Welcome to another installment of The Offseason Athlete: a blog post for athletes of all fitness levels.
After several months of pounding on asphalt and rocky trails, our bodies need a brake. An ideal time for endurance athletes to reduce millage and focus on strength training and flexibility, the wintertime should be a time for rebuilding. A brake from charting mileage, counting rest days, tapering and more importantly a respite from the mental and physical stress of planning and running another race. A year round runner and cyclist for several years, incorporating an aggressive plan consisting of flexibility, strength and conditioning routines during the off-season has served me well. Feeling better, stronger, and healthier recovery following exercise is considerably shorter, allowing me to train alongside my patients and clients more frequently. Requiring discipline and consistency for this to be effective, the benefits will be worth the process.
Progressive wearing and thinning of tendons and ligaments from high impact activities is normal, but left untreated you can develop symptoms that will likely contribute to higher injury rates. Sprains and stress fractures can be linked to poorly managed injuries and lack of adequate rest. As body mechanics, Physical Therapists (PT’s) learn very early in their careers when it comes to addressing stress-strain injuries and athletes, it is not IF these injuries are going to cause problems, rather it’s a matter of WHEN will they manifest.
Your off season conditioning program should address key areas;
Core (abdominals, transverse abdominus, multifidus to name a few) strength. These muscles are highlighted in green below. Stabilizing your midsection and spine when performing dynamic activities, weakness can lead to poor exercise efficiency and intermittent back pain.
Hip (gluteus medius/max., piriformis, adductors & abductors) flexibility and strength ensures good hip flexion (bend) and extension (straightening) with every stride. Imbalances may result in hip inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and foot and ankle strains and sprains.
Lower Back (erector spinae, quadratus lumborun) flexibility and endurance. These muscles are tasked with absorbing and dispersing forces through our bodies when performing high impact activities, allowing our joints optimum mobility with less joint pressure. These are areas that you should maintain at optimum strength and length (flexibility) all year round. Weakening of these muscles can increase injury rates significantly and affect your running mechanics.
Here are a few simple exercises to help you along the way.
Performed 3-4 times per week, these routines are sure to improve your mobility and strength. Keep in-mind that the purpose of these routines is to restore normal length and tension of these pivotal structures. As always the aim is progress over perfection
Bridging +straight by raise
Side Plank, Plank
To Perform: keeping your glutes tight to maintain a rigid midsection, press your body up while maintaining equal pressure on your elbows and ankle/toes respectively,
To Perform: with feet shoulder-width apart bend at the hips pushing your hips back while sliding palms out. Return to starting position and repeat 6-8x 3-4 sets.
Hip Abduction Using Resistance