Walk It!

In my teens and 20’s I hated walking… with a passion. I couldn’t understand why people would walk when they could bike, run, rollerblade, drive or bus. Walking was boring, unproductive and useless. Yes, I was adamant about not walking. I had way too many other things to do with my life. Sounds pretty harsh. It was.

Gosh! Was I WRONG. Walking allows the human body to work as designed, moving through mobility and stability of almost all body parts, and it is the most natural biological whole body movement. We are bipedal for a reason. We weren’t born with a bike or car in hand.

Walking has been a huge part of my life in my thirties (more so the later half), and as I am nearing (2 months) my forties I am nurturing and loving my body more through walking.

Now, if you are thinking YEAH you are ### older that’s why you are walking more! <- this is not the case. I am walking more because I am smarter. If I were to go back to being an elite athlete many years ago I would incorporate walking into my recovery program. Yes, that is how vital it is as a movement. Getting the appropriate ankle range of motion, knee health, hip movement, shoulder love and being outside getting some air. And, let’s be clear this is only 5% of its benefits.

When you do sport/train/compete you are literally tearing the crap out of your connective tissue and muscles. What do people do to recover? They stretch, mobilize, rest and sleep. This is not enough to get back to your body’s most natural optimal state. There needs to be whole body movement involved. What is that? Walking.
Honestly, don’t knock it until you try it. If you are an athlete and have issues with your body here is your homework.

For ONE month (yes, one month because anything less is not really giving it a go) walk everyday for at least 30 minutes. It doesn’t matter when, where, or even if it is in increments of 5-10 minutes each just walk. If you can do more, go for it. Do an hour! 3X20 minutes throughout the day.

Shoulder issues? You decide to buy a program or get help from a health care practitioner that just works your shoulder girdle. Good luck. The whole problem won’t go away because your shoulders are attached and affected by everything else in your body. WALK.

Hip issues? How are you hip flexors? Do you actually have proper hip extension? I’ll answer that for you= No! Give walking a go.

Walking helps you recover from the tip of your toes to the top of your skull. Yes, you need to wear proper shoes, walking with the legs pelvis width apart, feet forward, ribs down, not falling forward, nothing in your hands for true natural shoulder mobility/stability, etc… The thing is we have lost the ability to walk properly, hence having more challenges with our bodies. Our beautiful ‘progressive’ world has shattered our bodies. So let’s all go back to basics.

If we must feel the need to excel in our sport we must have the equal goal to excel in our health.

Remember: Sport performance does not equate to overall body health. We need to blend the two together.

Check out the whole “walking” thing. It was “invented” a looooong time ago 🙂

Feet first for success

The highest percentage of injuries (aside from direct hits) come from the feet up, yet football players (and their coaches) pay little attention to a structure that holds 25% of the muscles and bones in the body [your feet!]. That is stagering! From the football cleats they wear, to the exercises and drills they do not do, to the amount of sitting during meetings or strategy sessions kills their foundation. A foundation that can make or break a career and a Title!!!!

Check out these football feet. They are not as bad as others I have seen but they are underperforming feet and I will tell you why! Toes are squished together, halux valgus forming (bunion), toenail fungus, toe gripping and collapsed arch. All of these characteristics wreck havoc in a player. Throughout his career~ foot, ankle, knee, hip, back issues can account for his injuries just from what I am seeing in his feet!

football feet

Are you a football player? Try this! Interlace your fingers between your toes.

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Can you actually do this? This is a tell-tale sign of your foot health. You can’t perform your best with weak feet. Remember: a tight muscle is a weak muscle!

Why are your feet so tight? Because of shoes!!! (that includes the freakin’ flip flops you wear everyday messing up your toes!) Check out your cleats! So many performance shoes are not big enough in the toe box. A LOT of football players would not fit in these cleats shown below. Look at that toe box!

football cleats

Your TOES are the widest part of your feet. They need room to perform!!!! If you are on a professional team or a college team that has money= get the “right” cleats for your feet. It will make all the difference.

It’s simple. Take a paper and pen, trace your foot, cut it out. If your paper does not fit in the shoe (all must be on the bottom~ so NOT touching any of the sides) the shoe is too *@#%! small. And this does not even include the width of the heel, the upper, or the lacing. If you train X hours a day, and especially at training camps where they train ALLLLL day, make sure you have the appropriate shoe for goodness sakes!

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Stop the Spatting

A HIGH percentage of football players get ankle spatting [taping] treatment before going onto the field for a game and even for practice. Spatting is where an athletic trainer or physical therapist/physiotherapist wrap the shoe to the players ankle and possibly higher up the leg depending on the players request [please see picture below]. Spatting is a “normal” practice in football and is deemed in a positive light.

ankle spatting

Some quotes from players on why they get the treatment: “It’s for the look”, “Team unity”, “I get my shoes pulled off when I get tackled, it’s less time on the sidelines trying to get my shoes back on”, “It’s for my weak ankles”, “Comfort”, “Protection”, “Injury prevention”, etc.

Unfortunately, there is nothing healthy or protective about this practice. Aesthetics (colour coordination with the tape and team uniform) is a moot point when injuries are constantly occurring.

The ankle is a hinge joint. It can plantarflex (muscles used: gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris and posterior tibialis) and dorsiflex (muscles used: tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus). When an athlete restricts his ability to plantarflex and dorsiflex within the ankle he is reducing his own range of motion causing a habitual shortened muscular movement pattern over time [each year it just gets worse! It has NOTHING to do with age]. A shortened muscle is a tight muscle and a tight muscle is a weak muscle. A weak muscle can only take so much before it gets injured or areas around it get the brunt of the weakness.

Spatting is like wearing a corset! The more the player gets the treatment the weaker his muscles around the ankle get, the less circulation he has, with decreased electrical flow and slowly reducing his ability for the lymphatic system to flush out the garbage his body produces from the feet up. It’s shocking! And players wonder why they can’t hang out in a squat! …. or they don’t even bother because let’s be honest…. I have never seen a football practice where players are hanging out in a squat.

Anytime you brace a particular part of the body compensation ensues, AUTOMATICALLY. In regards to the ankle joint, a limited range of motion will impact foot, ankle, and leg movement, as well as knee torque and hip function. This means a higher risk of injury to all those areas. Period. Time will only tell when he will get an injury or another one. It has nothing to do with previous injuries.

Have you looked at the stats for the NFL injury list this year 2015? Over 85% of injuries (NOT including blunt hits to the body) occur at the feet, ankle, knees, legs (upper and lower muscle strains/pulls), and hips/groin. If you don’t see the correlation between ankle/foot mobility and the injury list there in lies the problem.

Every single muscle in the body is important. Stop the spatting. Increase ankle stability and mobility. Always working from the feet up, the foundation upon which we are built, will help prevent injuries and maintain an athlete’s health.



How I help athletes!

[Please look at video first; then, read response below]

A response to Kristin Marvin:

I have just watched an excellent short you tube clip posted by Kristin Marvin. I met Kristin through Rowperfect and was interested in her take on body balance and the effects of sport, particularly high performance sport, on our bodies.

Kristin’s point is that by endlessly repeating one movement as we do in rowing we risk imbalances in muscles and skeletal misalignment. I can only agree; I still show the signs of having rowed many years on stroke (port) side – much more flexibility to the right than the left.

Kristin offers her services to help athletes rebalance and realign. Perhaps though we coaches should be trying to reduce her work load by helping our athletes stay balanced and aligned? I am thinking here of club and junior level rowers rather than the high performance types with their teams of support staff.

I believe we should encourage all of our young rowers to use other forms of exercise and training. Running; particularly off the hard and smooth city surfaces – sand dunes, beaches, farmland and hills for preference. Any; or many, of the various field and court games – football in all its varieties, hockey, basketball, squash, almost any game. Cycling; though the dangers of cycling on the road are considerable. Ergometers have become the standard alternative to rowing when weather or other circumstances make time on the water difficult but we should look at what other alternatives we have.

If we did this I believe we would reduce the risk of injury from rowing, help with general muscular and skill development, add more fun to our training, and help prepare our young athletes for high performance rowing if they decide to follow that path.

So what gets in the way of such alternative exercise? The pressure to perform is one consideration. Every coach and rower wants to win the next race and to be fast at the end of the season championships, and often taking time out of the boat to run or cycle will feel like a second class session. Short term it may be less effective but coaches should look at the long term, what is best for development. Sometimes a step back in order to take two steps forward is the best option.

There is also a distressing tendency for children to be encouraged to specialise too early. We used to play at least two sports, one summer, one winter, or in my case, with my sports mad friends we all had at least four sports at school. Now the pressure to win is such that all sports are extending their seasons so it is often not practical to have both a summer and a winter passion.

Good rowing coaches have to live in the real world, and your young athletes are under pressure to train enough to win, have difficulty finding time to play more than one sport, and often live and train where running on the beach or cycling on low traffic roads is not easy to organise. Be confident enough though to put some ball games, some running of whatever kind, some field or gym games in to your programmes. The pay off may not be immediate but it will come.

~ Duncan Holland, Remote Coach for Rowperfect UK