Shoulder Season

How to Manage Transitioning from Season to Season

Words by Norrøna Ambassador Hilary McCloy

It is that time of year when one season of sports is winding down and another one is starting to ramp up. The snow is melting in town, shorts are coming out but winter keeps on delivering up in the higher elevations. I find it can be an exciting time and we can get over-amped to jump into summer sports too quickly or without enough planning. 

The key to successfully transitioning from one sport/activity to the next is to understand how they differ in regards to load on the body. Is one a power sport (ie. bike) and one an impact (ie. running) ? Is one a sliding sport (ie. nordic or alpine) and the other power? The differing loads on the body can be subtle. Your tissues have adapted to one type and now need to be allowed to transition into the new loads without too much stress. This can be done with adding in exercises or mobility work that complement the new one.

A perfect example that I often see as a Physical Therapist, is when athletes ski all winter and then jump into running again in the spring. Backcountry skiing and nordic will create a strong cardiovascular base and there is very little load through the foot and ankle compared to the stress of running. I have personally gotten into trouble when I felt really strong and fit in May, ran a lot and then started to feel the potential for overuse injuries in my feet, ankle or lower leg.  

I encourage runners to start to do easy jump rope, be barefoot, do calf and lower leg strengthening in March and April to get the tissues ready to take the load of running. The rest of the leg muscles are important to address as well.  

Volume is the other piece that is tricky. Each person/body is different in how they manage load but if you can start to pay attention to what seems to be too much – you may feel stiffness or soreness for more than a day or have pain in a muscle or tendon during the activity. Rest days or active rest days are important to let tissue adapt and heal. I find that keeping track of hours is a nice way to see volume changes instead of other metrics that may not translate from sport to sport is a good way to start to assess this. 

If you find yourself getting niggles or pain every year in April or May but then forget about them until the next season then this is being directed at you. We do a great job forgetting or blocking out these transitional pains that can often derail training for days, weeks or months.  

Working with or chatting with a physio can help give you some insight on how to do this safely and assess your body to see if there is anything pertinent to address. Keeping on top of this stuff is key to staying healthy and active. I have an online Run Strong course that does this.

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