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Dealing with injury is an interesting area; much of my work in this area is completed within The Bosworth Clinic just outside of Oxford. Work here is not just about fixing people when they get injured, it is also about creating a way of life that reduces the incidence of injury and giving athletes the tools to understand and support themselves. I and Gordon Bosworth strongly followed this approach when we worked together for UK-Athletics in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games and took some pride in the low levels of injury that we saw with our athletes at the Loughborough High Performance Centre.

When we look at how we can work with individuals to become less liable to injury, overtraining and all the other minor things that can get in the way of what you really want to do in sport or any other areas of your life, we have to take into account the person and how they are approaching their lives.

Of course for a coach life would be very much easier if we could reduce the work and impact on athletes to simple formulas. Using a certain dosage of exercise or training, plus fixed recovery strategies to guarantee improvement of their athlete. Luckily (otherwise sport would be very simple), things do not work quite like that, we are working with very individual human beings with very different capabilities and backgrounds, and we need to account for all of this in: how an individual approaches their lives, what their organisational abilities they have, what stressors there are and how they affect them and how they are coping with current levels of training (as a very minimum).

In essence then there will always be interplay between the physical and psychological capabilities of an individual and good coaching will take this into account.

We know also that with training increases, we are almost guaranteed to get a dropping of mood state. Training puts a load on the system and changes occur globally within an athlete, not just physically. In fact a ten year program of studies with athletes at the University of Wisconsin (Morgan et al, 1987) had the following major findings:

  • Global mood disturbance (the sum of tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion scores minus vigour) increases significantly as the training load increase.
  • Following decreases in training load, global mood disturbance returns to baseline. So there is a dose response to training and mood.
  • Brief periods of taper or rest may be sufficient to restore a more positive mood state.
  • Stale athletes, defined by both mood and performance deterioration, demonstrate symptoms similar to that seen in clinic depression.
  • Similar mood changes were not found in non athletic college students and thus may be attributed to athletes’ training regimes.
  • A dose response relationship between mood and training load appears to hold across sports.
  • There is great individual variability in mood response to intense training.

So there are plenty of psychological impacts of training, and your job as an athlete or someone training for any reason at all is to ensure that the impact on your mood that you experience is a simple function of training which you will bounce back from, rather than something that will lead you into staleness and overtraining.

As the evidence shows, we have the option to lay-off and rest for a time and monitor mood changes, and also we need to be attending to our actual performances, when we begin to see them drop, then we may be getting into a danger zone indicating staleness and overtraining.

Self monitoring is the key here, keeping a diary and looking out for these symptoms. Self responsibility here and recognising that whilst you may be tough (or not), everyone has their tipping point and one of the key roles of any-one in sport or training is maintenance of their own health. Keeping a note in a diary and looking for trends is all part of knowing yourself and understanding your own response to training, knowing when to push and probably more importantly knowing when to back off and recover.

If you would like to consider how to develop this type of approach to training, I attend the Bosworth Clinic on the first Monday of each month and am happy to have a brief chat with you prior to booking. Please contact the Bosworth clinic for details. If it is not convenient to attend the Bosworth Clinic, we can carry out the same work over Skype or in Hereford.