Make 2016 a more productive year all round

I always envisaged a night spent in the spare bed would be the net result of a good old row with the wife. A stupid argument would boil over and I’d throw my toys out of the pram and stubbornly march down the landing to the only room in the house with fresh crisp bed sheets so tightly packed under the mattress I’d struggle to get in. However my first night of peace since the birth of our first son was presented to me not because of an argument.  It was a desperate last attempt to give myself some chance of rest seeing as though every other aspect of preparation was not to be found in any marathon training programme. As training took a nose dive towards the end of the summer I had lost what had become an obsessive appetite with running in the 6 years previous. I’d felt lethargic in the build up to the marathon, missing occasional sessions, working late or not getting out as I would normally do early in the morning. I think the process of building our house, the arrival of our second baby boy and finally deciding to open my own clinic all took its toll. There were other priorities. So entering this New Year I find myself in unfamiliar territory.  So right now I’m like the majority of the population. I’m starting the New Year with plans of getting back into exercise and a more healthy lifestyle. For some this will be starting out from scratch with a ‘Couch to 5k’ programme or gym membership, others it might be another long distance endurance event to chalk off the list. But we’re all in the same boat with personal goals whatever they may be. As we start back into exercise we’re all also at an increased risk of injury.

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There are long established principles of training that should be applied to every training plan irrespective of type of sport or activity. These principles are in place to optimise training programmes and try to avoid risk of injury. The main principles in this regard are: specificity, overload, rest, adaptation and reversibility. Let’s chat briefly about each and its role in performance and injury prevention.

Specificity: The training under taken should be specific to the demands of that activity, i.e. why should a long distance runner spend time using a bench press in the gym to gain muscle mass? They shouldn’t because it has no benefits in their ability to run.

Overload: The body gets used to doing the same thing over and over again. If something doesn’t change to make it more difficult progress plateaus. It’s the old saying of doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. This is where increasing the load and volume of training has its benefits (when appropriate).

Rest: I’ve always felt this should really be ‘relative rest’. The body needs time to recover after tough sessions. It is the one area even the most diligent athletes often fail to comply with. Trying to squeeze in another hard session too soon before the body has adequately recovered from the previous has all the makings of an overuse injury such as patella and achilles tendonopathy. While rest may not be what was envisaged when you signed up to these new year plans you’ll be glad to hear it still has a role to play. Why I think relative rest is more appropriate is there is still things that can be done on ‘rest’ days for those that do reach the obsessive stage and can’t live with the idea of a day off (trust me you could find yourself at that stage quicker than you think).  Do something different on ‘off days’. If you’re a runner do some strength training (appropriate for running). If it’s football do some pilates and injury prevention work. Strength and stability training help with reducing risk of injury so do it.

Adaptation: The body and its tissues will adapt to the demands you ask of it. While the first few weeks will be painful and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will just become part of your day it does become easier. But much like the overload principle the body needs to be challenged more as this takes place. This is how improvements occur. With running knee pain is highly prevalent with beginners. Aside from biomechanical issues the patella tendon can get highly loaded over too short of a time. It is unfamiliar territory from the usual 9 to 5 sitting at the desk but will soon get used to this new load required of it and it adapts, just don’t ask tendons to adapt too quickly. Allow recovery time becomes ramping up the intensity again.

Reversibility: Ah the most miserable of all these principles. Be it strength, power, or endurance, non compliance with a programme or absence through injury or other reasons will means a backward decline in progress. It’s use it or lose it unfortunately and the main reason I face into 2016 far from where I left off in October.

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I realise I veer towards running when I speak about exercise but these principles apply right across the broad spectrum of exercise. What I have realised since becoming my own boss is how I need to make time for running. I function better while running. Every runner does but I only realised this when I stopped. Anyone who can juggle a marathon or any training plan around work and family life gets a pat on the back from me. But with a structured training programme comes a more structured life all round. The balancing act of work and family is achievable it just might mean an even earlier start to the day along with earlier to bed at night. Runners are productive and well motivated people. They achieve and bring that planning aspect of running to their work place (or vice versa). Productivity is higher with healthier staff. It’s the reason ‘wellness’ programmes work so well in large multinational companies. Employers realise that providing such services not only benefits the employee but ultimately it keeps them more motivated to work well and boils down to cost benefit – It pays to keep employees healthy. They are less likely to be off sick or out of work through injury. What easier way to keep employees active than a pair of runners and a morning or lunch time run?

For more information on any of the issues addressed throughout this article please contact Rob via email at, Twitter @mccabephysio, Facebook at McCabe Physiotherapy or visit

Rob McCabe MISCP

Chartered Physiotherapist

MSc (pre reg) Physiotherapy, BSc Sport Science and Health, MSc Sports Physiotherapy, PG Dip Orthopaedic Medicine

Orchard House, Moorefield Rd, Newbridge, Co. Kildare

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