By Dr. Adam M. Cramer, PT, DPT
No matter your age or stage in life, you want to perform at your peak. That is especially true when you look at your physical fitness and sport/work endeavors. Whether you are a weekend hiker, a semi-pro golfer, a contractor or a marathon runner, you want to give your activity the most you have to offer every time you perform. Peak performance doesn’t occur as one spectacular performance. Even though it appears to burst forth spontaneously, it is the culmination of a long series of daily smaller performances that build our endurance and skill. That goes against the popular myth that even though you live a largely sedentary life, you can, in a moment of deep yearning, find something buried within yourself to spur you further and faster than you have ever moved before. The real story is that no matter how much you want to run like the wind when the occasion warrants it, you will dismally struggle to go more than a few fast steps if you have made no effort to build up your muscles and exercise them routinely.
Sports/work injuries and other sprains, strains and fractures can slow you down:
Even if you exercise regularly, a sports/work related injury, an accident of a condition can slow you down. Receiving physical therapy promptly to promote healing and pain, restore flexibility and get back to your game as quickly as possible is important. The longer you put off receiving the care you need, the more damage you can do to your body and the longer it will take to get back to your normal level of activity. Your physical therapist can work with you to correct any underlying problems and weaknesses to help your heal and most importantly, to prevent further injuries.
Learning more about yourself:
At MyoFit Clinic we have discovered from working with individuals at all levels that the more they know about themselves, the more apt they are to reach their peak performance. It is a good idea to participate in a program that offers you individualized assessments so you can have your strengths and limitations evaluated and figure out from there what needs the most attention to help you reach your goals. You will learn which pain you should work through and which demands immediate attention so that you do not do further damage to your body. Physical training done with a physical therapist has the added advantage of helping you grow your strength and performance while reducing risk of further injury.
Specific activities require specialized training:
Achieving peak performance means being aware of injuries that commonly occur in your activity and taking the steps to prevent them. For example, so many golfer’s hurt their shoulders from swinging that there is actually a condition called golfer’s shoulder. To prevent it, you need a series of specially prescribed exercises to strengthen core muscles, rotational flexibility, power and swing speed so that you can drive your ball as far as your goal with more accuracy and less pain.
For roofing contractors, standing on a angled high pitch roof for a long period of time changes your body’s center of gravity too far forward placing too much stress on the low back, increasing the risk for disc herniations and straining the calf muscles. We educate and train these hard-working individuals to properly stretch and reposition their bodies to reduce their risk for injuries and how to fix themselves on the job.
For baseball players and others involved in sports that involve throwing and pitching, exercises are essential to strengthen rotator cuffs, improve flexibility and range of motion of throwing arm, as well as improve pitching speed and accuracy.
Runners also need specialized training to improve their muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance, lung capacity, reduce injury and improve speed and form.
As a doctor of physical therapy, there are five techniques and treatment that I recommend to athletes at all level when they come to our community’s clinic.
Core Muscle Weight Training, Kinesio Taping and Dry Needling/ Intramuscular Stimulation:
Supervised, assisted core muscle weight training to build muscle power, strength and endurance is my third recommendation. This will make you more durable and less vulnerable to injuries, keeping you performing your activity longer. Kinesio Taping, the application of a thin, stretchy elastic tape that reduces pain, inflammation, muscle spasm and gives improved muscle recovery, joint support, postural awareness and improved blood circulation. It can benefit your sports performance and push you to your peak. Finally, there is dry needling/intramuscular stimulation, a unique procedure offered by specially trained physical therapists to target muscle function and improve tissue healing and muscle restoration. If you have sustained an injury, this is one of the most effective ways to reduce pain and improve muscle recovery to quickly get you back to your game.
The number one way to prevent serious injury from your activity is to engage in plyometric training, sometimes referred to as “jump training” because it involves exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. Since its goal is all about increasing power, it is vital for endurance athletes in particular, and beneficial to all other sports participants. Research supports this opinion. In 2006, Michael G. Miller and his team from Western Michigan University and the University of Texas-Arlington checked out the effects of a six-week program of plyometric training on agility. The test subjects were broken into two groups, one which had the plyometric training and one which did not. All were tested for agility before and after the study. The results showed that the plyometric training group reduced time on the ground on the post-test compared to the control group, showing that plyometric training can be effective in improving an athlete’s agility.
High Intensity Interval Training:
I encourage High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with low to moderate intensity intervals alternated with high intensity intervals. It can be applied to running or to exercises such as squatting. HIIT is more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you are able to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat than ever before.
A 2010 study by scientists at Canada’s McMaster University published in The Journal of Physiology showed that the usual excuse of lack of time for not doing sufficient exercise is blown away by HIIT because it is a time-efficient and safe alternative to traditional types of moderate long term exercise. Astonishingly, the researchers concluded, it is possible to get more by doing less.
Professor Martin Gibala explained, “Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”
The scientists noted that it appears that HIIT stimulates many of the same cellular pathways responsible for the beneficial effects we associate with endurance training.
Miller, M.G., Herniman, J.J., Richard, M.D. et al. (2006) “The Effects of a 6-Week Plyometric Training Program on Agility.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 5,459-465. 01 September 2006. Retrieved from: http://jssm.org/vol5/n3/12/v5n3-12pdf.pdf
Wiley-Blackwell (2010) “High-intensity interval training is time-efficient and effective, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily 12 March 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100311123639.htms
Dr. Adam M. Cramer, PT, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist and owner of MyoFit Clinic in Middleford, Ohio.