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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.

 

 

 

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.