The Physical Risk of Academic Finals:Modifying Load

As I reflect upon my marathon training over the last 4 month, I began to notice some interesting trends. Throughout the 4 months I suffered some mild setbacks(knee pains, decrease performance, trigger points etc) that hindered my training. However, when I went back and compared when these setbacks occurred, almost every single one coincided with a stressful week in school and clinicals. With this I realized that these set backs were on me. I should’ve modified my training load.

A couple months ago I posted the picture above on @compass_performance. Here is a visual I like to use to demonstrate how biopsychosocial factors influence and limit our training. When we have low levels of emotional and school stress, great sleep and proper nutrition, we have a ton of room for activities(training load), before we get injured or start to experience pain.

However, as these factors become less optimal, our room for training load quickly diminishes and injury risk quickly rises.

What does the research say?

There have been a few studies that have looked at the relationship between stressful life events and injury rates in athletes. The findings of these studies are listed below….

1. Petrie 1992: college gymnasts with higher life event scores experienced more minor injuries than athletes with lower scores

2. Cryan and Alles 1983: Athletes in a high stress score group were more likely to become injured

3. Gunnoe 2001: “(1) high school football players with high levels of total and negative life stress were more likely to become injured; (2) high school football players with high levels of total and negative life stress were more likely to sustain multiple injuries”

4. Bryan 2016: “Division 1 Collegiate Football Players suffers more than double the amount of injuries during periods of High Academic Stress doubled compared with periods of Low Academic Stress(from 6.2 injuries per week during Low stress weeks to 12.0 injuries per week during High Stress Weeks)

These results should not come as a surprise…

During finals week, at least in my experience, it is pure survival mode. There is little self care, little sleep, poor nutrition(love myself some late night McDonalds during finals week, and you always have to treat yourself to chik fil a minis after an 8 am test), and ofcourse copious amounts of caffeine and stress. All of these factors on their own have been linked to negative relationships with health and injury risk. However, when all these factors come together, it creates a perfect storm for injury

How do we combat this?

The ideal unrealistic answer is to schedule your time better, meal prep before all hell breaks loose and be sure to set time limits to ensure you get proper amounts of sleep. The sad truth is my personality trait, PROCRASTINATION, and the fact finals, no matter what you do finals will always be stressful; this isn’t an option. Instead during these weeks, our training should decrease in load and intensity**DO NOT go completely Sedentary!!!Being completly sedentary can cause significant amounts of muscle atrophy and decrease our insulin sensistivity. Also exercise can be a POWERFUL mental health tool to utilize during these stressful time*** Thus, these weeks can serve as useful deload period which has been shown significantly improve training results. Here are some of my favorite workouts to do during final weeks.


Many of my post have been centered around my love of walking and all the health benefits it serves. Bonus, little hack I use is to listen to any recorded lectures during my walk

“Kelly P, Williamson C, Niven AG, et alWalking on sunshine: scoping review of the evidence for walking and mental healthBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:800-806”

Deload in the Weight Room:

Deload in the weight room typically means significantly decreasing volume( decreasing amount of sets and reps) and moderately decreasing load. Deloads are a critical part of the theory of periodization. It is believed that deloads primes our body for the next training block and may offer an increased super compensation effect.


Yoga and Meditation are both great at producing a relaxation effect and calming our sympathetic nervous system, which is running on the diesel fuel of dark roast coffee. They are also both great at developing optimal breathing techniques. Yoga’s mobility benefits is an additional plus, that I most definitely need.

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