We all want to avoid injury and get the best out of our bodies, don’t we? And like all elite sports, the AFL provides some real key lessons in how you can achieve your physical best. Here are 10 tips for getting the best out of your body.
1. Be Prepared
The Hawks were simply better prepared for a physically and emotionally demanding match. Rather than a disadvantage, it seems that the exhausting game against Port Power was actually a blessing in disguise. The hardness at the ball, the speed of the game and the intense one on one contests, gave the Hawks a taste of what to expect.
Its the same with you. For you to be able to reach your potential, you must prepare your body and your mind through conditioning. In other words, you must train so that you can get the most out of your body and life, without getting injured.
Training allows you to measure the load that you place on your body so that you can create an adaptation of your body.
Because the training environment is controlled, forces above and beyond what’s required in your sport and life activities can be safely placed upon your body for a specific time. This strengthens your body further so that it has a reserve capacity to cope with the demands likely to be placed upon it.
For a FREE trial of Clinical Pilates, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 (BODYWISE) 263 994
However, to begin training safely, it is recommended that you begin with the next point first. That is…
2. Get a Physical Health Check from your Doctor or Health Professional
It seems obvious, but before you take on a particular event, it’s important that you check that you have the structural, biochemical and psychological capacity to endure such a challenge. In a very short time, you can gain a snapshot as to any risks you may have or potential problems that you may face. By knowing these up front, you can deal with them before they ever become an issue. Some of these factors include:
* Heart arrhythmias which may lead to heart attacks
* Excessive triglycerides or high concentration of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) which are a risk for heart attacks and strokes
* High blood pressure which is a risk for stroke
* Excessive upper back outward curvature (kyphosis) is a risk factor for upper back pain, shoulder pain (Rotator Cuff syndrome) and chest pain (costo-sternal pain)
* Decreased lower back inward curvature (lordosis) is a risk factor for low back pain
* Excessive turning in at the hips, inadequate balance, excessive turning in at the knees (knocked knees) and flattening (pronated) feet are risk factors for buttock pain (gluteus medius tendinopathy, piriformis syndrome or trochanteric bursitis), as well as knee pain (knee cap pain or knee osteoarthritis), ankle pain (inside calf shin splints, anterolateral impingement syndrome) foot pain (plantar fasciitis) and even toe pain (hallux valgus)
* Other physical inadequacies which include abnormal hip extension, ankle dorsiflexion which can lead to back, hip, knee, ankle and foot pain.
3. Start Slowly and Progress Slowly
The biggest mistake most people make when training for an event is that they start too hard and too fast. What you must understand is that it takes up to six weeks and beyond for your body to adapt to the stimuli that training provides. Therefore in the early (2 to 3 weeks) stages, the principle that less is more certainly applies. Get to know your body and begin to gain an understanding of what it is capable of and where your tolerances lie.
If you are a beginner, start aerobic training for 10 minutes once to twice every other day at an intensity which enables you to speak in sentences and progress to 20 minutes increasing sessions by three to five minutes per week as you are comfortable.
4. Use High-Intensity Interval Training to Get Better, Faster Results
At the three to four week mark, after a five-minute warm-up pace, increase your intensity so that to being able to speak in words for 30 seconds. Then slow down and allow yourself to get your breath back. Repeat this process for the 20 minutes of your training.
At the six to eight weeks stage, increase your intensity to greater than 80% of maximum effort for 20 seconds. Then slow down and to go get your breath back and repeat this process for the duration of your training. This type of training called High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) drives change and adaptation in your body’s cells, burning more kilojoules, fat accelerating your fitness and health improvement.4 A study, published in Cell Metabolism, showed that when healthy but inactive people exercised for even just a brief time, there was an immediate change in their DNA. While the genetic code remains the same, the intense exercise triggers important structural and chemical changes that lead to a re-programming for strength and fat burning.
In another study, recreational cyclists were able to double their endurance capacity in just two weeks by doing just three sessions of sprint interval training each week. (Note: To minimize the chance of impact injury, it is recommended that this HIIT be performed on an exercise bike with swimming or perhaps running uphill).
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20 minutes of more vigorous activity three days per week, noting that HIIT workouts tend to burn an extra 6-15 percent more calories compared to other workouts, thanks to the calories you burn after your exercise.
From here on vary your training time, intensity, volume, duration, surfaces and rest periods based upon periodization concepts. For example, one day you might walk/run/cycle on the flat, another day you might do hills and on another day you might run on the sand or in waist deep water. For more information contact Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).
5. Include Corrective and Capacity Building Exercise
The day in-between should be reserved for correcting any muscle imbalances and relative joint stiffness before building your body’s capacity for exercise.
Your physical assessment will identify what muscles are relatively weak and tight and what joints are relatively stiff as well as faulty posture and movement patterns. Without correction, exercising will simply reinforce excessive or abnormal stresses on the body leading to breaking down of tissues and eventually injury and pain.
Because much of our lives are spent in activities that involve prolonged periods of sitting (e.g. computer, cycling, etc.), bending (e.g. laboring, gardening, etc.) and/or working in a slightly bent forward position (e.g. working at any bench, running, etc.), typical exercises might include stretching and strengthening your muscles through full range in directions that are the opposite to our every day postures and movement patterns.
People sometimes comment, But I am in a physically active occupation. Whilst this is better than being sedentary, these occupations still don’t build your capacity. Rather, over time your ability to keep going still physically decreases. The reason is that as these activities are performed over days, physical stress is being applied to the body’s tissues for long periods of time. This is catabolic (breaking down) to muscle, tendons, and bones leading to overuse syndromes such as tendinopathies and stress fractures. Hence, many of these injuries could potentially be avoided if you strength trained every other day.
For best strength results, train with free and cables weights and NOT on machines. Free weights and cable loading strengthens and neurologically trains your stabilizing muscles, joint capsules, joint, and muscle receptors better preparing you for physically demanding and unpredictable activities. Also, vary your exercises every month to keep your body and your brain guessing. Changing your exercises keeps your brain and body in a state of alert and readiness for action.
6. Focus on Technique
It is amazing when watching people do fun runs, cycle events or swimming challenges, how many are doing these with poor techniques. Poor technique equates to excessive or abnormal stress being put on body tissues. As the loading on their body structures increases with increasing training volume, intensity and duration, so does their risk of injury as tissues break down under the excessive or abnormal forces.
So get your running, cycling, swimming, golf technique, etc. assessed to ensure that your activity is being performed with a maximum amount of efficiency and effectiveness. If these activities are not being performed optimally, then not only will you not achieve the best possible result, you are literally breaking down and wearing out your body at an abnormally fast pace. In the end, this can only mean injury and pain. Much better to prevent it from starting before it ever occurs.
7. Balance the Load on your Body
Loading on your body involves four variables: Intensity, Volume, Duration and Rest. If any of these variables together as a group or individually cross a loading threshold, an injury will occur. Understand that low-intensity stress, applied frequently for a long period of time with no rest can be as damaging as doing too much intense exercise too soon.
The key is in knowing where the injury threshold is crossed and this is why we rely on treatment and training principals to the body’s build capacity whilst avoiding injury. This is easy to do in the gym because we record the training load and its effect. For example, three to five sets of eight to twelve repetitions 80% or more of the maximum amount you can lift in one go every other day, is generally recognized as a strength training guide.
However, it’s much more difficult in everyday life to know if we are crossing an injury threshold because we generally don’t measure how much we sit, how much we bend, how much we turn to one side, etc. and even if we did, the effects may not manifest themselves for years.
One method for finding out if your overtraining or becoming ill involves taking your pulse for one minute each morning upon waking. After a week, you will know what your average resting pulse is. Then if your pulse increases by more than 10%, this is an indication that you are overtraining or becoming unwell.
Dr. Ainslie Meares, an Australian Psychiatrist and the father of meditation in Australia, recommended two, 10-minute sessions of stilling the mind and body each day. There are now many studies which have proven the beneficial effects of meditation. So whether it is just being quiet, prayer or meditation, stopping your body and brains busyness for 10 minutes twice each day could go a long way to enhancing your health and preventing injury.
Listening to your body and becoming aware of what it is telling you is the starting point for change. Measure your training (and your life) and take note of its effects. Notice when you are feeling stiff, tight, achy, etc. and try and determine what activity and its load have caused this. Then change it. You might change the intensity, time or tempo of the activity or the rest periods. Back off and rest when you are feeling fragile both physically and/or mentally and then begin again when you feel able. By becoming conscious of how your body is feeling and taking remedial action, you will very likely prevent many potential injuries and illnesses before they ever occur.
8. Recover Well
One training variable that is often not considered by the average weekend warrior is rest and recovery. Its no coincidence that often AFL footballers are pictured standing waist deep in the water the day after a football match and certainly, swimming and water activities are perhaps amongst best activities for recovery. But there is more to consider than just standing in water.
Often following any unfamiliar activity, your body will feel sore. This soreness is indicative of an inflammatory reaction, where the white blood cells of your immune system break down the affected tissue so that it can be rebuilt stronger and with increased capacity to withstand the forces when they are again applied. The recovery time for this to occur generally takes about 48 hours. If the same stimulus is applied before complete recovery occurs, the tissue is weakened, reducing your exercise capacity and your ability to stay injury free.
Bodyflow is an advanced technology (available at Bodywise Health and for home rental) that further accelerates this process. By electrically stimulating the smooth muscle within the walls of the small veins (vessels that take the blood back to the heart), blood pooling is prevented, swelling is reduced and recovery enhanced. Used by many AFL clubs as well as the English Olympic team, Bodyflow has been shown to hasten the recovery process, enabling more effective training to begin sooner thereby enabling the potential for better results. The beauty of Bodyflow is that you can use it in the convenience and comfort of your own home to treat yourself.
Lymphodema and remedial massage are also critical in recovery. It is no coincidence that many athletes receive remedial one, two and perhaps more times each week to facilitate recovery. This massage is not a luxury but an essential component of an overall strategy to prevent injury and improve results. Like Bodyflow, lymphodema massage removes swelling and improves circulation.
However remedial massage goes further. Very often tissues that are irritated, tight and/or restricted, that people are not aware of, are sensed by skilled remedial massage therapists and alleviated, again heading off potential injury. The more intense the activity, training or sport, the more frequently massages are generally given and the more that they are adapted to address the specific needs of the tissue, person and activity.
As you increase your training consider having a remedial massage at least monthly if not sooner. It can be a great way to optimize your physical and emotional health. Again listen to and be guided by your body and don’t leave it too late.
9. Get adequate sleep
Adequate sleep means at least 7 hours of good quality sleep each night. Deep sleep is simply essential for renewal, recovery and repair the essential elements of good health. It is important for the immune system, and it reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, obesity and improves concentration. The Chinese body clock and circadian rhythm indicate that there are various times of the day that the body is more likely to be performing certain functions.
Recommendations for a Good Night Sleep Include:
* Get to sleep by 10.30pm to enable adequate physical repair and body detoxification.
* Eat early and avoid a large meal with refined carbohydrates (e.g. sweets, pastries, etc.) that will cause a blood sugar spike and cause you to wake up when the blood sugar drops.
* Avoid caffeine in the afternoon; (caffeine inhibits adenosine, sleep molecule of the brain which aids in getting to sleep)
* Avoid alcohol as this tends to keep sleep light which is not optimal for repair and restoration.
* Avoid intense exercising just before bed (exercise raises cortisol levels which breaks down tryptophan, an amino acid needed for the manufacture of serotonin and then melatonin, the sleep hormone).
* Warm milk contains tryptophan and may assist in getting to and maintaining a deeper sleep.
* Stretching on a mat in the 20 minutes before going to bed, is an ideal way to reduce joint stiffness and muscular tightness, thereby promoting better relaxation and rest.
* Dim lights, avoid stimulating activities (computer, TV, suspense novels, etc.) and reduce temperature to between 16 and 18 degrees in an hour or two before bed.
* Sleep in pitch blackness as this assists in the pineal gland in production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
* Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, 5 days each week as this stimulates the production of Adenosine, the sleep molecule.
* Get at least 15 minutes of sunlight each day to optimize Vitamin D production.
* Write down a plan of the next day’s activities before going to bed to free your mind of tasks that need to be done.
* Move all electromagnetic devices away from your bed as far as possible.
* Get to bed at the same time each day;
* Read something calming or do something restful whilst in bed (e.g. listen to something relaxing), not watching TV.
10. Optimize your nutrition
It makes sense, that optimal recovery, repair, and regeneration can only take place if you have adequate amounts of the optimal nutrients.
This means at Least:
* 0.8 grams of protein each day per kilogram of your body weight if you are sedentary and up to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram for athletes involved in football and power sports (note taking > 20 grams protein at one time results in oxidation).
* Adequate amount of zinc, magnesium, vitamins B3 and B6 and chromium which aid muscle recovery and prevent injury.
* Reducing grains and avoid refined simple carbohydrates (especially refined flour and sugars) to decrease blood sugar and insulin spikes which cause inflammation.
* Reducing omega 6 fatty acids (e.g. processed foods, animal fats = pro-inflammatory) and increasing omega 3 fatty acids (3-4 fish meals each week, nuts, etc. = anti-inflammatory and promotes cellular repair). The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 should be 2-4: 1.
The AFL season provides you with some great life lessons. Implementing these teachings into your own life can help you be more, live more, achieve more so that you can have more of what life has to offer. Why would you want any less? Why go through another day in injury or pain or with less than optimal energy and conditioning to live fully and freely. Every day is your Grand Final. You never get to relive it. Seize today and begin working towards better health and a better life.
- Rebates are available through your private insurance extras cover
- For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the EPC (Enhanced Primary Care Program) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 263 994.
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4. The Leader, September 8, 2014.
5. Cell Metabolism March 7 2012: 15 (3); 405-411.
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7. The American Journal of Sports Medicine PDF.
8. Check P. Program Design; Choosing Reps, Sets, Loads, Tempo and Rest Periods, Correspondence Course Manual 1995.
9. Brukner and Khan and Colleagues. Clinical Sports Medicine. McCraw Medical. 4th Edition, 2012.