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Advice May 12, 2015

Overuse is Insanity: Five simple changes to keep it healthy

WendyLeBolt-HeaderAthletes must push themselves if they want to be their best, and demanding more of yourself today than you did yesterday is what makes you better. But doing the same thing over and over, only harder, is killing us.

Freshen up training without sacrificing performance or watering down the practice plan. Here are five easy ways to avoid overuse injuries. Add the ball to any of them to make it a game, not a workout.

Change Surface

The pounding of impact after impact on the turf, track, road or court is deadly, primarily because it’s the same every time you strike the surface. Avoid this by varying the training surface. If you run on the road, step off onto the gravel, sand or grass.If you run on the track, make use of the infield and perhaps a few stadium steps. If you train on artificial turf, find some grass, and vice versa.

Softer isn’t always available, but different almost always is. Add the ball and your whole game has to adapt to respond; this is great training for that away game on the bumpy field where sand is soaking up the puddle in the goal box.

Change Pace

Your body is forced to respond differently when you change the pace. Tossing in some short bursts not only improves speed, but it changes foot impact and turnover. Leaning, landing and recovering differently decrease the physical demand on hard-working joints. That’s automatic cross-training.

Teams may use the “Indian relay” where last person sprints to the front while the others maintain pace. Motivated athletes who train on their own can make their own game: sprint three mailboxes and jog the next one, race the car that’s passing, etc. Of course, everything’s better with the ball: touch short, go long, roll side, burst through.

USMNT-Manaus-trainingLaps and lines are for losers.

Change Equipment

Most cleats have little to no padding, so why not run in running shoes? You can still add the ball during the run or not. Run while holding the ball or passing it or tossing it. This adds interest (aka fun) as well as physical demand, and offloads joints by lending variety to the movement. Unless you’re perfecting their running form, there’s no need to insist they run in rank and file.

There are also many possibilities to vary the game equipment. Occasionally, play small-sided with a smaller or lighter ball, a football (American style), a futsal ball, a yoga ball, or a “mis-shapen” Corpus or Erratic training ball. Yes, you are changing the “feel” for them, but this can be beneficial, both to offload the joint a bit and to increase their focus on a skill that may need some tuning.

Change Form

Watching running form (during warm-up, drills or game play) offers a chance to predict where weakness may signal risk of overtraining injury. Hips that ‘give way’ by shifting right and left with each foot step, usually indicate weakness either in the lateral trunk/core or the lateral hip muscles.

Shore up these weaknesses with side to side training activities like F2F’s Hop and Volley:

…which reinforces stable landings along with agile and dynamic recovery, all while focusing on the ball skill. Side planks, while good trunk stabilizers, are not very dynamic. Why not shove your teammates on your way to possessing the ball? F2F’s Shove the Gamut:

Change Routines

Most knowledgeable coaches are implementing a dynamic warm up with their players (F2F Dynamic Warm Up) before training and games. A routine of out-and-back steps that prepares the muscles and joints for movement is highly beneficial, until the players are just going through the motions.

Why not shuffle the deck by adding the ball and some footwork? Maybe even some bands for a dynamic challenge. Check out the F2F Dynamic Warm up:

Coach can still “design in” the necessary movements. Address all joints, in all directions (right, left, forward, back, diagonal) with full range of motion, at increasing intensity. Those are the guidelines. From there, get creative.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting them not to get injured is the new definition of insanity. A change of surface, pace, equipment, and form are something every athlete needs, and a change of routine keeps it fresh for everyone, including the coach.

Got a creative approach to your training field? I’d love to hear it! Share it in the comments.