Our #1 Tip: Never Push Through The Pain Or Ignore Niggles
Every season, we see countless injured patients who, when asked how long their pain has been present, answer with weeks or months. If you’re experiencing pain, one thing we guarantee is that it hasn’t started for no reason. Pain is the body’s warning signal that it perceives a threat, that something is potentially wrong, and we need to take extra care. When we ignore this message in the hopes that it’ll go away on its own – that’s when a lot of serious injuries start, especially when we’re just about to dive deep into a sports season.
If you’re currently experiencing upper or lower body pain during training, whether you’ve started your pre-season training or are going to start soon, book in to see our experienced physio team here at PhysioCentral. We’ll help optimise your recovery and show you how you can stay safe throughout your pre-season and in-season games so that you can have your best season yet.
Book your appointment by calling us on +852 2801 4801 or book your appointment online.