Prevent Injuries: Background Before Peaking

Injuries often occur when you start a new sport or a new piece of exercise equipment, or when you return to exercise after a long break. In your enthusiasm to get started, it's easy to overstress muscles that have not been used before. That's why "background before peaking" is one of the most important principles of training. It takes several weeks or even months to build up strength and endurance.

Start your new exercise program at low intensity and low volume. Gradually increase your workload for several months before you try to run fast, lift heavy or exercise intensely. If you are just beginning a new exercise program, start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop. For the first several days or weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. If your muscles feel sore the next day, take the day off. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day at a relaxed pace and not feel sore. You may progress rapidly to the 30-minute goal, or it may take you two, four, six weeks or more. No matter how long it takes, don’t get discouraged. Exercising too much or too hard, too soon will set you up for injuries.

Athletes in all sports use this principle. First they spend many months in background training, working out for long hours, mostly at low intensity, followed by a shorter period of peaking training in which they do far less work, but at a much greater intensity. A few months before an important race, they reduce the workload but go as fast and hard as possible two or three times a week.

Checked 4/29/10

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