The Importance of Durability Exercises and Athletic Performance by Dr. Jill Thomson
The Importance of Durability Exercises and Athletic Performance
Overcoming adversity is a common theme in athletics/training, especially during a 60 minute stamina session. In defeat and injury, which we will ALL experience at some point, athletes are either created or destroyed. Objectivity, reason, and action are keys to turning defeat and injury into opportunities to discover weaknesses and learn more about yourself (Gray Cook, 2005). It allows one to take a step back and learn why they got injured and how they can prevent it from happening again.
A common question is when to push through an injury and when to lay off. I tell all of my patients “let pain be your guide”. If it hurts, don’t do it. I know most of us get discouraged when side-lined because of an injury and the thought of altering a workout or taking it easy is frustrating. On the contrary, being injured is not a free pass to do NOTHING! Complete rest is rarely prescribed for an injured athlete. The rehabilitation process typically involves bringing the athlete back to the basics, addressing the faulty functional movement patterns that caused the injury, and correcting these issues.
What is Functional Movement?
Functional movement is comprised of two basic components:
1. Mobility: The ability of a neuromuscular system to allow for efficient movement of a joint or series of joints through a full non-restricted pain free range of motion
2. Stability: Active muscular control exerted on a joint to redirect force and control movement in the presence of normal muscular flexibility and joint mobility
Ideal Mobility & Stability = Good Functional Movement=Increased Performance=Better Skilled Athlete
Mobility/Stability Imbalance = Inefficient Movement = Compensation = INJURY!!!
For example, if you are unable to get your hips below 90 degrees during a back squat due to poor mobility in the hip joint, you will eventually get injured because all of that force is now translated to the lower back. This is why the durability portion of the workouts…the exercises that we often skip out on because we feel they aren’t important or we don’t have time for them, are the exercises we need to be doing to help us improve our mobility and stability (i.e. Jane Fonda’s, Ride it downs, toe touch complex). These types of exercises are often MORE important than the workout itself because they are the foundation to provide us with the best Functional Movement patterns. Optimal functional movement means better performance and skill, and a stronger, faster athlete! Movement is what defines great athletes!
Let’s discuss pain for a minute. Pain results form microtrauma– small amounts of stress placed on the body over time as a result of poor body biomechanics and overtraining. Both place excessive strain on the body.
Poor biomechanics: movement mistakes whereby the body compensates using suboptimal joint misalignments, muscle recruiting patterns, and posture. Often these mistakes are not visible to the untrained eye and go unnoticed. In addition they often don’t hurt performance immediately. Since the tiny mistakes aren’t hurting the athlete, the athlete is usually not aware of them. Yet another great reason to workout in the presence of a coach!
Overtraining is NOT an issue with movement mistakes and can result from too much of the right thing. Most microtrauma’s are blamed on overtraining and not enough rest/recovery, but this is not always the case. For example, imagine an athlete who has increased her running distance, added plyometrics to her workout routine, incorporated speed and agility, and added a strength component, and she now has left knee pain. How come her right knee isn’t bothering her…it did the same amount of work?? Obviously there is a weak link in her biomechanical movement pattern that is causing a breakdown and must be detected. A “weak Link” doesn’t necessarily mean a muscle weakness; it could mean a faulty movement pattern, a lack of flexibility, or poor coordination.
Why do I know this….because I have been there. As a former competitive athlete, I have suffered my fair share of injuries. I’ve spent countless hours rehabbing injuries on a narrow time line to be ready for that next big competition, because the competitions didn’t wait for you. I have competed injured and failed miserably, and I have competed strong and had success. The bottom line is, like all athletes I had to overcome adversity, find my “weak links” and do the work/rehab/durability/training to get back in the game. I still have to do this, I still get injured… we all do!
Although my Olympic dreams are long gone…my aspirations to be in the best possible shape from a fitness standpoint are not! That is why I train with Atomic Athlete. I can honestly say that there have been Atomic workouts that have challenged me more mentally, physically, and emotionally then any workout from my competitive days! There is an air of anxiousness that overcomes me en route to the gym as I contemplate what the workout might be and know that it won’t be easy…it never is. That’s a good thing… nothing worse than complacency with exercise…it’s pointless! I wonder what goals the coach will have for each of us that day, and know they will be hearty ones. There is comfort in knowing that the coach will have my well-being in their best interest. Best of all, I look forward to the sense of empowerment that fulfills me when I am finished the workout.