Want to know how you can run faster, swim smoother, bike more powerfully, walk down the stairs easier, recover more efficiently and avoid the dreaded injuries that sideline far too many people? I have had quite a few people ask me how I was able to manage the physical strain and stay injury free during an 18 month non-stop training and racing schedule with 3 Ironman races (within a 7 month period), 4 Ironman 70.3 races, a marathon, 2 Olympic distance races and another 8 or so Sprint distance triathlons. I'm gonna tell you one of the biggest things that has worked for me: Stability, mobility and elasticity! Bet you weren't expecting that! And you might not even know what the heck I am talking about.
So, let me explain by having you do a little activity: Take your left hand and put it flat on the table in front of you. Now, raise your middle finger and push it down as hard as you can. Slam it down. Do it again. Raise the finger and slam it down. Next, relax your hand and reach over with your right hand and pull that same finger back and let it snap down. Do it again. How much effort was it to raise that finger? Probably not a lot but, it should have created quite a lot of force. Definitely a lot more force than the first method we used with your left hand doing the work alone. If you were to keep raising your middle finger off the table by itself, you'd get tired. But if you can store and release that energy, lifting with your other hand, you can do that all day long, and produce much more power with a fraction of the effort. This is the elastic component that affects everything we do and every part of our movement; whether it's walking, running, swimming, going down the stairs or any other movement. This is important for every one of us! If you are human, your body will move better, improve it's ability to recover, tolerate increased physical effort and just feel better when you have improved elasticity. Elasticity is basically the ability to store and release energy efficiently. If you want your body to move more efficiently (elasticity) then you must have a solid foundation of stability and mobility. Go back to your finger lifting activity and when you lift your middle finger up, don't keep your hand stable on the table...let it lift. Lost all that power, didn't you? Stability allows you to have a fixed point from which to stretch a muscle so it can efficiently store and release your energy. Mobility is the ability to take that finger (or muscle) back through the range of motion, allowing for full fluid movement and a greater potential to store and release energy.
Now, picture a rubber band attached to a pencil. If the pencil is stabilized and you pull on the rubber band, you will get a lot of stored energy released when you release the rubber band. If you don't stabilize the pencil when you pull on the rubber band, there won't be any tension (stored energy) in the rubber band. Picture that same rubber band, but with a dozen knots in it. Now, pull the rubber band back. It won't go nearly as far as the un-knotted rubber band, and it won't have the ability to store the energy or snap back. That is what far too many of our muscles and connective tissue are dealing with every day. No wonder far too many people feel tight, compressed, stiff, achey and ummmm....crappy! Too many people are living in bodies that are unstable, immobile and knotted up like a beat up rubber band that has no elasticity cause it's been trashed! Want to know how you can improve your stability and mobility so you feel great and perform at your potential?
Here's how: we are going to improve your stability (like a strong hub on a wheel holding every other part of your body in place), your mobility (by improving not just muscle and connective tissue range of motion, but also decreasing all those knots in your muscles) and ultimately improving your elasticity (which will create a healthier movement environment for your body).
STABILITY- You need to strength train! BUT...not just any sloppy, mindless kind of strength training. When you are doing your strength training, spend time doing movements on unstable surfaces, standing on one leg, moving in different directions, like side to side and diagonally, and strengthening core musculature. If it's attached to your spine, consider it part of your core.
MOBILITY - You need to begin every workout (whether strength training or cardiovascular) by spending just 10 minutes going through a very basic set of moves that will activate your muscles so they are working at full capacity and able to move like an unknotted rubber band. First item to do: Self Myofascial Release. Otherwise known as rolling. You are basically giving yourself a massage with a foam roller. You can buy a foam roller on the internet or at local sporting goods stores. I have one in my living room and several at my studio and use them often! To learn more click on this link: Mayofascial Release. Next item to do: Movement Prep. I have made a video of these moves and you can check it out at this link: Movement Prep or see the video below.
Finally, in order for your muscles and connective tissue to fully respond to your efforts, you need to keep them hydrated. So...keep that water coming! You will amaze yourself with what you can accomplish when working with a body that moves well because it is stable, mobile, elastic and healthy. Isn't that what we ALL want? So, keep up all your good work and have a great season of improved movement!
Coach Keena is a regular contributor at TriEdge and has 15 years experience coaching and training hundreds of individuals. She s a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and holds additional certifications from the National association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council of Exercise (ACE) as a certified personal trainer. If you would like to contact Coach Keena go to: www.coachkeena.com.