Still looking at going skiing in 2021/22?

This last year and a half has brought an unprecedented upheaval to everyone’s lives. Not ONE single person can claim that they have been unaffected by the pandemic.

A couple of serious consequences of this has been the effects on everyone’s health and wellbeing with the closure of leisure facilities and cessation of sports at the grassroots levels. But with some light at the end of the tunnel, most of us will be looking to the future and putting a line under 2021.

For some, this maybe in the fortunate position of perhaps looking to get away from it all by going skiing, providing resorts are open and travel restrictions allow. If you are looking to go skiing, here are some recommendations to consider with regards fitness and ensuring in your desperation to get away that you do not come back on crutches.

Just how fit are you?

With the gyms and leisure facilities only being open again for the last 6 months following a third lockdown, the first question that you should be asking yourself is how much your fitness suffered over the last year and particularly the last six months. If you train regularly, had you been able to get back to your levels pre-first lockdown and before entering the second lockdown. If you do not do regular fitness work, how does your current fitness level compare to your last skiing trip?

Even allowing for doing some fitness work at home or outside, unless you have been able to load your body in similar fashion to your gym workouts, then your fitness levels and in particular your strength levels would have suffered and will be down. Doing press-up’s instead of bench/chest press, or bodyweight squats instead of weighted squats or leg press, whilst working the muscles in the same way, has no loading similarities. So, over the last 6 months, have you been able to return to your pre-Covid fitness levels?

If the answer is NO, then you may well need to re-think the level and intensity of skiing that you want to do and how many days you are looking to ski for out of your time away.

Muscular skiing injuries are generally caused by fatigue due to the high intensity loading so if you’re not fit enough then you will struggle to deal with the twists and turning involved. With muscle failure, comes stress on the joints, particularly the knees as the tendons and ligaments become weak causing laxity in the joint.

So, if you want to avoid coming back home on crutches, have a good honest chat with yourself and ask yourself “AM I fit enough to do what I want to do?”

If you want some help with assessing your fitness, a skiing specific conditioning program or some fitness advice then either book one of our 6-week performance programs or 1-1 sessions with Chris our Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Optimal Sports Therapy centre website.

Strength and Conditioning

Returning to Sporting Activities in 2021

This last year has brought an unprecedented upheaval to everyone’s lives. Not ONE single person can claim that they have been unaffected by the pandemic.

A couple of serious consequences of this has been the effects on everyone’s health and wellbeing with the closure of leisure facilities and cessation of sports at the grassroots levels. But with some light at the end of the tunnel, most of us will be looking to the future and putting a line through the last year.

Fitness is one of life’s unfair rules. You can spend months working hard, feeling like the large rock that you are pushing up the hill is hardly moving, all for small gains or changes to your fitness but lose most of that within just a few weeks through injury or illness…….the rock rolling back down the hill. Before you go throwing yourself back into training, here are some recommendations to consider with regards to fitness and ensuring in your desperation to get back underway that you do not end up on the treatment table.

Just how fit are you?

With the gyms and leisure facilities only recently opening again following a third lockdown, the first question that you should be asking yourself is how much your fitness suffered over the last year and particularly the last six months. If you train regularly, had you been able to get back to your levels pre-first lockdown and before entering the second lockdown. If you do not do regular fitness work, how does your current fitness level compare to your last regular sessions?

Even allowing for doing some fitness work at home or outside, unless you have been able to load your body in similar fashion to your gym workouts, then your fitness levels and in particular your strength levels would have suffered and will be down. Doing press-up’s instead of bench/chest press, or bodyweight squats instead of weighted squats or leg press, whilst working the muscles in the same way, has no loading similarities. 

So before jumping back into training, here are a few considerations to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Flexibility – have you maintained a good level of flexibility throughout the lockdowns? Key areas to consider are hamstrings and lower back, particularly for running and movement-based activities. For kicking within sports or activities, the hip abductors (groin) and hip flexors whilst also looking at ankle and foot flexibility/stiffness. For female athletes, look at general hip mobility and tightness in the ITB band.

Strength – as mentioned above, substituting a weights program with bodyweight exercises will only have served to maintain strength levels to a certain degree so do not expect to start lifting the same weights where you left off or smashing PB’s anytime soon. When you get back in the gym, take a few sessions to establish where you are and do repeat sessions to monitor recovery. If you have a 10% or greater drop-off in the weights in the repeat sessions, then your body is not recovering and has not re-adapted yet to training. This is likely to be the case with most of us who have been deprived the use of weight training equipment.

Personal recommendation is to focus on all-over body conditioning for a few weeks before attempting split sessions as the body will respond better when treated as a “whole” rather than entertaining complex training plans. Included within this should be a good level of flexibility and recovery exercises. You should view the first 6-8 weeks as what as strength coaches we call a “preparation” (or “prep-phase”) phase to your training. To use an old cliché, “Don’t try to run before you can walk”.

Returning to team sports – this is the hardest one to gauge as until you play a competitive game again, you cannot fully measure where you stand with your fitness. Starting point should be performing regular pre-game/training warm-up routines and gauging your recovery over the next 24-48hrs. Unless you have been regularly practising during the lockdown, then sprinting and Change Of Direction (C.O.D) running should be kept BELOW maximum levels and built up gradually over the first few weeks to avoid hamstring or abductor (groin) injuries. For footballers, using the “FIFA 11+” program is a good tool to have as a reference. The body will also need a few weeks to readjust to the “contact” element within your sport, more so for rugby, so learning to deal with “knocks and bangs” will be part of the return to play element.

These are just a few recommendations and will vary on an individual basis but for further help and advice with injury or training issues then please contact Seb or myself through the Optimal website. Both gym and field-based training assessments can now be booked by emailing or calling Seb at Optimal.

Chris Smith MSc. CSCS

Sports & Exercise Rehab Specialist/S&C Specialist (Optimal Sports Therapy)

Chris Smith

Strength and Conditioning Coach Joins Optimal Sports Therapy

Welcome Chris Smith MSc CSCS (Strength and Conditioning Coach and Exercise Rehab Specialist) to The Optimal Sports Therapy Centre.

Optimal are delighted to add its first addition to the team after 11 years of service within the Basingstoke area.
Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with over 15 years of experience along with a Master’s degree (MSc) in the Science of Sports Coaching (Elite athlete development). He also completed his FIFA Diploma in Football Medicine in 2018.

With 30 years of experience of training and working in gyms, most recently Chris spent the last 8 years working as the Fitness Instructor in the Physiotherapy department at Basingstoke Hospital with sole responsibility for running rehab classes and working 1-1 with patients. He has been responsible for developing the ACL classes working alongside the MSK Knee Specialist and developing the post-op protocol to enable patients to return to sport or activities. In 2018, Chris won the Director of Nursing Award (DONA) within Hampshire Hospitals for his work with a patient with a severe back injury.

In the past Chris has provided S & C support and performance development with various sports teams including Southampton RFC, Basingstoke RFC Academy, Rushmoor Royals swimming club and Southampton Gymnastics and Trampolining clubs. He has also trained two British Junior Champions in Gymnastics and Disabled swimming and, whilst at the hospital, assisted in the rehab of a World silver medalist from Team GB Gymnastics.

Outside of work Chris still enjoys running and cycling having previously competed in triathlons over the Olympic distance and came 3rd in his age group over a Middle-distance triathlon back in 2014, along with competing in the 2016 British Duathlon Championship at Windsor. Also, in 2014, completed the “3 Peaks Challenge” with Seb.

If your interested in any advice or expertise in regards to training for the gym or any sports then Chris will be able to help. He can assess your strengths and weaknesses and then provide a tailored training programme to help you reach your goals.

For any enquiries or an appointment call Optimal on 07876351562 and we can book you in as soon as possible. Gym and Field based appointments are available or Virtual is also possible if that is preferred.
This is the perfect time to get prepared for next year and get a good base training before any events next year!!

Stretching

Marathon Running – Importance of Stretching

Marathon Running – Importance of Stretching. For Marathon Running, stretching can be useful for two different reasons. First of all, you can use stretching to address specific muscle restrictions which are identified as being contributory to a specific injury. Tight or shortened muscles are commonly associated with overuse injuries. The shortening may be at the same site as the injury or in the muscles close by. Muscle tightness may be secondary to neural restriction, muscles imbalances or trigger points. This needs to be corrected first if stretching is to be effective.

For example, a runner who has weakness in the buttock muscles is likely to have particularly tight hamstrings, Any amount of hamstring stretches will not resolve the issue and gluteal (buttock) strengthening exercises will need to precede the stretching programme. Stretching needs to be done on a regular basis, as instructed by the sports therapist or physiotherapist.

Secondly, stretching is very important as part of an injury prevention programme. Running is a very repetitive, one dimensional activity. This means that the muscles and joints are only working in very small, specific ranges of motion. This means they are likely to become short and tight.

Marathon running – warm up
In general, it is suggested to do dynamic stretches at the beginning of a training session. This should follow a short warm up, which may be jogging. Dynamic exercises include running with high knees, kicking heels to bottom and stride lunges. They should all be comfortably performed. This is even more important before a speed or interval training session.

Marathon running – cool down
At the end of a training session, a cool down is very important and this should include stretching. Technique is key when it comes to stretching, and runners would be advised to seek advice on the best way of stretching all the key muscles groups.

Headache

How Massage can Help with Headaches

Massage therapy helps to relieve headaches by easing muscle tension, relieving muscle spasms, releasing shortened muscles and relaxing tension held in the muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck. When muscle tension eases, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply them. Oxygen-rich blood circulation improves, which also relieves pain. Massage therapy not only helps the muscles of the body to relax but also effectively reduces the anxiety and mental stress that can cause or exacerbate headaches. Regular, ongoing massage therapy can also help to prevent headaches by helping to reduce overall stress and the muscle tension that can trigger headache pain and by helping to maintain emotional balance. In a nutshell… if you have regular headaches, rather than reaching for the paracetamol come and see me and we can get to the bottom of it.

At Optimal Sports we treat a great number of musculo-skeletal conditions and consequently are not be able to include them all.

Preventing injury and optimising performance is beneficial to everyone whether on the sports field, at work or at home. Through a comprehensive assessment of posture, muscle imbalance, biomechanics and flexibility, any imbalances will be identified. A programme addressing these inefficiencies will allow you to continue your sport or activities with a decreased risk of injury while enhancing your performance.

he Optimal Sports Therapy Centre is located in Basingstoke, Hampshire and is ideally placed for travel from Basingstoke, Hook, Fleet, Hartley Whintney, Camberley, Farnborough, Aldershot, Andover, Overton, Whitchurch, Newbury or Reading. For an appointment please call Seb Challen on 01256 771160 or 07876 351562 or use the On-Line Booking page to book an assessment session.

Frankfurt

Basingstoke man starts IRONMAN career at age 57

Local athlete AJ Lane writes about how he came to start his Ironman Triathlon career at the age of 57 years. He gives a lot of the credit for his success to Seb Challen at the Optimal Sports Therapy Centre in Basingstoke. Here is what AJ says…

I  first met Seb when I was having some back pain and was recommended to him by my daughter. I had visited the doctor for a routine check-up . I was overweight, had high blood pressure, etc.

I decided to take dramatic action to get fit and signed up for a full IRONMAN triathlon at the age of 57. (That’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile marathon).  This involved a strict regime of daily training for 11 months. Part of this regime was to visit Seb Challen, at the Optimal Sports Therapy Centre, for various treatments, some preventative and some to help with niggles picked up in training. I am sure that I could have never completed this challenge without the help of Seb.  I have since completed another  three  IRONMAN races, including 2 in 2 weeks, all at under the careful management of Seb at Optimal.

Thanks Seb!!

A.J. Lane

Lifting

Lifting Objects Properly – Some simple principles to follow

Lifting Objects Properly? Follow these simple principles. Stand very close to, or directly over, the object you want to lift. Start with your feet and legs about shoulder width apart. Lightly pull in your abdominal (stomach) muscles and then squat or dip down. Your knees, hips and ankles should be bent.

Pick the object up from underneath you if possible, squeeze your buttocks to help straighten you up again and keep the object close to your body while you carry it.
This all helps reduce the forces applied to your back.

The Optimal Sports Therapy Centre offers a wide range of treatment and correction. Treatment is aimed to speed up recovery, restore function and help you return to your normal daily activities at work, leisure or sport.
Preventing injury and optimising performance is beneficial to everyone whether on the sports field, at work or at home. Through careful assessment of your posture, muscle imbalance, biomechanics and flexibility, you can identify any imbalance.

A programme addressing these inefficiencies will allow you to continue your sport or activities with a decreased risk of injury while enhancing your performance.

Sports Therapy is an aspect of healthcare that is specifically concerned with prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of individuals back to optimum levels of functional, occupational, and sport specific fitness, regardless of age or ability.

We assess relevant joints and muscles, check muscle length and balance, provide deep tissue massage and advise on appropriate exercises and stretching techniques. Sports Therapy utilises the principles of sport and exercise sciences to prepare the participant for training, competition and work.

Golfer

Golf Back Pain – how to avoid it!

The main cause of Golf Back Pain is the swing. The golf swing has four components: the address position, back swing, down swing and follow through.

Golf Back Pain problems can occur during any of these phases, but the common errors tend to be:

Too much forward bending at address
Too little rotation of the hips and spine
Insufficient abdominal and back strength to support and control the swing action.

Picture shows Golfer at address with a good spine.

As many as 1 in 2 elite professional golfers have suffered from serious back pain at some stage of their career and 1 in 5 amateur golfers will suffer from back pain each year.

Top Tips to prevent back pain

  • Learn to maintain correct spinal posture (neutral spine) when addressing the ball.
  • Stretch hamsting muscles if tight to allow good address position
  • Develop adequate hip and spinal rotation flexibility
  • Strengthen abdominal muscles protect spine against excessive rotation force during the swing
  • Seek out the assistance of a professional golf coach to teach you the basics of an ideal swing.

Most of us at some time in our lives will suffer from low back pain. Many diagnoses are given for low back pain and range from slipped/prolapsed discs, degenerative arthritis, spondylosis, muscle strain, sacroiliac dysfunction and – one of the most common – sciatica. Assessment and treatment of spinal posture and muscle and strength imbalances will be carried out.

Golf Back Pain can be caused by Sciatica – a set of symptoms resulting from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Symptoms can include pain in the lower back, buttocks and sometimes the leg and foot, pins and needles or numbness in the leg. There are many different causes and potential areas of the origin of pain.

Cycling

Back Pain – Cycling

Back pain – cycling. Research studies have shown that back pain in cycling is something that affects up to 70% of cyclists , together with neck pain. This is hardly surprising as cyclists regularly spend hours in the saddle. The cycling action involves the repetitive bending of alternating hips and knees, whilst maintaining a fixed back posture. Added stress on the back comes from vibrations from the ground which are transferred from the seat to the spine.

Neutral or near neutral position for your back on the bike is vital. Hinging forwards in the saddle from the hips rather than curling from the lower back. Studies show that cyclists who suffer from back pain tend to curl forwards more in their lower back.

Hamstrings and hip flexors need to be flexible in order to allow you to hold your spine in neutral. If they are tight your body will compensate by curling your back round.

Seat height is important. Too low and your low back will be forced to flex too much for you to pedal freely and too high will cause you to bend forwards through your back to reach the handlebars.

Neck pain is also very common in cyclists. The more you round your back, the greater the need to lift your neck upwards in order to look ahead. This compresses all the neck joints setting you up for pain and stiffness.

To prevent this you need to hold your spine straight and use your eyes to look ahead rather than always lifting your head. Every now and again, you should bring your head down to your chest whilst cycling in order to reverse the prolonged stiff posture of holding the neck in extension.

Back pain – cycling. In Summary

  • Maintain adequate spine flexibility especially in the thoracic area (between shoulder blades)
  • Develop good hamstring and hip flexor flexibility
  • Check saddle height (possible bike fit from local shop)

Learn to hold neutral spine while riding (see pic above)

Marathon Running

Marathon Running

For Marathon Running, stretching can be useful for two different reasons. First of all, you can use stretching to address specific muscle restrictions which are identified as being contributory to a specific injury. Tight or shortened muscles are commonly associated with overuse injuries. The shortening may be at the same site as the injury or in the muscles close by. Muscle tightness may be secondary to neural restriction, muscles imbalances or trigger points. This needs to be corrected first if stretching is to be effective.

For example, a runner who has weakness in the buttock muscles is likely to have particularly tight hamstrings, Any amount of hamstring stretches will not resolve the issue and gluteal (buttock) strengthening exercises will need to precede the stretching programme. Stretching needs to be done on a regular basis, as instructed by the sports therapist or physiotherapist.

Secondly, stretching is very important as part of an injury prevention programme. Running is a very repetitive, one dimensional activity. This means that the muscles and joints are only working in very small, specific ranges of motion. This means they are likely to become short and tight.

Marathon running – warm up

In general, it is suggested to do dynamic stretches at the beginning of a training session. This should follow a short warm up, which may be jogging. Dynamic exercises include running with high knees, kicking heels to bottom and stride lunges. They should all be comfortably performed. This is even more important before a speed or interval training session.

Marathon running – cool down

At the end of a training session, a cool down is very important and this should include stretching. Technique is key when it comes to stretching, and runners would be advised to seek advice on the best way of stretching all the key muscles groups.

Here are some stretches to help with injury prevention:
Hamstring:

Keep your chest up as you maintain a curvature in your lower back as you lean forward.

Hold for 30 seconds.

Quadriceps:

Stand and hold onto a support. Keep your back flat and draw up your bent knee. Keep both thighs level to each other and feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. Make sure you do not allow your back to arch as this will reduce the stretch.

Hold for 30 seconds.

Calf (Straight leg):

Stand with your affected foot behind you and keep your heel on the floor as you lean forwards until you feel a stretch in your calf. Make sure both your feet are pointing forwards.

Hold for 30 seconds.

Calf (bent leg- soleus):

Bring the back foot in a bit and bend the knee until you feel a stretch lower down in the Achilles tendon. You can balance out your weight on both legs as you stretch.