Archives for June 2011

Training for Performance

I’ve recently trained a wide range of clients wanting very different results, but they are all linked in one way without them even realising! We all train for better performance no matter what it is we do. I’ve trained marathon runners, tri-athletes, cyclists, clients wanting to build muscle and those that just want general fitness and a weekly push in the right direction. Whether you want to become a stronger cyclist, a quicker runner or just to have a healthier heart, lungs and rest of the body, the first thing you need to do is train to cater for what you do! This is where so many people go wrong. For example, if you are a sprinter, you wouldn’t train by running marathons, you would perform speed drills and power exercises for short bursts.

I recently played a round of golf (which was long overdue!) and I realised how much the sport is based around technique and flexibility. If you get both right, the power seems to come naturally. The twisting motion of a golfer needs a lot of core strength, especially the sides(obliques). This made me think about sports in general and what we do to train for them. The more I thought, the more questions I came up with. After playing football for so many years, the obvious thing was to relive the training I had taken part in day after day and question its methods. One example is; a footballer is constantly on the move but it is not all one paced, there are changes in speed and direction. Obviously endurance is necessary but why are so many teams pre-seasons based around long, one paced runs for miles on end. How many footballers run at the same pace continuously for a full 90 minutes? So is this kind of training necessary? One question that really stands out in my mind is…If most football matches are played at 3pm, why do English clubs train at 10-10.30am? A lot of european clubs have been known to train at the time a match would be played, helping the body get used to performing to the best of its ability at that time of day. So why do we insist on doing things differently? Is it small details like this that prevents us being the best at a national level? Do we do enough homework about the sport we play and how to achieve success?

It’s not just about sport, it’s about those that want general fitness. You might think “How can you train for performance when it’s general fitness?” Well, when you are training for general fitness, your performance is your every day life and the functional movements you do with every step you take or every time you stretch to pick something up off the floor. The majority of people don’t play a sport, so training to stay fit and healthy in a functional manner is key. Flexibility is so important, especially later in life when bones start to fuse and muscles get used less and tighten up. So with this in mind, when we exercise why do so many people neglect stretching the body before and after a workout? It is so important to stretch straight after a workout to prevent the muscles tightening up and losing flexibility in the long run.

So next time when you enter the gym, park or even your own front room for a workout, think about what you want to get out of it and what the main reason is for you exercising. Once you understand why you are exercising, then you can train specifically for what you need, to enhance performance.

No Pain, no gain?

Throughout my football career I put on a brave face through many injuries, some minor and some more serious, but in a competitive sport like football, it is important to play through what you can so you don’t lose your place in the team………or is it? I believed, when I was young, that I would be frowned upon from pulling out of training or competitive games because of an injury. Unfortunately, there were times when this was true because some of the managers in football only want one thing……to win! Most only care about what happens right now and don’t really worry about what an injury might mean to your future.

The more injuries I had and the older I got, the more I realised it was up to me to protect my body when it needed protecting, or my career would not last the distance. Unfortunately, the damage was done in my early years, by putting my body on the line one too many times for people who weren’t concerned with my future and in the long run I paid the ultimate sacrifice, an early retirement. The injuries I sustained over the years were just too much to continue playing a professional sport and that is why I am where I am today. Hopefully my experience of injuries and playing through the pain of broken bones, cartilage tears, arthritis to name a few, can help others not to make the same mistake. So, there are times when the saying “No pain, no gain!” couldn’t be further from the truth.

This picture shows a head injury that has left me with a scar across my forehead for the rest of my life! I was also playing with a broken hand!

Recently I’ve had a few people ask for my advice about injuries they are having problems with. It seems that a lot of people don’t know the basic protocol after the initial injury, so this blog will give you all you need, to help you speed up the recovery period of less serious injuries, such as sprains and strains(if in any doubt over your injury, medical advise should be sought).

Here are a few simple pointers that will help speed up the recovery process. When ever possible always follow the PRICE protocol:

  • P = Protection. Protect yourself from injury as best as you can (eg. wearing shin pads etc) but if the damage has already been done, the same principles apply; Protect the injury from further damage by stop playing or using padding to support the area.
  • R = Rest. Being brave and playing on is not always wise! Rest is important to let the injury heal no matter how big or small it may be. This can be the difference between a speedy recovery or making the injury worse and adding weeks or months to the recovery period.
  • I = Ice. Applying ice to an injury reduces pain and inflammation/swelling. It should be performed for 15-20 minutes maximum every couple of hours. Be careful not to ice for longer than 20 minutes as it can damage the tissue further rather than help it. Also, it is advisable not to put ice/ice packs direct to the skin to prevent ice burns which can be very painful! The next two steps can be performed at the same time as icing an injury to aid recovery.
  • C = Compression. Keeping an injury compressed with bandages will reduce swelling or prevent the injury from swelling further, if swelling has already occurred. You can compress at the same time as icing for added benefit. If the compression causes pins and needles, throbbing or cuts circulation as it feels too tight, take the bandage off and compress the area again but not as tight.
  • E = Elevation. By keeping an injured area elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible, it reduces swelling and lets any swelling already built up in the area track away to the nearest glands making the area less stiff and helping recovery. Again, it is a good idea to elevate an injury whilst icing.

This is a sight no one wants to see. One I can't actually remember!

So there is the basic protocol. Obviously more serious injuries will need medical treatment but this protocol will always be used along the line at some point.

Remember, no pain, no gain is not always the answer when it comes to injuries. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, so ignoring it can only make an injury worse. Don’t let a pain you have ignored turn into an injury that can cause more serious problems later in life!