React Fast

If you play a team sport you may be familiar with reaction training. Basically it’s training to react to situations quickly and continue play. 

For example in hockey or football you need to be alert as to where the ball is going, other players etc which could mean you have to stop and change direction quickly and frequently at speed. Being able to do this firstly makes you a better player but also having trained your body to do this means it is less prone to injury in this situation.

I also had a think about whether reaction training would apply to more solitary sports such as running or cycling and I believe the answer is yes. If you run off road then you constantly need to adapt to the ground underneath you, and if you’re a cyclist the terrain, other cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles could be moving around you that you may need to react to.

There are various ways in which sports teams add this into their training.

Here are a couple of simple ways you can help train your fast reactions.

  • Reaction ball-These little bouncy balls are odd shaped and when you bounce them on the floor they fire off in any direction meaning you have to react fast to catch it! 
  • Using a timer set it for say 20/30 secs then put it somewhere you can hear it but not see it. Sprint as fast as you can, then when the buzzer goes stop dead and change direction.

 

Move Your Core

No matter what your sport in fact just for general day to day life a well functioning core will make things a lot easier.

A stable middle supports your spine so can help to prevent back pain, in terms of sports performance being able to maintain a good position whether that is running, cycling, golf etc. Makes you a more efficient athlete. This means you can spend more energy on power and speed rather than just holding yourself up. 

In terms of core training I imagine the first thing that comes to mind is Plank which is a great start but ask yourself how often you use your core in a completely static position? I’d say 9/10 you are also moving at least one limb.

So it makes sense to train your core whilst moving a limb too!

Here’s some variations of plank that require some limb movement too.

Mountain Climber.

Not the fast high bum ones often seen as bootcamp but maintaining a flat back, hips staying low bring alternate knees to the elbow. Done slow this is purely core, done fast maintaining form this is also a great running drill.

T Plank.

This also challenges your shoulder stability. The aim is to go from a solid plank to a straight diagonal line side plank dip all under control……

Opposite Arm and Leg lift.

This can be done either by lifting the arm and leg to the side or by lifting them straight up. You want your torso to stay as still as possible without too much tipping and of course keeping a flat back.

Plyometrics for Power

Last week we looked at improving your strength for performance this week let’s look at some plyometrics to improve your explosive power. 

Plyometrics improve power, speed, as well as your ability to absorb impact, which in laymans terms means your bodies ability to repeatedly hit the tarmac during a run and remain unscathed. This improves your movement economy I.e you use less energy to produce the same power output…..so you can go for longer (stop it lads…..)

Plyometrics also improve flexibility and stability (we all know how much I love stability!) which again assists in injury prevention. 

So, where to start?

Squat Jumps, Tuck Jumps and Long Jumps

 

A starting point of a squat, jumping up and landing back into a squat, progress to lifting the knees and heels and then change it up with adding distance instead of height. 

These are all basic plyometrics that over time can be made harder by adding speed, height, length and intensity.

Box jumps -similar to the squat and tuck jump but with the added challenge of landing on a surface. This obviously challenges stability too! Again this can be made more difficult by making the box higher or perhaps narrower -eeeekkk!

Lunge Jumps- This challenges stability and co ordination. To make it more difficult you could add more height or speed.

So off you go bounce like tiggers to improve your power output……boing!!!

Gain Speed Over Winter

Now we’re into looking at your winter training let’s have a look at some ideas of what you could be including to help you improve your performance for the next season.

 

One of the most common goals is to be faster. To be faster you need your muscles to generate more power which means you need to be stronger because Power=Strength at Speed.

 

So you need to get stronger then you need to use that strength to do things fast.

 

A great strength exercise that I think should be every athletes programme is the Deadlift. Deadlifts although predominantly thought of as a glute and leg exercise, are also a huge back and shoulder exercise. They really work the entire body. This is because you need your shoulders to retract, your hands to maintain grip and stability on the bar as your core engages, the hips drive forward as the legs contract to standing and the back helps to control the position as it lifts. 

 

The Deadlift can also be manipulated to achieve slightly different things.

 

I would always say to use it to build strength first so programme at least 6-8 weeks of focusing on heavy deadlifting, aiming to increase weight where appropriate and possibly in the 5 x 5 rep range. 

 

After this though with your solid foundation of strength you can add power, which remember is strength at speed. So instead of increasing the weight instead increase the speed of your lift. Make sure you still go on quality form but instead of a steady lift up and down set yourself up then rip the bar up fast and explosive each time. You can make the descent slow still help you re set your form each time or if you’re fairly experienced you can lift and drop in one fast movement. 

 

This technique can also be applied to Squats. So you would start with a foundation of increasing strength/weights in the squat then move to a period of fast squats really dropping under then powering your legs back up each time. 

 

Need some help with your winter programming? Drop me a message and we can work together!

Winter Training Goals

You may have noticed the nights have started to get a little darker, and although I’m not sure it ever properly stopped raining that rain has definitely gotten colder.

 

This means it might be time to bring your training indoors for the winter.

 

For most people this is also the end of the competition season, or at least the big competitions, so it’s time to reflect on the season just gone and look forward to improving for next year.

 

What does that mean for your winter training schedule?

 

For most people this is a great time to focus on your strength and conditioning training and deal with any niggles.

 

Most niggles come about because of a weakness in a movement pattern, that is often repeated in your chosen sport.

 

Have a think about repetitive movement patterns in your sport, what do you do with your muscles to make it happen?  

 

Which bits of your body do you think struggle with this the most?

 

This is a great time to put a plan in place to strengthen those weak areas,  or if you aren’t sure book yourself in for a movement assessment (with me!) to identify any areas might need some extra work.

 

Perhaps you need to get faster, which means you need to get stronger and generate more power. Dedicating some time over winter to power training will have you raring to go next season.

 

Mindful Training

When you are training for an event it can be all consuming looking at speed, heart rate etc.

 

Perhaps you run through your to do list, or mentally type emails during your training session.

 

Have you ever tried being more mindful during your training session. This is different from meditating as you are not aiming to be completely switched off from what your during in fact it’s the opposite as mindfulness means focusing on what you are doing and how it feels.

 

Using running as an example mindful running would mean setting out on your run and focusing on your breathing, then what your body feels like as it runs. How does you move? Do you feel stiff or relaxed? Are you running light on your feet or do your limbs feel heavy?

 

How do you place your feet? What are your arms doing, how is your posture?

 

As you’re noticing all this you don’t necessarily need to do anything to try and change it you just need to notice it.  Of course if you think you need to alter your posture do so and then see how different that feels.

 

This is just running for the feeling that running gives you rather than for time or fitness gains.

 

If you are training for an event this can be a difficult thing to do, so instead perhaps try it during your taper as this will give you a chance to really assess how your body is feeling pre race. Alternatively you could do it post race as you are just easing back into training and you can focus on how your body has recovered from your event. 

 

Mindfulness can be used during any exercise not just running so wh6 not give it a go and see how different your mind and body feels doing it.

 

Do you really need to lengthen?

When we think of mobility work we will normally think about stretching. You may do it as part of your post training routine, but have you ever thought about the true purpose of what you are doing?

 

Stretching in it’s purest form is used to lengthen muscles. 

 

Which is great if that’s what you are after, but do you really want or need to lengthen your muscles. 

 

During training tiny micro tears happen (it’s totally normal so nothing to be scared of) and then knit back together by formation of scar tissue with the aim of becoming stronger next time. However of course this scar tissue can make the muscle slightly shorter or stiffer over time.

 

Post training stretching is done to relax muscles and to maintain their current length. So we’re kind of ironing out that post training scar tissue and making it nice and smooth.

 

How far you take your stretching depends on the flexibility requirements of your sport. Of course a gymnast or a dancer may need to increase their muscle length to participate in their sport, however a cyclist or a runner does not need extreme levels of flexibility. The only exception maybe if a muscle is already shortened and causing an injury/pain problem.

 

So, what to do in your post training stretch? 

 

Well that is personal to you as to what needs relaxing, releasing etc. And how you go about it also depends on what you feel has the most benefit for you. 

 

Regular static stretching is fine, you could maybe use a strap or a band to help you relax in certain positions.

 

You could use a roller or some physio balls.

 

Or you could do some Yoga specific to the needs of your sport.

 

Check out the Facebook page for some ideas on how you can implement this into your routine.

 

Pain got you Sidelined

If there is one thing I am totally obsessed with in training its Stability (I’m talking physical not mental we ain’t got time for that discussion!) 

Stability means strong and balanced. Strength is such an important part of injury prevention and of course in rehabilitation.

I see a lot of niggly injuries in my studio often hip pain, calf problems and lower back pain that can seem like they might put an end to that person’s sport. 

Often that person will have tried stretching to no avail, maybe it feels better for a bit but as soon as they run, cycle etc. the pain returns.

With some assessment of movement patterns it becomes clear that there is either a lack of strength, an asymmetry or a dysfunction in the movement pattern that although may not be repeated exactly in the sport will affect the biomechanics of that pattern too. 

You may think with a strong set of thighs on show surely that isn’t possible? 

The thing is, there is more to strength and stability than just the big muscles. We also have lots of stabiliser muscles that play a huge part in how those big muscles function.

I  often start with the hips as they are the centre of the body, and therefore responsible for a huge part of the stability of the whole skeleton. They stabilise the spine and therefore the limbs that attach to it. 

Hip Stability can be improved with some really basic (not necessarily easy!) exercises. 

 

Some of my favourites include.

 

Hip Hitch Single Leg Squat

Single Leg Squat -With a ball or TRX for support

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift – If you do have Calf issues try them on your tip toes to really work on your strength here. 

Curtsy Lunge to 1 leg balance. 

Unfold Your Sports Posture

Last week we did a little foam rolling on the lower body.

Now I want to look at using little physio balls, hockey, tennis whatever balls to release restrictions. 

I find whatever sport people play/take part in most of it will result in a shortening of the chest. 

A Golfer closes here as part of the initial stance, a cyclist spends their time forward over the bike and a tired runner can definitely be prone to slouching. Add to this the fact that most of us then spend a lot of our time hunched over desks, laptops, phones etc. 

That’s a lot of time shortening the muscles at the front of the chest. 

As a result of this the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders become sore as they are constantly being stretched.

Whilst rolling and massaging these areas can help relieve the pain, in order to address the problem we need to release the shortening of the chest. 

I’m going to admit this looks super weird but I promise it works.

Either lying on your front or stood facing a wall put a ball in the front of your chest maybe approx an inch in from your arm pit. You can either just press down here or roll around a little to massage the area. Do this for a couple of minutes then change sides.

If it would like some help with Strength & Conditioning for your sport I have some availability for 1 2 1 training, hit reply if you would like to have a chat about how I could help you up your game!

Recovery Rolling

If you take part in regular exercise or sport it is really important to do some mobility work to keep your muscles moving freely.

 

When we train, our muscles micro tear and then build back stronger. In order to maintain their length and therefore your flexibility we need to ease out the scar tissue that has repaired the micro tears. 

 

There are several ways you can do this but this week I’m going to focus on foam rolling and trigger point ball work.

 

Foam Rolling is essentially self massage. It stimulates the tissues, increases blood flow to the area which encourages the bodies natural healing process and releases the fascia-the long bands of connective tissue that connects you from head to foot.

 

So, how do you get started? Obviously you need a foam roller and you can get soft ones, hard ones, knobbly ones (stop it!) and it’s personal preference as to which one you like.

 

It’s really simple there is no great technique to foam rolling just do what feels good.

 

Today let’s focus on an area that most people find gets sore after a heavy training session -Legs!

 

The front of your thighs -Quads

 

and the back of your thighs-Hamstrings can be done by simply lying with your legs on the roller, your arms holding you up and rolling your legs up and down. 

The Glutes and Hip I like to do with a ball although you can do it on a roller. However, using a tennis ball, hockey ball or physio ball put the ball in your bum cheek and either sit or lie down and roll around a little on it. Rotate the leg in and out see how that feels, then move the ball further out towards your hip and start again. This can help to release the Piriformis which is often linked to lower back, hip and Sciatica pain.