Mobility and Injury Prevention

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

By: Alex Milton M. Ed., CSCS, ELDOA 1&2, FRCms, TPI 1, PES
Director of Rehab Performance at Medstar Health

Who here sometimes feels overwhelmed with the amount of information there is on how to improve your health? With so many factors in the balance, it is hard to know what you should focus on. Whether it’s finding the right running shoes, how to breathe, or what style of weight training, it can be confusing to figure out what is the best path for you.  

Mobility training and injury prevention are two large topics to tackle. In today’s world of sports performance, people make these ideas complicated. There are now too many “gurus” and “experts” telling people how to optimize their health. The very thing that people use to try to destress their lives, is doing the opposite. Kind of ironic, don’t you think? There’s no need to wake up before the sun rises every day to meditate, if you are depriving yourself of sleep. Or no need to do a trendy intermediate fast when you are training for a marathon. And “common knowledge” would say that soreness is the result of a great workout. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

 I want to take a step back and communicate with you that mobility training and injury prevention are important. But need to be looked at from a ten-thousand-foot view. Hopefully after reading this, you will have a different perspective.

Big picture, we are an overstimulated society. It could be work or school, family and friends, or FOMO. Regardless of where it comes from, stress is stress. A book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” is a great read because it shows why stress is vital to all animals. Zebras have a simple existence. They walk around and eat grass. Should they suspect a predator nearby, they will enter a fight or flight state and sprint away. But once the threat is gone, they will relax and go back to eating grass. They do not carry their stress with them. In the human world, people are not as lucky. When we get anxious about something, we hold on to it much longer than a zebra. When we are constantly tense, the body does not have the ability to recover mentally or physically. Being on high alert all the time leads to breakdowns on the micro and macro level.

Lets look at your day to day. Some of the best practices for injury prevention are also the easiest. For example, do you get enough sleep? Sleep is crucial for injury prevention. If you do not get enough sleep, it damages everything you do. Most people don’t even know what quality sleep is. “Gains” happen when we sleep. Our brains are washed of any toxic materials that have built up from the day. Growth hormone levels will go up, as well as the cellular action of muscle repair. This directly helps our bodies with recovery and development. Sleep also helps with switching off the overused sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight state) and go into a restful para-sympathetic mode (rest and digest state). Everyone needs sleep!

Lets look at your typical week. Your training load, which is the amount of physical stress you put on yourself, like running, lifting, and stretching, is a compass when talking about injuries. Simply put, an injury occurs because of two things, either the body has done too much. Or, the body is overwhelmed with something it is not prepped for. In both cases, injuries can happen from a long-term training load or in an instance.

An example of doing too much; would be people who run every day without taking a day off. You can do this for a while, however, the body will wear down over time without taking it down a notch. When you have done too little, it looks one of two ways. A runner goes from zero to one hundred or does something they are not equipped for. Think of it as if you ran five miles every day, and then one day decided to run thirty. In either case, overuse or being underprepared, can result in injuries from strained muscles to torn tendons.

This is when mobility usually enters the conversation. Mobility training is seen as the great equalizer to a person’s exercise routine. And I am here to tell you no, no, no. Quality range of motion is important for muscle, joint and bone health. Nevertheless, a stretching routine after going for a run, does not cancel out the stress from training. That’s like saying, you can eat an entire cake for dinner when you only had a salad for lunch. Doesn’t work that way.  The simplest definition of mobility is to move your body in a pain free flow. And again, whether you are a runner or active person, this has value. Being able to move without pain is the name of the game in sports and life. Often times people make the mistake of thinking a day of yoga or stretching will recenter them for another week of training. Why are we giving ourselves another thing to do? Don’t create a schedule that never gives you the time to actually relax. There is nothing wrong and everything right with taking an extended period off. It enables you to disconnect and rest. I feel the fear of de-training fuels too many people to keep pushing, even when they are experiencing pain during movement. You need to listen to your body, it has good advice. De-training, in some cases, takes weeks to occur. There are many ways to train, don’t exhaust one activity.

The best things you can do for yourself are right in front of you. We all need to be looking for a better balance. Injury prevention and mobility training are simple concepts with many solutions. Less can be more. And do not be afraid to take a step back from time to time.

Do not get lost in the details.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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