One of the many drawbacks to the lockdown during the Coronavirus outbreak is the barriers it creates to training in sport and exercise. While this situation is undoubtedly effecting some more than others in terms of what sport or activity you take part in and what facilities are available, most people are having to adapt their training in some way, and this is also the case when it comes to keeping injuries at bay.
I’ve talked in length in the past about the importance of having regular sports massages for preventative reasons, and to treat injuries when they do show. However, in the absence of being able to use this service, how can we keep on top of things at home in the way of ‘self-maintenance’? This article is therefore going to give you some ideas of how you can keep yourself in check until my services can resume normally once again – let’s focus on what we CAN do!
Maintain your Strength!
Perhaps the most effective way at reducing the likelihood of becoming injured at any time (whether in lockdown or not) is to strengthen the body. This can be in the form of rehab, e.g. exercises your practitioner has given you following an appointment in order to promote the healing of your injury, and to prevent it from occurring again in the future. I often cite this as the most vital part of a consultation with a client. As important as I find sports massage to be as part of my assessments, releasing someone off is all well and good, but it doesn’t really SOLVE the problem, instead it treats the symptoms. However, in my experience, the usual cause of injuries is weakness in the body, so when this isn’t addressed, sooner or later the ailment (or a different one) will return. What sports massage doesn’t do is strengthen your body, so this needs to be followed up with commitment by the client to their rehab programme.
"Perhaps the most effective way at reducing the likelihood of becoming injured at any time (whether in lockdown or not) is to strengthen the body."
Unfortunately however, this doesn’t stop people from expecting a miracle ‘quick fix’ by expecting the issue to resolve itself without having to dedicate time to strength and conditioning. My key message therefore is that if you adhere to enough strength work, then prevention is the best fix which will keep you going injury-free for longer. Don’t just strengthen the areas where you’ve had past injuries either, be more comprehensive and strengthen the key muscles that are required for your sport. This will allow you to ‘prehab’ rather than rehab (as it would be completely absurd to only do strength and conditioning when you have an injury – that’s why they happen in the first place!).
Furthermore, a lot of people have drastically reduced the amount of activity they have been engaging in during the lockdown so far (running etc.), due to reasons such as lack of motivation from not being able to train with others. This therefore may lead some to believe that because they’re not training as much, there’s no need to do any strength and conditioning. This would be another big mistake, as if you stop running you will lose your cardiovascular fitness – but you will also lose your strength! This will then make it much more difficult when you start back training properly again and it will become a wasted opportunity to strengthen areas of previous injury or to ‘prehab’.
Looking for ideas of what to do? Then why not check out my 30-day full body strength challenge? This is available on my Facebook page, Instagram account, or my new YouTube channel HERE.
If you are finding that your muscles are feeling a bit knotted, tight, and in need of a general MOT, then as an alternative to having a sports massage, foam rolling is an effective tool for routine maintenance as; even if not as effective, it releases the muscles off in a similar way. Nowadays, foam rollers come in different forms, including hand-held and vibrating devices. My personal opinion is that the fancy vibrating rollers are a bit of a fad, and it’s unclear whether or not there is much of a benefit (there isn’t really that much research surrounding this fairly new concept), so I personally think that unless money is no object, there’s not really a massive point in buying one over a regular roller. I would however recommend working up to a roller with bumps on to increase the intensity. Meanwhile, while hand-held rollers may be good for convenience e.g. sitting at a desk, they are never going to provide the same intensity of putting your near full bodyweight through them, so I would stick to the traditional ones when possible. Sports balls e.g. hockey, cricket, golf, are also useful to release off areas otherwise inaccessible for full size rollers e.g. the top of the hamstring, or base of the foot. Some key areas that benefit from rolling are the Quads, IT Bands, Hamstrings, Calves and Back.
"as an alternative to having a sports massage, foam rolling is an effective tool for routine maintenance"
You can find the first video for my recently released foam rolling challenge below. I've also included a link to a consumer advice video I produced to give you some advice of what foam roller to buy. This is similar to what I have mentioned above, albeit in more detail.
Stretching is something you can never do enough of. It helps to maintain our flexibility, and reverse the constant tightening of certain muscle groups through sport and lifestyle. One common mistake that people make (other than not doing enough of it) is that they don’t tend to hold the stretch for long enough. If stretching for flexibility, then I would recommend holding it for no less than 60 seconds – most tend to hold it for much less than this. Also, why do static stretching all the time? PNF stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) is arguably a more effective method to use. It also has the benefit of not only improving flexibility, but also activating muscles through a greater range of motion. Examples of this are included in days 18 and 19 of the 30 day strength challenge. Stretching is a topic that is covered in much more detail in my online workshops.
One common cause of injury is incorrect technique. This can apply to whatever sport/activity in which you participate e.g. running, jumping, throwing. Incorrect form can create excessive stress on the body by increasing unwanted pressure on your joints and muscles. Working on executing key sporting techniques is therefore key, and is something that separates running from most other sports. The average runner does little to no work on improving technique, causing excessive energy wastage by not moving efficiently, and overworking certain muscles. This is odd given how important sport-specific skills are to overall performance. Maybe this is because of the misconception that running isn’t thought to involve a lot of skill. However, proper running technique is something that has to be learnt in most cases. This is where strength work comes in as well, as it is only through strengthening key muscle groups that gives us the ability to hold correct form. Technical work is something that I cover in great detail in my online workshops.
Since social distancing has been in place, there has been an increase in popularity for online fitness content. However, it is now quite difficult to sift through all of this to separate the passable, but mediocre content, and the things that have a more thought-out structure that can benefit you over time. I have a several hours of online content available, as I have an online injury prevention workshop series, providing over 4 hours of content. This covers a big variety of topics including strength and conditioning, technical work, stretching, warm ups, cooldowns, example session plans, and many more. It is all geared towards how you can go through the process of improving your Biomechanics through a structured plan of theory and practical-based content, which is not just a host of random exercise. After all, do you just want something random to pass the time, or do you want something with a proper structure in place which has much more potential for longer-term self-development? It is important to accumulate the knowledge to understand WHY we should do things, so this series takes the time to critically analyse our current practices, and give you ideas of how you can improve.
During the lockdown, I am offering the main series of sessions for a special discounted price of just £29.99. Shortly, I will also be releasing a new workshop all about Biomechanics in Children and Adolescents, which I will be offering for FREE only for a limited time during the lockdown, so stayed tuned for that.
For more info on my workshops, click HERE.
Although I can’t be with you in person throughout this crisis, remember that I am also on hand to give advice to my clients through video or telephone calls. While I obviously won’t be able to give treatment, I can advise you of what steps to take if any new injury problems do occur. Based on your description of your symptoms, I can formulate a temporary action plan to manage the problem and promote healing until proper treatments and assessments can resume. Please get in touch if you would like to book an appointment.
"Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t…"
My key message is this – only you can influence what position you’re in once the lockdown is over, and you return to your normal sporting schedule. Many of you will have experienced a big increase in the amount of spare time you have, and you will probably never have this much of a clear schedule ever again. Therefore, don’t waste this opportunity! Ok, so you can’t follow your usual routine, but why not think positively and treat it as a new start to form better habits by adhering to the above recommendations and sticking to them? A big factor in being successful in achieving your goals in your chosen sport/activity is being self-motivated. You may not be able to train with other people from your club/group, and have access to treatment, but we can adapt, and work with what we've got, even if it does mean we have to work a bit harder. All of what I’ve listed above are things that you can still do (even in your front room). Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t…