Ok, so you have been out in the tool shed pounding nails with all nine of your hammers and tinkering with the vise grips to deck out your pain cave. You are fit and ready anything Grunter can dish out … or are you?
Chances are, if you are like most of us, you focus on the hard stuff and the stuff that seems relevant at the time. And yes, I said US… We all struggle with finding balance. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Balance, that is. What am I talking about? Life balance, training balance, not falling over balance. Well, yes, all of it. Let’s start with movement balance.
The fact is that most endurance athletes move primarily in straight lines. On the bike, in the water or out on the run. And fair point, the shortest distance to the finish line is straight. But let’s broaden the scope for a minute here. The one endpoint that we don’t want to get to as fast as possible is the one where we are walking with a cane. Unfortunately that is an area of importance that we often miss until it is too late. Bringing some multi-directional movement into the picture can be a fantastic way to restore balance to your nervous system and your life as a whole.
So, movement… Let’s focus on this aspect. Multi-directional movement that is. Like when you were kid running around on the soccer or rugby pitch or playing sand volleyball, or frisbee or badminton, or ice skating, playing tag, square dancing, break dancing, dirty dancing, etc., you get my point. You move, and you move in different directions and dynamic patterns with your arms, legs, head, shoulders, hips, feet and ankles. We NEED this! It keeps tissue healthy, it keeps your nervous system engaged, it keeps your brain firing on all cylinders and it feels good. It will also delay the onset of the cane if you do it right and you do it frequently. And it is very important to understand that frequency is more important than intensity.
Your body is fantastic at adapting to patterns that get used frequently; laying down tissue and devoting resources to prepare and repair tissue along pathways that get used regularly. It is equally efficient at NOT building (and even deconstructing) tissue in areas that do not get used as much. Essentially, your body will divert its resources to what is getting used the most. As it should. The problem is that if your body is using all its resources to set up for linear motion it has very little left for everything else. And while that may be great in the short run, in the long run you will set yourself up for dysfunction and increased risk for a major injury.
When you move in multiple planes through various joint angles you improve kinesthetic awareness and proprioception. You increase circulation, improve nervous system function and musculoskeletal balance by distributing load through a greater amount of tissue. This includes muscle, fascial tissue, tendons, ligaments, nerves and the joint capsule. All of this adds up to you becoming more robust and adaptable, “Antifragile” if you will, to steal a term from Nicolas Taleb. Think of it as having multiple ways to get to a destination. The more routes you have the less traffic on any one road at a time. You may not need to use them all the time but they are there for you if you need them.
The point is you want to keep your movement patterns variable, and you need to do it frequently. Just like your MAP or FTP dropping because you don’t tap in occasionally, the walls of your movement bubble will slowly creep in on you. If you are like most people you won’t know it until you try to do something that you used to take for granted… and you are left hobbling around for three days. Or even worse, your 7 yr old daughter says, “come on, let’s go tumbling in the grass,” and you skip it because you are terrified!
What do you do? Obviously this depends on where you are now. Start small and move gently in new patterns. That could be as easy as a lateral shuffle, or side bend to start. But start, and move frequently. A perfect place to start is with the SUF Strength and or SUF Yoga progressions that are in the Sufferfest App. But less formally, pick up a hula hoop, go dancing or play frisbee and have a good laugh.
How do you move?