It has been a very busy season, which leads me to address a simple but powerful concept I use with a lot of our athletes: cross-train in movements that you don’t normally do in your activity.
I often see a seasoned runner or cyclist come into the office from injuries after working through a grueling training program. Part of the reason for this, I have found, is that other forms of activity have gone by the wayside while the primary activity is increased. There are only so many hours in the day, so other activities are pushed out. For example, a runner training for a marathon PR has increased their weekly mileage to the detriment of cross-training and rest. Cross-training during these times is not to only build strength, but to keep the system in balance.
A lot of activities are straight-line, forward-based (sagittal movement) such as running and cycling. The side-to-side (lateral) and rotational movements (transverse) are often left out. If one is road running, the feet, knees and hips are all often hitting and moving in a repetitive pattern. It helps to build up other body movers and stabilizers to balance the ones working overtime. As an example, we might use Monster Walks, Lateral Toe Shuffles and Side Bridges to shore up lateral balance. A word of caution is that it helps to have a good evaluation beforehand to know for sure what is weak or not fully “firing” off.
Examples of other activities that tend to follow this primary sagittal movement are cycling, CrossFit, weight lifting and rowing. I address each of these in different ways based on the activity, but, again, often look at what movements are not getting enough attention in the main activity.
A lot of rotational sports tend to be one-side, transverse plane dominant — such as baseball, tennis, golf and shot put. I often have to address cross-training the opposite rotation (contralateral movement) as well as sagittal (front-back) and lateral (side-side) movements. A few sports such as boxing tend to be equal with left and right rotation.
We should also look at a lot of our other repetitive, non-sporting activities during the day. Sitting looking at a computer, tablet or phone are culprits for a lot of us. We can take the concept of moving through opposite and other planes to help reverse some of these detrimental postures of forward head, hunched upper back and rolled-in shoulders. It seems rare for someone to be immune to staring at their electronic device anymore. It’s not just non-athletes, desk jockeys or weekend warriors. Even pro athletes sit a lot during the day hunched over a device. It helps to know how to perform slump-reversal exercises.
One of the classic exercises is Brugger’s Postural Relief Exercise which is easy to perform anywhere. Other exercises I commonly use are Wall Angels and simple stand up and stretch to the ceiling movements. Again, there a lot of other precise exercises to use based upon a good evaluation.
Another important activity (or rather non-activity) that we often forget to put in a busy schedule is rest. This occurs both with sleep and with recovery days/periods. I listened to a top women’s body builder years ago mention during heavy training for competition that she would need 10 hours of sleep a night. I have found this to be true with other athletes training for heavy competition from cycling crits to ultramarathons to Olympic lifting. In addition, planning recovery days in your seasonal schedule and recovery months in your annual schedule helps your body rebuild and rest. We often forget that training days are the stimulus, but recovery days are the building time.
In addition to cross-training and rest, specific muscle imbalances need to be addressed. Oftentimes, other muscles and tissues will become facilitated (or over-activated), causing or reacting to other muscles becoming inhibited or weak. This can be analyzed with a NKT™ (Neurokinetic Therapy™) evaluation. Some examples of common imbalances are piriformis facilitation-glute max inhibition, calf muscle/Achilles/plantar fascia facilitation-glute max inhibition, and IT band facilitation-TFL inhibition. As you can imagine, if these muscle/tissue imbalances are left in place, they tend to worsen as time goes on. Fortunately, these often respond quickly to the right therapy.
I hope this gives you some ideas to start considering in your training and even sitting at your desk.
Disclaimer: As always, seek a qualified health care provider if you have questions, concerns, or injuries or illnesses limiting your activity. This is for instructional purposes only and should not be considered a diagnosis.
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