Everybody Hurts…Sometimes

Everybody Hurts…Sometimes

By Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW
Anybody remember that old R.E.M song? It was the first thing that came to my mind as I was thinking of possible titles for this article. Great song. A little sad. Some parts a little whiny. Perfect fit for this article (you can listen to it here if you’d like to reminisce a bit).
As I begin to write this article…
  • My CT junction (joining of the cervical/thoracic vertebrae) is stiff and causing a low-grade headache
  • My SI joints (Sacroiliac) are stiff and giving me some discomfort
  • My pelvis is slightly out of alignment causing some lumbar stiffness and creating some hypertonicity and discomfort in my left Glute Medius
  • My Infraspinatus (one of the rotator cuff muscles) is hypertonic and tender in my left shoulder and causing some radicular discomfort down my left arm/thumb
My assumption is that your response to the previous statements is much like many people/clients/friends I explain my physical aches and pains to…
…”What?! But you workout all day long! How could anything be wrong with you?!”
Allow me one moment to clear the air here before we proceed…
                    …I do NOT workout for a living! I help OTHER people do that.
Thank you for letting me vent. I feel a little better now.
Onward. I’ve had hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations with clients and non-clients over the years that I’ve been in this industry about aches, pains, physical problems, etc. At the same time, I’ve had hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations with colleagues of mine who are Strength Coaches, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, etc. As such, there are a few conclusions I’ve come to realize that have influenced and informed my decision-making regarding my own wellness as well as the recommendations I make to my clients/non-clients.
1. Pain is not abnormal and is not necessarily cause for alarm. Most experience it in different ways and to differing degrees on a daily basis. Cut finger, stubbed toe, headache, muscle burn/fatigue from lactate accumulation, kink in the neck from sleeping on your side (which is not advisable, by the way), pulled muscle, strange ache or twinge in this or that joint…normal daily stuff.
2. Chronic Pain is not abnormal, but is cause for alarm. There is most definitely a difference between “common” pain (pain which is experienced by a vast number of people) and what is considered “normal” or healthy. Because a lot of people experience does not mean it is necessarily something you should live with or ignore.
3. You can work around and sometime through pain. No, I don’t mean “no pain, no gain.” I don’t really buy that. But I do believe that it’s important to keep moving and do everything you can to maintain or even progress during times of pain or to simply work (yes, work!) at getting rid of pain. Often there are several steps one can take to provide self-therapy and get rid of pain and pain cycles. Simply falling into the thinking of “I’m hurt so I can’t do anything” will often lead a person into a downward spiral of chronic pain and debilitation.
How can you differentiate between the two and/or make an informed decision about whether there is cause for concern or to go see a therapy professional? Here are a few questions that can guide your thinking:
1. Has it been happening for a while or did it just start bothering you?
a. If it is a strange/new/ discomfort that you haven’t experienced prior, don’t rush to worry or concern. Sometimes our bodies just hurt…and they will get better on their own.
b. If it’s been going on for several days to several weeks and is either not improving or perhaps even getting worse, it’s best to have someone take a look and assess the situation.
2. Is it severely limiting and or debilitating?
a. If it isn’t, it may not be a priority to get it looked at. It may dissipate on its own.
b. If it is causing constant problems or limiting daily activity, don’t ignore it. It may continue getting worse or start to cause other problems due to new compensatory movement patterns you utilize to work around this pain.
3. Are you a whiner/hypochondriac or the opposite…living in denial?
Be honest with yourself. Do you have a tendency toward one or the other personality type? If you aren’t sure, ask people who know you well. Both traits have pros and cons. The obvious issues here with whiners is that every single little twinge is reason for major concern when the reality is that is just not true at all. The person who lives in denial (I’m thinking of the movie “Monte Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” line “It’s just a flesh wound!”) can literally run their bodies right into the ground with chronic pain and degeneration.

Everyone deals with gravity and physics. If you’re like me, you sit and work at a computer during the day a lot. It takes work to avoid losing the battle caused by gravity and physics. At Prevail Conditioning we strive to minimize pain, maximize movement economy, and create the healthiest and highest performing bodies we can for our clients. Part of that comes with a healthy understanding of pain and dealing with pain. Pain is normal. How we deal with it is a whole separate issue. Use this article as a jumping off point to dealing with some pain issues and questions. Don’t ignore it. Deal with it. Work at it/through it. Get it checked out when appropriate.

If you are in need of an Orthopedic Screen (head to toe joint, soft tissue, neural evaluation), Deep Tissue Therapeutic Massage, Functional Movement Screen/Corrective Exercise Program, or Nutrition consultation to improve tissue regeneration, contact us today to schedule your appointment so we can begin your journey toward better health and performance.

Behind Every Olympian There is a Story

By Peter Blumert, MA, CSCS, USAW

I can’t count the number of times I heard the broadcasters say this during the Summer Olympics last month. Every Olympian has a unique and personal journey with how they achieved, for most, the pinnacle of their sport. The story of 2012 French Olympian Margaux Farrell is no different.
In the summer of 2006, Margaux’s club coach approached me about a young, talented 16-year-old swimmer who possessed many qualities that had resulted in her being one of the best in the state of Connecticut for her age group. I was told that she also had some deficiencies that could hinder her from reaching her potential: stability, strength, and reaction time off the blocks.
During my first meeting with Margaux as I was taking her through an evaluation, I noticed immediately some of the qualities her coach was talking about: drive, dedication, commitment, and a strong desire to succeed. I asked her to give me a couple short and long term goals. Can you guess what her #1 long-term goal was? “To make the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. “ I had heard some crazy goals in the past but this was one of the best. When I reaffirmed her response, her very serious confirmation showed me that this girl had something very unique and special about her.
I worked with Margaux for the next two years, her junior and senior years of high school. There were days that she did not want to be there, especially Saturday mornings at 9am AFTER a 2½-hour morning practice in the pool. But once she was warmed up and we got her focused on the goals for that session, her competitiveness and work ethic took over and she always gave her best.
She went on to pursue her athletic and academic career at the University of Indiana from 2008 – 2012 on a full scholarship (one of her other long-term goals). She excelled both in the classroom and in the pool winning many honors and awards, including being named a Big 10 champion.
A couple months prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics, I got a very excited and enthusiastic email from her saying that she had achieved her goal; she was going to the Olympics! She had just barely qualified for the 4x200m freestyle relay by placing sixth, the final spot, at the French Olympic trials.
Aug 1st, 2012, was a very special day for me. Not only did the Americans win gold and set a new world record in the 4x200m freestyle relay, the French team took 3rd for the bronze medal. Margaux did not swim in the finals, but she did swim in the semi-finals to help France qualify for the final while allowing their two top swimmers to get a little extra rest. I was and still am so proud of Margaux! She achieved every goal that we wrote down just six years prior and even surpassed that goal by bringing home a bronze medal.
After her event, I was able to talk with her club coach who was able to be there and cheer her on. A few things that Margaux reflected upon after it was over was: the overwhelming atmosphere of competing at the Olympic Games, she felt like the weight of the country was on her shoulders, she hardly remembers even swimming her event, and because of that, the strategies she had prepared were non-existent once she was in the pool.
  • Although it may not seem like it, Margaux’s story is filled with many qualities that we can all relate to, regardless of what we are pursuing in life. Listed below are a few traits that helped her become the athlete and person she is today (besides picking good parents):
  • Commitment to excellence – from when she was a young girl to the Olympic Games, it didn’t matter how she felt, she gave it her best. No matter how well she does, she always looks for areas she can improve upon and where she can give just a little bit more
  • Sacrifice – the amount of hours that she has spent training is ridiculous, even if you only count the hours she has spent outside of the pool (dry-land training, weight room, therapy, recovery, etc). She had to miss many social events with her family and friends in order to achieve the goals and aspirations she set
  • Dedication – there were many days she did not feel like going to practice or to class, let alone get out of bed before there was even a shade of sunlight in the sky
  • Support system – without her family, friends, coaches, and teammates, it would have been impossible to achieve what she did
  • Belief in herself – I can’t overemphasis the importance of this. She had doubters and people saying she wasn’t good enough. She experienced a back injury just months prior to the Olympic trials, but she never let any of it affect her to the point of giving up
  • Goal setting – writing down goals was crucial to her development, but the most important part was her strong desire to accomplish them
  • Team player – Her role as a member of the team was to swim a fast enough split in her team’s semifinal relay heat to qualify for the finals so that two team members could rest and prepare for the finals a few hours later
The next time you are faced with a challenge, whether it’s on the playing field, at home, or in the office, use some of Margaux’s traits and attack it. You might be pleasantly surprised at how you deal with the setbacks you will encounter and the success rate of meeting the challenge.
What is next for Margaux? She is taking a year deferment from starting her graduate studies at USC to literally, take a break. She wants to reflect back on her journey about where she has been and what she has been through, to what does the future have in store for her. She is contemplating about going another four years and trying to make the 2016 Olympic team, as she is not satisfied and feels that she has not reached her full potential in the sport.
Working with Margaux and getting to know her as a person, will be something I will never forget. The chance to play a small role in helping someone achieve his or her goals is an amazing experience. Being a part of a journey like this is what makes those 16 days every four years so special.

About the WAPF

“The mission of the Women’s Athletic Performance Foundation is to provide an overall support for elite American female track & field athletes competing in the heptathlon. Secondarily, it is a foundational objective to connect these elite athletes with local members of the community, especially youth, in an effort to promote physical activity, leadership, and provide positive female role models to the next generation of young people”.

The WAPF was established in 2012 with two primary objectives.
(1)  To provide support to elite American female track & field athletes who compete in the heptathlon.
(2)  Connect these athletes with local youth in an effort to promote physical activity, provide positive role models, and build leadership among the next generation.
       Athletes who represent the WAPF are college graduates who have competed at the highest levels of track & field. All WAPF heptathlete’s have competed at the USA National Championships, Olympic Trials, and some have represented Team USA. Historically, women who compete in the heptathlon are under supported as they aim to reach their dreams of becoming Olympians. Through a wide network of support, the WAPF is striving to offer this support in exchange for having them serve as role models in our community. At the WAPF, we do not simply recruit the greatest athletes in the United States; we recruit individuals who are excited to give back to our community. All proceeds generated from WAPF events will go to supporting these athletes as they prepare to represent our country. The WAPF is a 501C3 non-profit organization.
About the Director
Josh Priester has been a collegiate track coach at the NCAA Division I & Division III levels. Most recently Priester served as the Associate Director of Track & Field at UCSB. Prior to moving to Santa Barbara, Priester was an Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance and track coach at his Alma Mater, George Fox University. Priester has been a clinician and lecturer at numerous camps and clinics, and has extensive experience in working with youth.

Injury Prevention for Runners

By Jacob Goodin, BS, 
The metabolic system (specifically aerobic capacities) adapts to the stress of training more quickly than the mechanical systems (bones, muscle, tendon).  What this means is that a runner can have the metabolic conditioning to run and recover from a certain workout or series of workouts, but lack the mechanical conditioning to do so.  Eventually the weak link in your mechanical system (maybe a hamstring, achilles tendon, or tiba) will succumb to the strain and you are forced to trade in valuable training time for rehab and therapy.
The solution then, is to keep the mechanical systems two or three steps ahead in the training and adaptation cycles, so that each new phase of training starts with a body that can handle the workload with relative ease.  Below are 3 areas to focus on when planning your training and recovery routine.

1. Self Myofascial Release (SMR)

Surrounding and running through our muscles is a special type of connective tissue called fascia.  It binds together the muscle fibers and runs in continuous chains through our body, linking series of muscles together into myofascial chains that respond and adapt to the stresses placed upon them.  Over time and in response to training stress, this fascia can become dense, thick, and scarred down, leading to tightness, decreased ROM, and decreased blood-flow to the muscle.
Foam rolling (and other SMR techniques) breaks up and smooths out dense and adhesed fascia in the muscles while simultaneously stimulating a relaxation response via Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). These specialized mechanoreceptors in the muscle sense a stretch and signal the muscle to relax in order to avoid tendon rupture.  The resulting relaxation in the muscle is known as autogenic inhibition.  Foam rolling provides the benefits of a massage and stretching combined while costing you less time and money than either.  Just 5-10 minutes a day will help you move and feel better while improving the tissue quality of your muscles and tendons.

2. Strength Training

Foam rolling and other SMR techniques help restore tissue to a healthy state, but they represent only one part of the solution.  General and running-specific strength training will bulletproof the muscles and tendons so that come time to do speedwork or long runs, the tissue will have already become accustomed to stimuli far more challenging than that provided by the running workout.  For example, if a 1500m specialist is transitioning into hard track intervals after 4 months of base training, his hamstrings and calves will be forced to work much harder than they have in a long while and possibly asked to do the same thing again 2-3 days later.  If instead they have been preconditioned during the base period through general strength training and more specifically conditioned during the transition to speedwork, they will respond more favorably and recover quickly, leaving the athlete with less soreness and able to perform a greater volume of quality work.

3. Nutrition

Muscle fibers are destroyed with exercise (especially eccentric-heavy exercise) and have to be rebuilt using the micro and macro nutrients that you consume as food.  That said, making sure that your diet provides exactly of the right kinds of nutrients at exactly the right times can get confusing, constricting, and too sciency, but it doesnt have to be that way.  You need two things imediately after a run–fast absorbing carbohydrates, and complete protein.  Protein is necessary for protein synthesis to occur in the muscles (duh), and carbohydrates create an insulin response that helps to move more protein into the muscle cell as well as replenishes the muscles’ depleted glycogen stores.  Protein rebuilds, carbohydrates refuel (and assist in rebuilding).  The specifics are beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that you need both plus a lot of water ASAP after finishing a hard run or training session, and preferrebly from whole-food sources.
If you are serious about making gains, hitting PRs, and staying healthy, then running is only half of the equation.  A methodical, precise recovery plan is necessary to get the most out of yourself after each workout and insure you are ready for the next.  After all, training is merely a tool to stimulate recovery, which is the true mechanism by which we get faster.

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