Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Does the risk of training too hard outweigh the reward?

Health - Gym
I just read an article where three American university footballers were hospitalised after enduring a series of gruelling strength and conditioning workouts at the University of Oregon.

They had been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome in which soft muscle tissue is broken down with leakage into the blood stream of muscle contents.

Depending on the severity, it has the potential to lead to damaged kidneys. They have been in the hospital since late last week after workouts that occurred during the team’s return from Christmas break


Reports of multiple players being affected by rhabdomyolysis are rare. In August, eight volleyball players from Texas Women’s University were hospitalised. In 2011, 13 players from the University of Iowa were hospitalised due to the syndrome after working out during their Winter conditioning program.

In August 2010, two dozen football players from McMinnville High School were hospitalised, with some requiring surgery, after complaining of intense workouts held in high heat with little water.

This of course is one side of the story and could have been exaggerated by the press but it still makes for scary reading that a ‘qualified’ strength and conditioning coach could leave his players needing hospital treatment after a series of workouts.

The question I would ask, is did the risk of pushing his players to the extreme outweigh the reward of having them in better condition?

In this case it didn’t work, not only did he put the safety of the player’s health at risk, he has also lost three players from his squad and there could be countless others that may need more time to recover.

The same principle should apply to you when you are doing any programme or exercise. Ask yourself does the risk outweigh the reward?

The story of these college players could relate to any of us returning to training after Christmas or a summer holiday. We throw ourselves straight into the deep end by carrying out longer, intense and more frequent sessions all to try and smash our goals but this is a risky game to play.


First of all, your body has been used to laying around, chilling out and not being pushed. Then you decide to shock the system and put it through the trauma of a few killer sessions; not a good idea.

As well as physically you will also be mentally drained in trying to sustain this high intense level of exercise. Instead cut out the risk by being smarter with your training, it may take longer but you will get the same reward, if not better, than having to risk your health in the process.

We now know from the story I’ve just related that sports trainers and managers should take this approach as well. Is it worth the risk of pushing your athletes to the limit in their very first few sessions? Some may argue that this will help build a solid base and mental toughness.

I would look at it from a different point of view, especially as we are approaching the GAA pre-season. The Gaelic football season seems to be getting longer each year so why do we need to push ourselves to the limits come January/February?

Firstly, we are amateur athletes who enjoy our sport, yes we want to win but we also have to work the next day, enjoy family life and socialise. If you know you are going to be pushed to the limit in training and that means you will not able to function the next day, then why would you put yourself through it?

Pre-season training should be hard but not so hard that some players are looking to quit after just a few sessions.

Again be smarter and don’t worry what other teams are doing – they may be doing more sessions than you or doing different things but who is  to say their methods are right?

Research different training methods and programmes, use your experience and don’t be afraid to ask for help, or if you are training teams ask the players themselves how they are feeling.  This is a great form of feedback and it is free and instant.

There will be times when you may need to take a risk and once you have reached your reward you will have set yourself a new benchmark of physical and mental toughness. If you build on this time and time again, then the sky is your limit.

Read the full story in this week’s paper, available in your local newsagents today or subscribe to our Digital Edition by clicking below