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Niggles vs Injuries: Managing Training Volume As A Hybrid Athlete

As a hybrid athlete who thrives on mountain biking, strength training, and running, training multiple disciplines can be a double edged sword when it comes to injuries. 

On one side, the variety in training exposure can help reduce injuries by creating a resilient body. However, at the same time, overall training volume can be high, which can be an injury risk in itself. Understanding the distinction between niggles and injuries is essential, and this knowledge, coupled with effective communication with your physio and coach, plays a pivotal role in managing training volume and optimising performance while minimising the risk of setbacks.

Niggles are minor discomforts or irritations that athletes may experience during training or physical activity. They are often characterised by a slight discomfort or mild pain that doesn't significantly impact performance but is noticeable enough to warrant attention. I like to explain them as a 3 or below on the 0-10 pain scale. Niggles can manifest as aches, tightness, or discomfort in muscles, joints, or other areas of the body. While niggles may be annoying, they typically resolve relatively quickly with rest, stretching, or other self-care measures. Examples of niggles include a mild soreness in the knees after a long run, stiffness in the shoulders from lifting weights, or tightness in the lower back following a bike ride.

Injuries are more severe and significant than niggles, often resulting from trauma, overuse, or improper training techniques. Unlike niggles, injuries can impair performance and may require medical attention or rehabilitation to fully recover. Injuries can range from acute conditions like sprains, strains, and fractures to chronic issues such as tendinitis or stress fractures. They typically involve more intense pain, swelling, and limitations in range of motion or function. Injuries will require modifications to training or even temporary avoidance of certain activities to allow for proper healing. Examples of injuries include a sprained ankle from a fall during a trail run, a pulled muscle from lifting too heavy in the gym, or a stress fracture from overtraining without adequate rest.

Liaising with your coach and physio is crucial when managing niggles and injuries. They can provide valuable insights into training volume and intensity adjustments, ensuring a balanced approach to recovery and performance enhancement.

By communicating openly with your coach and physio, you can address niggles promptly with modified training and appropriate self-care measures, to hopefully avoid it progressing to something more severe.

Key Takeaways:

  • Recognise and differentiate between niggles and injuries during training sessions.

  • Communicate openly with your coach and physio to adjust training volume and intensity as needed.

  • Promptly address niggles with activity modification, rest where needed and self-care measures, and seek immediate advice from your physio in the case of injuries to prevent further damage.

Calvin Schluter

Principal Physiotherapist and hybrid athlete in training

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