Tuesday, September 6, 2022

PREPARING ATHLETES FOR RACE DAY: CONDITIONING & PREVENTION

INTRODUCTION

Getting back into full swing of any competitive sports after a lengthy break can be a challenging adjustment, which calls for a re-aligning of the mind-body connection.  Let it be the global shut-in of the Covid-19 pandemic or a seasonal hiatus, an athlete who underwent any extended period of inaction from their training routine will require proper help in "getting back in the saddle".  As an athlete myself, I chose to specialize in sports medicine to support endurance athletes and active adults to live a long, happy life without extra trips to the doctor. 

To restore safe and healthy conditioning for any race, it's all about (first) making sure that they're 100% ready to train to the highest degree without having to take a step back or take a step to the side, because they're either dealing with aches and pains or because they're injured. Whenever somebody's working with me, I always like to make sure that they are getting a full, comprehensive evaluation. More than just reviewing their past medical history or their past wellness history, I also review the past races they've done and the kind of sports they have done in their past.  I assess how they move, where they move and if they need some improvement in that ability to function. 


PERSONALIZED ASSESSMENT

We start with a preliminary evaluation and getting a full breakdown on how the athlete currently moves.  With a series of test activities, I observe and record their strength level for the sport they wish to compete.  This includes their stability and power to perform and endure specific activities within that type of race or a sport. For example, if I'm working with a soccer player, it's different than working  with a triathlete.  Everybody needs a different amount of power output, speed or mechanics- depending on what kind of activity or even the distance of race that they're doing. 


EVERYBODY NEEDS DIFFERENT KIND OF TRAINING

Coming into the season, it is not uncommon to find athletes to lack strength to safely endure a full race.   Whether you're doing a sprint triathlon and olympic triathlon, or even the half and full iron man distances, I make sure that I'm assessing an athlete to THEIR specific individual needs.  Race training  and conditioning is about PERSONALIZATION; gauge their BMI and regard their specific physiology to match their training.  Athletes want to get faster and be able to push harder- but depending on their body type or specific shape, there are different gaps in how they perform. It is the body type that appears congruent to how they produce power output and speed. 

I find that a lot of things break down either in one or two categories; there's either something lacking in their feet or their hips where they're either having decreased stability or they're having inadequate activation in their foot. And because of that, it's altering the way they're pushing off when they're running or the way that they're putting appropriate power into their pedal (when they're cycling).  This creates an inefficiency and therefore decreasing the power output and an overall decrease in speed over the course of a race. If you're ever thinking about how many steps that you're taking during a 5k or 10K half marathon, and how many cycles you're going through every minute in cycling races, you're missing a lot of things that could be cleaned up by just seeing a physical therapist that is specializing in what you personally do.


PREPARATION AND PREVENTION, NOT JUST REPAIR!

Seeing a physical therapist is so much more than just healing you from pain. A PT that specializes in endurance athletes, triathletes, runners, cyclists or swimmers can help improve your performance overall while you're still trying to compete and trying to work towards your new goals.  The benefit of seeing a physical therapist in addition to having a coach can help with your training. We often work together with coaches to make sure you have the best of both worlds. For those aches and pains or injuries, we're there as the athlete's pit crew (just like NASCAR) to "change your tires and change your oil". We're here to make sure that they stay healthy while we're working on improving performance.


SPOTTING GAPS IN PERFORMANCE

From amateurs to elite athletes, my work is in trying to find those little gaps in their performance.  I observe their running form (oftentimes using video to monitor this). I'm always looking at all views- from the front view, side view and back view- to see if there's anything that could be breaking down your form that could lead to a potential injury or an issue with your performance. I'm always looking afterwards with the video. Observing what's going on the knee for anything that could be affecting your from the time that you make contact with the ground all the way up to the top of your shoulders in the top of your head.  From here, we create a personalized and comprehensive plan for race day.

For cyclists, I observe their cycling form and I assess areas that need work- including gaps in their stability, their strength or their power.  We work on specific activities like a lateral bear walk with the weight pull through, or we can do a walking lens with the weight overhead to work a little bit on leg strength while working on core stability. And then we can also work a little bit more on power by doing these accelerations of power jumps while going off of a step in order to make sure that you are getting those gaps filled and making sure that you're getting to the maximum performance that you possibly can.


THE RIGHT TIME FOR TRAINING

Some of my clients train ahead of time during the winter season is going to be enough for them when they go on for their first race. Others begin training shortly before their next race or even in the middle of racing season.  Breakdown can happen any time. I usually have my athletes train as much as possible without irritating anything that's still irritated. Also,  continuing to work with them in order to improve their performance and improve that achiness or pain that they're dealing with so that they can continue racing and they continue training without having to stop.


AND THEN THERE'S SLEEP

I'm always a big believer in not stopping unless we absolutely have to.  At the same time, I always like to redirect what your training is, so that you're able to continue getting some benefit from what you're doing without having to completely shut down. When prepping for your races, make sure that you're not only consulting your trusted specialist for your endurance training, but also making sure that you're getting enough SLEEP. That means the recommended six to eight hours- making sure you're keeping your stress level in check; making sure that you're not forgetting your strength and getting in your flexibility and mobility on top of your training. I know that can be very difficult, but it is very necessary for all of those things. And if you are getting ready for race day, make sure that you're doing the appropriate (and enough) training. And if you're not sure, make sure you ask me.




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