Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Big(ger) Picture and Insights of Athletes

Carl Valle has a couple excellent posts over at Elitetrack to check out:

Posture Palmatum

More on Posture

Alan DeGennero made some excellent points in his talk at the BSMPG in Boston, and Carl reiterated those and furthered in his post "More on Posture":

"Alan brought up the fact that personality has a correlation between injuries with athletes, perhaps hinting that corrective exercise is not the panacea many think. He saw the relationship between the art of coaching and sports science (namely sports medicine). When I read about posture in a 1940s PE book they mentioned how important creating confidence in young boys to encourage good posture. The book included a picture of a sapling growing, it was very similar to the bonsai tree example I wrote about earlier about addressing posture early in the career and the training season. Athletes need to start off feeling confident in your program and about their abilities to be good, and cocky athletes seem to have great posture in general. So doing 3x12 of a corrective exercise may help, but athletes are 24 hour creatures and need a coach, not just a trainer. I care more about the pelvis but upper back work starts with a complete program that encourages those positions under real load. Back squats, power cleans from the floor, snatches, and restoration work on developing this. It takes years and is hard work, but it's worth it." -Carl Valle

I completely agree and it echoes similar thoughts from my post Emotional Movement Intelligence.

There is so much more to athletic development than what just goes on in a workout. Being a coach requires developing a relationship where open communication can occur, because often times it's the athletes who hold the answer. It's easy to soley evaluate the structure of an athlete and view things from a purely mechanistic perspective which we should as it's part of it, but not all of it, and we aren't dealing with machines...

One thing I added this year to our soccer s&c program was classroom sessions; actually more of a discussion session. We would meet as a team once per week to discuss relevant topics such as nutrition, daily activities and their effects, recovery, physiology concepts to create clearer understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and/or any current affairs issues that may be affecting us. My thinking was that if I came across information in which I would think 'man, I wish I would have known that when I was competing' then why not give that opportunity for the athletes I work with to have that knowledge and understanding? The athletes asked questions and I provided answers or direction as best I could. I found these opportunities opened more doors to better communication but also increased motivation and intelligence with regards to their personal efforts. What occured though was beyond just education for the athletes, it was education for me; the questions (and even arguments) brought greater depth to what I needed to do or change with my approach. The athletes also provided tremendous feedback to me as to what they liked, disliked, and potentional ideas to improve things. It's something I will continue to use...


Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is it?

A lot is made of assessing athlete’s movement and criticizing what he or she does wrong. There are very often cases where poor movement leads to injury, but there are also cases where there seems to be poor/inefficient movement that leads to excellent performance and very little occurrences of injury. Can we make improvement? Sure. Should we try to make improvement? Most definitely. What amuses me though. is how quick we are to blame or assess the movement when we rarely blame or assess the environment and/or equipment. Specifically, let’s look at running… instead of having one microscope on movement…

What about looking at the terrestrial environment? Running on hard, flat surfaces repeatedly is asking for it.

What about equipment? How would changing footwear or getting rid of shoes all-together change things? We don’t necessarily do to well in the expensive products.

What about an individual’s social environment? Why are they running? Is it enjoyable? Is there a deep psychology reason for wanting/needing to run? Is running a marathon or half marathon just ‘what everybody’s doing’?

What type of personality is an individual bringing to their activity? Emotions are strong in that they have the capacity to change us; how we see the world, our approach to whatever we endeavor, and most definitely how we move.

What came before? What type of lifestyle have they lived? What was/is the long-term adaptation to the specific activity(ies) that they partook.

How about diet? What about all the possibilities with one's nutrition? Different cultures have vastly different diets.

Then there’s the activity itself… Is running, especially long distance running good for you? There’s been research on showing both sides of this one, from the basic idea that cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is excellent for health, to distance running/marathons are bad for your heart; increasing plaque in the coronary arteries. Increased bone density vs. the repetitive stress injuries…

An excellent book that has received a lot of attention is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The book was an excellent story regarding ultra-running, the Tarahumara people of Mexico, shoes, and how humans are ‘built’ for running. My fear though is that most people missed the most important aspect of the book; the Tarahumara people, their culture and environment. What most people took is that we can/should go run long distances and run barefoot or at least with minimal footwear.

What the Tarahumara are not is probably more important than who they are with regards to their astounding health and ability to perform amazing running feats. They do not bring a “Type A” personality to their running (Type A personalities can bring some pretty serious health implications to the table). They don’t attempt to accumulate a specific number of miles each week, following a specific routine. Most of their running is ‘community’ based in their ball game they play while covering long distances. They don’t have a sedentary culture centered on the individual and “advanced” technology. They don’t wear the type of footwear that Western culture grows up with.

… And… this is important… their ecological environment is extremely varied; huge canyons of constantly changing terrain, making their running into an extremely random activity… far different from the monotonous steady-state drudgery that most view as long distance running. This is another case and point regarding the variation principle I alluded to in a previous post. The type of terrain forces changes in speeds and movements, making the Tarahumara’s form of running far different from being a repetitive steady-state activity; variation is necessary for health.

See more of everything to understand what’s really going on.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's not that simple, but it is

Thanks to Josh Leeger for pointing this video out for me. It's a video of Haile Gebrselassie, one of the greatest distance runners of all-time. What the video shows is Gebrselassie's "excessive" foot pronation upon foot strike. What it also shows is that we shouldn't 'box' humans into ideals. What we need to understand is adaptation and be able to view movement/things from a much broader perspective. Stop chasing "ideal" and start looking and working for optimal.

Gurus/experts can present on their perspective, but remember, it's their perspective not yours; educate yourself to have your own... don't get 'caged' in just one part of the zoo.