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Pre Run Stretch

Do you stretch before a run?

 

Nah me neither…..

 

It has been common place for years to do a few static stretches before a run (I’m looking at you PE teachers!).

 

However research over the the last several years shows that static stretching has no benefit before a run and can in fact be detrimental.

 

Let’s look quickly at what static stretching does.

 

When we stretch a muscle we are lengthening it for a prolonged period -say 30-60 seconds. This sends a message via your stretch receptors to your brain to tell the muscle to relax. 

 

Which obviously makes no sense if you are about to exercise you want it to be fired up not relaxed.

 

So how do you get your muscles all fired up for a run?

 

Dynamic stretching and preparatory exercises are the answer.

 

Basically this means taking your body through ranges of motion and activating the muscles you are about to use.

 

For a pre run routine you might do things like leg swings forward and back, upper body rotations then some body weight squats into squat jumps and fast feet or big knees. 

 

It doesn’t need to be long or over complicated just think about the muscles you are about to use and get them moving.

Strength for Cycling

Well I’ve covered running and swimming so I may as well complete the triathlon and focus on cycling this week.

 

With cycling we are looking at improving both endurance and power output. 

 

Building stronger muscles makes them more efficient and therefore able to work longer, as well as of course giving them more power.

 

The muscles required for cycling are obviously strong legs and glutes but also a strong core and shoulders to essentially keep you straight, help with turning and negotiating hills.

 

Box jumps are great for improving leg power output. You can start with a fairly small step if you want to . Keep them to small reps so 3 -5 reps for 4 rounds with a decent rest period. The key is maximum jump force output not just slogging them out for the hell of it like in a circuit class….

If you want a no equipment option Squat Jumps make a decent substitute.

Deadlifts work your legs and glutes whilst also requiring you to stabilise your core and shoulders, so pretty much what you’re doing on a bike then….except heavier. Start with a weight you can maintain good form on for around 6-8 reps for 3-5 rounds. 

For some endurance training with a power element I like the Kettlebell swing. You can go for time or numbers using the heaviest you can comfortably manage but that encourages you to really drive with your hips to swing it. 

Then get back on your bike and use that new power!

 

Strength for Swimming

Strength training for swimmers 

 

Last week we looked at strength for Runners so this week let’s look at strength for swimming.

 

You may be swimming as part of a triathlon programme or maybe it’s your sole sport. If you want to get better -faster and more powerful you will need to spend some time building strength outside of the pool to help your muscles perform better in the pool.

 

Maybe you just swim recreationally to get some exercise,but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend some time trying to improve. If you become stronger you will swim more efficiently and therefore your current regime will be easier and you can then get fitter by pushing it back up to being a little difficult again-so you sort of trick yourself into being fitter. 

 

Also strength training is great for preventing injuries that may occur from the repetitive movements of any sport.

 

To improve strength for swimming we need to look at the big muscle chains in involved and they are the back, the chest and arms and the glutes and legs. 

 

If you train in a gym adding in a Lat Pull Down and a Bench Press will cover the upper body requirements.

 

 

 

If you’re at home you could use a band for band pull downs and chest pulls.

 

 

 

With no equipment Press Ups and Superman W Pulls.

 

 

 

3-4 sets of 10 for each.

 

For your lower body whether you are in the gym or at home, equipment or no equipment-Squats.

If you’re in the gym then with a barbell on your back is great, or holding a dumbbell on your chest.

 

If your at home you could use a heavy rucksack or whatever you have to hand that has some weight that is easy enough to hold up.

 

Otherwise go unweighted but high volume.

 

So if you’re using weights do 3-4 sets of 10 and if you’re unweighted do 3-4 sets of 20/30.

 

Do this tiny bit of extra work twice per week and see your swimming soar to new………depths!

 

Strength Training For Runners

With the rise of apps such as couch to 5k and the continuing growth of free social runs like ParkRun running has continued to grow as an accessible sport and way of staying fit. 

 

I think this is awesome as I’m sure you know I’m genuinely passionate about people being fit and healthy. 

 

However running exclusively as your form of exercise can cause some problems with certain muscles becoming over active and others becoming under active. It is wise to add in some strength work to help to combat this.

 

Also, even if you are not feeling any jiggly injuries adding in some strength training can improve your running too and hopefully help to prevent injury in the future.

 

As I find most runners are way too busy with the running to start adding in long gym sessions (also apparently they are boring…) here are a couple of exercises you can do at home with no equipment that should only take 20 minutes.

 

The good focus of running strength workouts would be hip and core stability and leg endurance.

 

So here’s just 3 exercises that will do just that.

 

Do 3 sets of 10 reps twice per week around your running for noticeable improvement.

 

Split Squat to one leg

 

 

Single leg squat 

Plank taps and jacks

 

 

Everyday Athlete

If you participate in any sport I’m sure you’ve made comparisons of yourself to those at the top of your chosen sport.

 

Why aren’t you as fast around a Triathlon as the Brownlee brothers or Chrissy Wellington?

 

Why aren’t you as fast on a bike as Mark Cavendish?

 

Why don’t you play Tennis as well as Serena Williams?

 

Firstly they have probably been training like demons since they were kids when you were still busy watching cartoons but day to day they have strategies and habits that help them perform above and beyond the rest of us. 

 

They Strength Train. Usually whatever sport an athlete does whether that be running, cycling, rugby etc.  they will also perform complimentary strength and conditioning training focused on making them stronger and more powerful to perform their sport and to address any imbalances that may cause injuries further down the line.

 

Adding just one or two sports specific strength training sessions into your regime could massively improve your game. 

 

Nutrition. Athletes don’t train hard and then go home and eat junk. They fuel their training with good food, filling up on lots of different vegetables and quality sources of Protein and Carbs. Of course I’m not saying you should never have a pizza (otherwise what’s the point of all the training!) but making sure 80% of your diet is decent nutrition can give your body the best chance of firing on all cylinders. 

 

Sleep. Sleep is a huge priority for good training. Being completely rested enables you to train hard at your next session, so make time for those early nights and solid 8 hours.

 

Recovery. Whether that be a massage, stretching/yoga, foam rolling or plain old fashioned rest, athletes prioritise time to fully recover in order to train hard again the next day. As part of your training you should make time to recover with adequate rest from training and some time spent stretching out or having a massage. This helps to deal with soreness and can prevent injuries.

Your Best Posture is Your Next Posture

There is a saying  “your best posture is your next posture”. 

 

Basically there is no one posture that you should be in24/7 nope not even neutral spine. 

 

You see, the body thrives on movement. Movement helps to lubricate joints, it helps to release fascia (the tissue that covers your bones and muscles from head to foot) and it helps to pump oxygen around via your bloodstream so is part of your organ and cell renewal process (the stuff that keeps you alive and healthy). 

 

The thing is, we live increasingly sedentary lives or we can spend hours at work etc. In the same position and then we repeat the same movement patterns over and over again on a daily basis. 

 

This means our bodies can get a bit stuck in certain patterns and we start to over work some muscles and underuse others. 

 

This is what leads to aches and pains, over use injuries etc. 

 

So, what can we do about it……..the solution is simple really; we just need to move more. 

 

If you have an office job just regularly rolling your shoulders, opening up your chest or twisting left to right can go a long way to helping you stay mobile. Of course getting up and walking around can help, as can doing a body scan and trying to squeeze individual muscles (do a few bum squeezes whilst you wait for the kettle!) 

 

Circle your ankles and wrists, bend your knees if you have been stood static for a while, basically do any movement at all just to stop you feeling stuck.

 

You don’t need to hold yourself in a certain way all day you just need to keep mixing it up.

Take Control of Your Pain

As I work with people who generally want help with their body movement in some way I here lots of different ailments, issues and injuries day in day out.

I’ve had clients with scoliosis, osteoporosis, arthritis, new hips, spondylothesis, recovering dislocated shoulders, post knee surgery, ankle surgery and so much back surgery that I am almost blasé’ to it. I train people with lifelong disabilities and am obsessed with following Instagram accounts of people pushing though barriers that would stop lesser mortals and they go on to achieve what may have been considered the impossible. I also find the Paralympics way more inspirational than the Olympics. The lady riding Dressage with no legs……………..I’ve literally got no excuse wonky hips or not at least I’ve got some!

Now as I said I see these things every day so it’s kind of my normal, but what concerns me is that many of these people have been given such negative advice and phrases for their Dr’s and Surgeons etc. So much to the point they can often be scared to move!

The smallest twinge can have some people convinced they are seconds away from full body paralysis! The “my Dr said my disc was right on my spinal cord” you know it’s always pretty close right as its job is to protect it? It takes a serious whack to damage your spinal cord not just a bit of gardening. The “Surgeon said I would always have back pain, he can’t fix me” The surgeon forgot to finish the sentence which should have been “You have got to fix you because surgery won’t do it on its own and whether you have pain or not is again down to you and not a surgeons words”.

“I was told to be careful with my new hip, knee……” It’s actually an upgrade you know! So long as you do correct rehab to mobilise scar tissue and strengthen muscles following surgery it will work just as well if not better than your old one! Trust me I’ve seen it many times.

My absolute favourite is “The Dr said it is degenerative damage” sighs, head in hands…….I’ll put that one to bed right now wrinkles on your face are “degenerative face disease” yet we don’t consider those life threatening….your body is degenerating yes, but everybody’s is and not every body is in pain.

There are also those that have an onset of back or knee pain etc. and drag themselves to A&E only to feel very dismissed when they just get sent home with some painkillers-“no X-Ray or MRI!”  They have not done you a disservice they just know that unless you have had an actual accident there is no reason to suspect a potentially fatal issue and you would be better off with a referral to a movement specialist.

There is also this huge phobia people have of clicking and grinding noises. I often have people say “there is definitely something wrong with my knees they click when I bend them”. I don’t remember ever reading that bodies shouldn’t click-apart from the old wives tale about it causing arthritis which is completely untrue. Clicking, grinding etc. is just air and tendons and ligaments moving about. Anyone that knows me knows I click all the time and you know when I do it the most…………………..after yoga i.e. when I’m at my most bendy!

The thing is I don’t ever remember anyone ever telling me life would be easy and completely pain free?

Unfortunately a lot of the language around pain and posture and injury issues can sound quite scary and therefore be taken completely out of context. There are also just not the resources in the NHS to do thorough and proper rehab and we get left to our own devices.

For some people they have a “bring it on, this won’t stop me” mentality and I find these people (myself included) no matter what will always continue to exercise and either accept that sometimes stuff will hurt or in fact pain will diminish it just takes hard work and a commitment to your body.

You see I read a lot of research about rehab, and pain science and no matter what the injury, ailment, issue or operation the most successful treatment is always the same………………………….exercise!

To me this makes perfect sense for many reasons.

If the issue is due to a joint problem then strengthening the muscles around it will help to support it and therefore minimise any damage and therefore reduce pain.

If the issue is post-surgery then muscle wastage due to immobility needs to be dealt with and again strengthening the muscles surrounding any problem areas can only be a positive step towards supporting it.

Scar tissue following surgery needs to regain its elasticity as the continual shortening has the potential to actually cause more restrictions around the area.

If muscles are generally weak due to postural problems etc. then strengthening obviously helps them to deal with whatever life throws at them much better.

Alongside all that, exercise has been proven to boost your mood as well as improving your general health and helping to minimise risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Now I’m not going to lie and say you will do some exercise and immediately after you will feel amazing, anything new to your body may well still be uncomfortable at first-but you were already uncomfortable doing nothing and getting progressively worse with no option but to up your pain killers………………….what if I told you after the initial uncomfortable stage of starting exercise you may actually start to feel better and those pain killers will start to be less necessary??? That sounds like a better long term solution doesn’t it?

So, whatever body injury, ailment, and pain you are dealing with do not accept it as a reason to sit around, sulk and moan about it whilst doing nothing. If you are doing that stay away from me I’m not tolerant! If you want to do something about it then start now, start small accept there may be set backs but pick yourself up and try again, and if you want some help give me a call-whingers and catastrophisers need not apply!

Take it up a Level

When you are trying to change your sports performance or body composition there’s a couple of elements that can’t be left out.

 

Effort and pushing yourself a little bit further than before.

 

Unfortunately it seems to be a bit of a misnomer that just repeating the same actions a bit more than before will give you the improvements you are looking for.

 

Sorry, it’s going to take more than that.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “if you do what you’ve always done you’ll always have what you always got.”

 

So, if you want to improve your performance or change your body composition you are going to have to improve the intensity of your training.

 

That means stuff might start to feel uncomfortable. The weights are going to get heavier and harder to lift, those runs are going to be faster and your lungs are going to be bursting a little harder.

 

Of course you don’t need to up it several levels all at once but it does need to feel a little bit tougher than before.

 

Expect muscles to get sore after a workout-maybe even during. Expect new stuff to feel uncomfortable, remember that once just exercising at all felt uncomfortable so it’s time to re embrace that feeling and take it up a level.

Articulate Your Spine

The Spine is something that although we use it all day to hold us up we can be quite fearful of.

As it is frequently an area in which people experience pain it has become quite common to assume that the spine is fragile.

Without sounding hugely patronising do you think the foundation of your body is made to be fragile? Of course it isn’t! The Spine is an incredibly robust structure. However that does not mean it doesn’t need some work to keep it working at it’s best.

One thing that keeps the spine healthy is movement. Moving the spine sends fluid to the area that plumps up the space between the discs ensuring the spine receives vital nutrients to help it continually renew and repair.

As you may know the spine is made up of lots of little bones called Vertebrae -33 in total, 24 moveable.

The process of moving these Vertebrae separately is called some spinal articulation. This involves rolling through the spine as if you were able to separate each vertebrae and being able to isolate either the upper or lower spine for movement.

We need to take the spine through flexion (forward bend) and extension (backward bend) to fully move these vertebrae.

Remember your spine is not a block of wood it shouldn’t move as one solid plank, think of it more as a chain with connecting links that can all move separately as well as together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QxXXNDx7cY

Breathe Healthy

Joints need 3 things daily-movement, compression and decompression. This allows fluid to flow in and out of them to bring nutrients and to take away waste. Joints that lack movement can become dehydrated and thus unhealthy.

In a society that is increasingly being blighted by back pain and related issues we have become obsessed with posture.

It is said often that in order to improve our aches and pains we need to improve our posture. And that is indeed very true, but what is good posture and how do you get it? You see although at a basic level we are all the same, biomechanically we may well be very different. Our limbs are different Lengths; our joints may be a different depth or width, at a slightly different angle with a different potential range of motion.

However that does not mean we don’t all have the potential to go about our lives moving and feeling well.

If we teach good movement and breathing we will by default have good posture.

Breathing is a much underrated part of our movement pattern. We need to be able to activate our diaphragm as we breathe in order to allow the muscles of the hips, low back and pelvic floor work efficiently. As we breathe in we should inflate our belly to contract the diaphragm muscle -which sends it down towards your pelvis. This is where it allows the release of the muscles around here. If we breathe into our chest all the time our diaphragm stays up near our rib cage which can “pull” the muscles of the hips, low back and pelvic floor up thus increasing their tension.

There are also other reasons to breathe using our diaphragm.

 

To drop the Diaphragm down allows more Oxygen into the body. Oxygen is required of course to power our muscles and organs. The more Oxygen we take in the more energy we have.

The Diaphragm also impacts our nervous system. As we lead increasingly busy lifestyles we can often spend most of our day in “fight or flight” mode, also known as the Sympathetic Nervous system. This means we will be taking shallow breaths and have an elevated heart rate.

In order for our bodies to fully rest and repair we need to take it back to the Parasympathetic Nervous System also known as the “rest and digest”. Taking some time to focus on breathing deeply and slowly into the belly can help us to achieve this.

If you are feeling stressed during your day, just taking a few minutes to do some deep breaths can help to calm your whole system down.

So the benefits of Diaphragmatic breathing are three fold. Firstly, if we have a well-functioning diaphragm we allow other areas of the body to work efficiently hopefully aiding in the management or prevention of pain. Secondly it provides our body with more Oxygen to keep it energised and repair and renew.

And finally we can use our breathing to relax both our body and mind at times of stress.

Why not try it out?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvcmxTu__Q0