Ow, it hurts!
Today, on Tea with Jen (I’ve got peppermint today btw) we’re looking at something that’s we’ve been managing with our athletes on their return to training – and that’s aches and pains.
Despite anyone’s best efforts, it’s safe to say that as a whole activity levels dropped during the lockdowns.
And it’s even more safe to say that pretty much no one was training the extent of sporting skills during lockdown, that we’re now all returning to. Unless you’ve a set of uneven bars in your kitchen? Full size tumble track in the back garden (with no rain over winter)? Nope, didn’t think so.
The loss of strength, flexibility and agility when we stop exercising can happen as early on as two weeks. And we’ve been affected for over a year now!
That’s a quick and easy recipe for PAIN. Of the physical variety (well, mental too but today we’re going to focus on our bodies).
And kids are entirely new to this.
Think about it – usually, kids do not go backwards in their physical development. Or learning. Or growth of any kind.
As adults, we get that at times we may be injured. Or our bodies change. Or we more naturally vary our activity levels and are aware we have to rebuild back.
We’re finding higher reports of physical pains or injuries from our child athletes on returning to activities.
Some pain is completely normal and to be expected.
Some pains are injuries that need treatment and time to heal.
Here’s the science bit – during exercise, muscle fibers pull against each other and create little micro tears. These tears repair themselves thicker and stronger, making denser muscle fibers. This is entirely normal and is how muscles get stronger. This process can hurt though – usually a dull ache or stiffness up to three days after exercise.
After a period of inactivity, our muscle fibers will have weakened. So on returning to activity we get these pains as we restore the strength we once had.
Usually this pain is mild and will resolve within a few days and some gentle exercise and moving will help ease it.
However! It is important we do not push our muscles excessively whilst they are in this state. Otherwise we create larger muscle fiber tears that hurt more and take longer to repair. Or worse – we can damage the connective tissue around our joints as they work harder to manage the strain. Connective tissue has less blood supply and takes even longer to heal that muscles, so we really want to avoid this. These kinds of pains can feel more intensely painful, or include sharp discomfort or a restriction of the joint in movement.
Now, it’s only really a medical professional who can determine the difference between what is a normal exercise related pain and what is more of an injury. So, if in any doubt – always seek medical advice.
But there is something we can do
We can start to build awareness of what’s normal for us. Our bodies are incredibly good at communicating with us, if we take the time to listen.
We’ve started in our classes to include a quick ‘body check’ at the end of class. We teach the children to scan through their body and tune in to how it’s feeling. Are there aches and pains? Is something saying ‘ouch!’ do we need further checking by a medical professional, or maybe just a nice warm bath after training?
By listening to what’s going on we can stay on the side of safe training easier.
(Plus also as you might have expected, as coaches we’ve already adapted training to manage this transition. We’ve gone back to the beginning where needed. We’re doing additional strength and conditioning. We’re taking new skill progress slowly and safely).
An extra note about growing pains!
Bones grow faster than the muscles and connective tissue holding them in place. This is why kids get ‘growing’ pains, it’s tightness in tissues being stretched by the bones growing. It takes a little while for the connective tissue to catch up. So – if your child is also growing or has had a growth spurt – sorry to say it – but they are at greater risk of muscle pain and injuries.
It’s best in these scenarios to go extra easy on our bodies. Allow the time it takes for connective tissue to grow. Extra stretching and longer warm ups and cool downs can help here. And keep building that awareness in that ‘body check’ scan.
Remember – we have our bodies for the whole of our life. Moving them is for life. There is no rush in being back at mega fitness instantly. Let’s look after ourselves as we do this