Improve Functional Strength To Prepare For The Return of Sports

Sports are returning after COVID-19 shutdowns, and athletes need to be preparing now, so they can get back and play at their best.

While at home or waiting for sports return, you can improve some basics that can help prevent injury and give you a foundation for improved performance.

With little to no equipment, you can work on your functional strength and stability to improve performance and reduce compensations.  

When deciding what you need to be doing, you should target areas you’ve had trouble with or are more critical for your sport. 

Maybe there is a part of your body where you have regularly had aches and pains?  If so, you may have already been told by a professional what you should be working on.  If not, get connected to a coach who will do a virtual or in-person assessment and give you a program.

3 Ways You Can Prepare For The Return of Sports

There are simple things you can do to improve your functional mobility and stability. These are important parts of the FOUNDATION phase when preparing for the return of sports to normal.

Return To Sport Pathway after COVID-19
These 3 strategies are important ways to prepare for the return of sports after the COVID-19 shutdowns. They are all part of step 3 in Velocity’s return to sport process.

Below are three things we commonly assign to athletes when they are working on step 3. One of the great things is that these can all be done at home.

If you’ve already been coached on strength training, stretching and mobility, it will be easy to add these in. If you need help, get a coach either in person or remotely to help.

SINGLE LIMB Exercises

While exercises that use two limbs at once (bilateral) are great for building strength and learning technique, they aren’t always the most sport-specific.

During most sports movements, you are moving off one leg, or the two legs are doing different things.  Just think about cutting, throwing, crossing over, and all the other things you do. Same with the upper limbs.

The bottom line, a lot of sports movement is on one leg or one arm.

So, that means that doing some exercise with only one limb (uni-lateral) can be a great addition to your training.  Some of the guidelines to start;

  • Do the same exercises you already know, just with a single limb.
  • You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, backpacks, or other items as your weight.
  • Start slow and focus on smooth, controlled movements.
  • As you have proper technique, go ahead and add weight.  You can actually do a lot in these exercises when you’re ready.

Using dumbbells or kettlebells are great opportunities to work with just a single arm or single leg.   Athletes will have to work more to stabilize joints when working unilaterally. Use movements that are slower at first and build reasonable control before adding weight or speed.

FLEXIBILITY

Working on the range of motion in your soft tissue structures can help eliminate restrictions that may be leading to movement compensations.  It’s something you can clearly do at home without equipment and prepare for sports returning.

We are talking about the range of motion you can achieve that’s limited by your muscles, fascia, and connective tissue.  This is what most people are thinking about when they imagine stretching.

They think about these structures kind of like a rubber band and make them more elastic. This isn’t the only piece for athletes (see mobility next), but it’s still essential.

To work on your tissue flexibility, you can combine self-myofascial release techniques with longer duration stretches and breathing. A standard sequence coaches prescribe for athletes would include;

  • Relax: use deep, diaphragmatic breathing to relax for 1-3 minutes before starting.  Continue this breathing through the rest of the session.
  • Release: use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to find trigger points in muscles. Stay on over-active spots for 1-3 minutes while continuing relaxation breathing.
  • Stretch: Use long duration or band-assisted/active stretches to target specific muscle groups.

MOBILITY

A lot of athletes know that stretching could benefit them.  However, flexibility is only the range of motion of tissues and joints. Your mobility is your body’s ability to control the range of motion and get into positions.  That’s really important for athletes.

Mobility requires flexibility, along with the strength and stability to protect your joints.  

We have athletes use exercises that work through active ranges of motion, such as Animal Flow, yoga, and Functional Range Conditioning. Coaches can help you select what’s right for you with some assessments, but here are some common tips to get the most benefit;

  • Breathe well during the movements and positions. Holding your breathe is cheating.
  • Move slow and smooth to start.
  • Get the movement right. in many of these movements you can look like you’re doing them, but if you’re not focused on the right muscles or patterns, you are losing benefits.
  • Pay attention. Just moving misses a lot of the benefit. Notice how your body is moving and how it’s connected to the ground.

Learn more about athletes’ needs for flexibility and mobility here.

Build Your Foundation To Come Back Stronger

While away from your regular training and practice routines, you can decide to turn this obstacle into an opportunity. Preparing for the return of sports is what serious athletes are doing.

The three tactics shared here are all part of the FOUNDATION phase in the return to sports process you can follow to be your best.

By working on some of the fundamentals, you can be ready to make faster gains when your training and sports return.

Injury Risk From Returning To Sports Too Fast

return to sports after covid injury risks

Detraining during lockdowns and a quick reopening will increase injury risk

The injury risk returning to sports after COVID-19 shutdowns is greater than most coaches realize.

Preventing injuries has to be one of the highest priorities for coaches, teams, and organizations as sports return.  What’s the point of reopening, if our athletes are getting hurt and missing sport anyways?

The detraining they have gone through means the athlete’s returning aren’t the same ones who left.  Their physical capacities will be different.

Few coaches have experienced anything on this scale before.  It’s probably been at least 10 to 20 years since a high school or college athlete has taken a full two months or more fully off from sports.  It just doesn’t happen anymore with year-round training and competition.

So how do we know if they will be at risk?

Return To Sport Lessons For Elite Sports

We know athletes’ have increased risks when returning after significant injury or surgery.  And we aren’t talking about just reinjuring the same body part, but the increased risk of other injuries since they haven’t been training.

We also can look at data from years in pro sports with shorter seasons and lockouts.  Consistently the number of injuries is much higher when the athletes return.

One of the risk factors in all these scenarios is the accumulation of fatigue.  As athletes fatigue, their injury risks increase.  The athletes coming off lockdown restrictions will fatigue faster.  They aren’t in the same shape to train and have a lower ability to recover.

If athletes have been consistently trying to maintain at least 25% of their normal training volume, consider how detrained they are over just 8 weeks.

Even if you ramp up training over the weeks at 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% the gap will be large and increase their risk of injury.

Stress As A Stimulus

Another factor in the injury risk returning to sports is how quickly they ramp up training again.

Practice, training, and competitions are a stimulus and stress for the athlete’s body.  We want some stimulus, so they adapt, putting some savings back in that bank account.  This is the increase in their readiness.  That’s the overall level of their abilities from training.

However, that same stimulus, when taken too far, overloads the athlete beyond their ability to adapt.  This level of stress can lead to immediate fatigue, which increases injury risk.  Remember, the athletes will likely have a diminished ability to recover as fast.  Both with-in a single practice session and between sessions.

When the stress overload is too high, it also damages tissues.  That damage may be a small injury that adds up to those chronic, overuse injuries.  It could also manifest as acute muscle strains and tendon sprains.

The Acute To Chronic Workload Ratio In Return To Sports

In elite sports, a lot of research and effort have gone into understanding how changes in training workload influence injury risk.  The general consensus is that if the volume of training drops too much, athletes detrain. Then their injury risk can go up.   If it increases too fast, then injury risks increase

For those planning the return to sport, this is an essential concept.

Chronic Training Load

Consider two measures of the training workload.  The first we call chronic workload.  This is the average workload that has been happening over time.  Often we look at the average of the last eight weeks, with some extra importance in the most recent weeks.

This should make intuitive sense for a coach.  The work, an athlete, has been doing in training over several weeks is what they can tolerate.  It’s what the athlete has adapted to.   Some practices are intense and some less severe, but it’s the average accumulated workload that they have adapted to.

Think about what this means for athletes right now.  They are getting drastically less workload.  Even if they are putting in their best efforts, they are getting far less than the total they were getting from practice, training, and competition before.

The workload is also relatively specific to the type and intensity of the work.  The workload from 60 minutes of high-intensity practice or games, is much different than 60 minutes of bodyweight training and modified conditioning programs.

So as each week of sports lockdown progresses, the athlete’s average for the last eight weeks is dropping.  Their chronic workload number is going down.  

Acute Training Load

On the other hand, acute training workload is what they are going through now.  This is typically looked at as the last 5-7 days.  Some days may be harder, others more relaxed, but the average is what the athlete’s bodies are working to recover from and adapt to.

The relationship to injury comes in when we see a significant gap in the acute and chronic training load.  This relationship is called the acute to chronic workload ratio (ACWR). 

ACWR – Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio

The average acute training load (last 5-7 days) divided by the average chronic training load (last 6-8 weeks).

CHRONIC Workload = 100 units

ACUTE Workload = 110 units (a 10% increase this week)

ACWR = 1.1

Any time there is an increase in the training load, we see the acute: chronic greater than 1.  Although the exact number varies by sport and finer details of workload, we still know when that number gets too big we have a problem.

Coaches have been pushing athletes for decades to train more and train harder, so they adapt. A jump in the training load itself won’t automatically increase injury risk.

On the other hand, it’s not hard to understand that if you keep doubling the amount of training every week, at some point, they are going to break down.

This graph is from Tim Gabbett, The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?, British Journal of Sports medicine, 2016.

Wile the precise ratio may be debatable, the concept isn’t. Interestingly, lowering training too much also started to increase injury risk. With the lockdowns athletes have experience they may currently be far off the left side of this graph.

Recent research in pro sports has explored this ratio.  A few years ago, there was a big push based on some excellent research that a ratio of around 1.5 increased injury risk.  

The exact number is not what we are worried about per se because the athlete’s age and level and the sport have an impact. What does matter is the basic premise; increasing workload too quickly leads to elevated injury risk.

Coaches, if you return to practice without a plan, and follow your normal approach, you might be putting your athletes in harm’s way.

Athletes will have a greater injury risk returning to sports

This pandemic has affected sports and we are all looking forward to getting back quickly.

However, in doing so, we must recognize and plan for the unique situation we are in as coaches, and organizations.

So be proactive. If you’re not back to practice yet, get your athletes some help and programming that addresses their specific needs when they return. Get with a knowledgable sports performance professional who can help you put a plan together to ramp back up as quick as possible.

The vital point for sports coaches is that if you increase the training load too fast, the injury risk returning to sports goes up. Your athletes’ average load over the last 1-3 months is probably lower than you’ve ever seen on a broad scale.

Planning the return to sports after COVID-19 Restrictions

planning the return to sports

There are 3 goals coaches need to achieve when planning the return to sports for any athlete

As teams and sports organizations start targeting a return to sport dates, they need plans to prepare the athletes. 

At Velocity, we’ve been working with everything from elite athletes and teams, to local clubs and high schools in devising effective strategies.  We are helping them to achieve the same three goals whenever we return an athlete to sports after extended times away.

Three Goals of Planning the Return to Sports

Working in higher level sports, we’ve learned a lot about returning planning back in their sports practice after long layoffs. Most of this comes from athletes that we’re injured and required extended time out of sport to rehab and recover. Sometimes it’s with athletes who took a sabbatical year or had a pregnancy during their career.

No matter the case, we do know that without the right preparation, an athlete going back into their regular sports practice and training routine will be at higher risk of injury.

The three driving outcomes we are working to achieve for our players is that they can return safely, successfully, and sustainably.

1. Returning To sport SAFELY

We want athletes to return to sports without a sudden influx of injuries.  Injury defeats the entire purpose of reopening sports and eliminates the chance of success.  After all, you can’t play well if you are on the sidelines hurt.

Velocity is working with teams to create phased-in training plans, athlete readiness screenings, and load monitoring. This means helping athletes and coaches plan how to balance the needs of the athletes body, with the likely scenario of getting back to seasons quickly.

The first step is to do some basic screening of fitness and readiness as athletes return. Finding out what shape they are in is important because coaches have never faced this many athletes out of training for so long.

athlete monitoring can help improve performance and reduce injury risk
Velocity has simple tools that can help coaches monitor their athletes’ responses when returning to sports after COVID-19 shutdowns.

Next, we are helping coaches plan a ramp-up of both technical skills and the right physical qualities for the sport will lower the chance of injuries.

Monitoring how the athletes are responding to the increased load is another strategy that lets you get an early warning if the training is too much or too little. This feedback to coaches can help them adjust training plans to get back into shape and competitive form as fast as possible.

2. Returning to sports SUCCESSFULLY.

Successfully means being able to perform at a high level.  No coach wants to see their team come back out of shape and unable to play up to their abilities.  Plans for preparing the right physical qualities and skills begin now.

That means even before you are back, organize your athletes to complete specific types of training. They need to be preparing specific body parts and tissues for the stress of practicing again.

This is always important in preseason, but especially now when athletes have detrained. Their bodies are not the same as when they left.

Returning To Sports After COVID-19 - athletes are different now

Velocity is working with some teams and clubs to provide pre-return training that specifically reduces the risks of injury and increases the physical qualities they need in their sport.

While many athletes are trying to stay fit and ready with various exercises at home, exercising isn’t training. Training has a specific purpose and goal. While keeping a general level of strength, fitness and mobility were reasonable goals during time at home, athletes need to prepare for sport again.

Whether it’s through remote coaching and managed digital platforms, or in person, serious teams are getting their athletes ready now.

3. SUSTAINING the return to sports

Sustainable is a goal that often gets forgotten.  We don’t just want the first weeks to be a success, but the entire season. 

This means that we have to get the preparation and buildup right first, and then follow it with continued training, monitoring, and recovery.  Remember, these athletes aren’t going to be the same.  Some issues can creep in slowly. 

Velocity is helping teams and clubs plan their monitoring and supplemental recovery and training strategies for in-season. We have athletes that enter and rate daily responses on phone-based apps so coaches can see if their teams handling the demand.

When the fatigue is building or specific aches and pains are increasing, you can help implement and specific recovery plans and give athletes guidance on how to recover at home.

Another important strategy for sustainability while planning your return to sports after COVID-19 is to continue with their physical training during the season. This doesn’t mean a large volume of grueling physical training. That leads to excessive fatigue and takes away from their technical sports skills.

Instead, we recommend a strategy we use in elite sports called micro-dosing. Small, frequent, and high-intensity bouts of training. This may be dedicating 6-15 minutes of practice time to work on speed or specific explosive qualities.

It can also mean targeted high intensity interval training sessions or specific mobility work. What matters is that you pinpoint the physical qualities that will keep your players healthy and in top form, and then have a plan to build and maintain them.

A Shortened Time Frame

There will likely be a shortened time frame as we return in many sports. We are proposing an approach to achieve the three return to sport goals as quickly as possible.  We want to do it quickly because people want to be back in sports.

Some leagues will feel the pressure and schedules will start very fast. 

Some coaches will be under pressure to win and see this as an opportunity to get ahead of other teams.

We acknowledge that in many cases, a prolonged and steady buildup may not be feasible.  However, we don’t want the return to be so quick that it puts athletes at risk. Planning the return to sports after COVID-19 shutdowns starts with setting these three goals.

Returning To Sports After COVID-19 Restrictions: High Performance or High Injury Rate

HIGH PERFORMANCE OR HIGH INJURY RATE RETURNING TO SORTS

The return to sports after COVID-19 will be different than just flipping a switch and starting a season.

This stoppage of sports due to the pandemic is unprecedented.  Restrictions vary across the country from a strict stay at home orders to the shutdown of schools and organized sports.

Right now, most athletes aren’t going to practice or being coached in person.  Team practices aren’t occurring.  Almost all gyms and school weight rooms are closed as well.

All of this limits what types of training an athlete can be doing.

While many athletes are trying to stay fit with at-home workouts, it’s not the same stimulus to the body or mind.  For water sport athletes like swimmers and water polo players, it’s even harder to train appropriately.

Athletes Are Detraining After COVID-19

Athletes improve their fitness, speed, strength, and tissue resilience through their practice, training, and competition. All of those induce stress, too which the athletes adapt.

When there is reduced stress, the body also adapts, back to lower levels.

Because of all this, we can reasonably assume that an athlete’s training adaptations are deteriorating during this time. This process is what we call detraining.

How bad the detraining will be is based on the individual athlete’s genetics, training history, and what they are doing now.

Learn More: Athlete’s Tendons Are At Risk After COVID-19

Nonetheless, we know that even with the best intentions, athletes arent getting the same stimulus to adapt.

Using bodyweight, resistance bands, lightweights, and modified programs help reduce the detraining, but they just won’t cut it.  They don’t have the same effect as practicing their sport and comprehensive performance training.

Detraining is a bit like withdrawing money from a bank account.  Think of training and practice time as money that’s been invested.  The longer the restrictions last, the more athletes are withdrawing from their savings. 

Training is a stimulus that helps athletes adapt. Going without training, practices and competitions is leading to reduced capacities for most athletes.

Their accounts are starting to dwindle.

Some of the effects of detraining are on whole systems like the cardiac, aerobic, and neuromuscular systems.  They each have different rates of detraining.

In other cases, we have to consider specific structures and abilities in athletes.  So, what will be different in the athletes after COVID-19 lockdowns?

Reopening sports after COVID-19 lockdowns needs to consider the implications of detraining.

Athletes returning to sports after COVID-19 restrictions are different

Planning The Return To Sports

Plans for returning to sports after COVID-19 restrictions must consider the size of the detraining withdrawal that’s been made by athletes.   The magnitude of the deconditioning will affect how quickly athletes are back to 100 percent.

It’s up to all of us in sports to make sure we work to return athletes to sport safely, successfully, and sustainably. understanding that they are in a different condition is the first step.

Velocity’s COVID-19 Reopening Safety Procedures

disinfecting gym equipment

Staying Safe as We Reopen

As we reopen, we need to make sure we are doing so safely.  After all, it does no good to be strong, fit, and fast if you’re sitting out of the game sick. Even worse, if we don’t control the spread the games won’t be back or continue.

Our goals are to;

  • Be leaders in our communities by helping to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Protect our clients by providing the safest environment we can
  • Protect our staff by providing a safe working environment

CLEANING

The first step is to create and maintain a virus-free environment to the best of our ability.

  • Daily deep cleaning by the staff will include:
    • Turf disinfectant spraying
    • Floors mopped with disinfecting cleaner
    • Handles and contacted surfaces cleaned with disinfecting cleaner
    • Deep cleaning will be done daily and repeated for each time interval over 6 hours of operation
    • All disinfecting products will be approved to kill viruses and used according to directions
  • Equipment cleaning during sessions
    • Cleaning equipment protocols will be put in place to limit potential virus spread by contact

SCREENING

Health authorities at all levels across the country have recommended or required screening of staff for symptoms and members for symptoms Covid-19.

  • Screening for Covid-19 will include:
    • Symptom questionnaire
    • Temperature check
  • Employees will be screened when reporting for each work shift
  • Members will be screened upon entering the facility or attendance to a training location
  • Anyone failing the screening will be asked to leave the facility. For unattended youth, they will be separated from others while waiting for a pick-up.
  • Our locations have outlined procedures if positive screenings occur, including a return to the facility clearance, and billing adjustments.

DISTANCING

Maintaining distance between people is a critical strategy to limit the spread of any infectious disease.   

  • Space & Capacity
    • Classes will be limited in size to allow for 6-10′ of separation between athletes based on local requirements.
    • In the phases 2 and 3 of reopening a limit on the total member capacity indoors will be 20, and in later phases 50.  This is will be adjusted to match local regulations.
  • Face Covering
    • Staff will wear face coverings while coaching to prevent inadvertent spread of undetected contagion.
    • Members may be asked to wear face coverings outside of the time they are vigorously exercising based on local conditions.
  • Water fountains will be closed and all members are required to bring their own individual hydration or purchase on-site.
  • Coaches will not physically contact athletes, and athletes should not have one to one contact either.  This includes no handshakes or high fives, and manual positioning of athletes.  Exercises requiring partner contact will also be eliminated.

DISINFECTING

Personal disinfecting is a key in preventing people from catching the virus

Personal disinfecting is a key in preventing people from catching the virus      

  • Hand sanitizer will be in place at the entrance of the facility
  • Hand sanitation will be required upon entering and before exiting the facility.
  • Additional signage will be put in restrooms and visible locations reinforcing hand sanitizing and washing
  • Anyone coughing or sneezing should cover it with their elbows and immediately proceed to wash or sanitize their hands
  • Additional hand cleaning/sanitizing breaks will be built into sessions around water breaks

Tendon Injury Risk For Athletes After COVID-19 Time Off

tendon injury risk after covid-19

While COVID19 itself hasn’t shown any direct effects, the pandemic and our social distancing response probably will impact tendon injury risk for athletes.  You need to understand what is happening with your tendons while you are away from sport and what they will endure when sports return.

As athletes return to sports practice and competition after lockdown, they will be susceptible to tendon injury as they undergo spikes in their training load.  These acute increases in the volume of throwing, sprinting, jumping, and swinging can be a risk factor for tendon injury.

TENDONS NEED LOAD

Too much load and you get an injury, but too little and you get structural change. After just 2-4 weeks of unloading the tissues of tendons begin to lose their structure and ability to withstand big loads. That means athletes wont to be the same when sports return.

SHOCKS AND SPRINGS

Tendons improve athletic movement skills by transmitting muscle forces and by acting as springs. This means they need to be able to provide both elasticity and stiffness. To do this they need to be exposed to the right types of stimulus in training.

TOO MUCH, TOO FAST

Repetitive stress that overloads the tendon can create micro-injuries in the tissue that add up. These become overuse injuries. Runners and jumpers often experience this when they increase their volume too quickly. Throwers and volleyball players often experience this in the shoulder or elbows as well.

TENDONS ARE COMMON SPORTS INJURIES

Tendon injuries are common in sports. Tendon injuries you may have heard of include;

  • Achilles Tendon – Ankle
  • Patellar Tendon – Knee
  • Elbow Tendons – Tennis & Golfer’s elbow

These injuries can occur with either acute tears or chronic overuse. Tendon injury risk for athletes will be heightened as they haven’t been conditioned by normal sports practice.

PREPARING FOR THE RETURN TO SPORT AS WE REOPEN

Loading tendons enough to stimulate the structure and function is the key to being ready when sports return. At home, and before teams resume, proactive athletes can use isometrics, eccentrics and reactive plyometrics to train. These types of exercises are key ingredients to build resiliency and capacity in the tissue.

GRADUAL RETURN TO SPORTS

One of the biggest risk factors for tendons is how rapidly the volume of work increases. Muscles adapt faster than tendons and can overwhelm them. When an athlete has been doing very little and then starts full practice, the risk of injury to tendons is exponentially increased.

Nutrition At Home During Covid-19

Nutrition at Home During Covid-19

Nutrition at home during covid-19 stay at home actions and social distancing is much different for people. Athlete’s don’t have their normal routines or places for eating.

Watch this video with Velocity nutrition coaches and dieticians checking- in on what’s happening with people’s nutrition and sharing tips on eating smart right now.

Although this time is an unprecedented disruption to daily life for most of us, we can find ways to make 🍹lemonade out of 🍋 lemons.

One of the takeaways from this conversation is that this can be an opportunity to upgrade your nutrition at home during Covid-19. Build some new cooking skills, experiment, and help young athletes learn about nutrition and cooking.

Nutrition At Home During Covid-19 – Part 1
1:05 Checking In – How is everyone is doing 
7:28 What Should I Be Doing To Boost Immunity?
12:17 When You Are Overwhelmed Cooking This Much?
18:25 What’s Happening To Young Athletes At Home
20:37 What About Alcohol Increases During Covid19?
Nutrition At Home During Covid-19Part 2
0:24 How Can Young Athletes Stay On Track?
3:17 What Are Snacks To Stock Up On?
7:45 Is Your Shopping List Holding You Back?
9:50 What Can High School & College Athletes Do To Upgrade Their Nutrition?
16:12 What Are The Experts Advising People To Do?
23:00 Dealing With Struggles

Gym Closed? It’s A Good Time For Working Out(doors)

running in nature

Gyms and fitness studios across the country are closing, and it’s a good time for training outside.

Even if your gyms not closed, you should probably be avoiding big groups to practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, there are big benefits to exercising outside!

No Gym, No Problem

No, you don’t have the machines, or the group energy, or the coach encouraging you.

So is that going to be your excuse? It might be harder in some ways and different now that you aren’t going to the gym.

No gym, now is a good time to workout doors
There are added benefits when you train outside.

This doesn’t mean you can’t keep exercising. Use this as a chance to explore the fitness and strength you’ve been building in the gym in new ways. You’ve already been training in the gym, so now it’s time to get outside and play.

During the coronavirus outbreak, you can combine the benefits of the outdoors with exercise while keeping a responsible distance from people and improving your mindset.

Boost Your Mood

People are experiencing new stresses daily with Covid-19. Stress and isolation like that aren’t great for the psyche.

One solution, training outside, has been proven to boost your mood. 

A 2015 study from Stanford University found students just walked through a campus park for an hour were less stressed than those who didn’t.  There is a lot of compelling evidence that getting outside makes us happier.

Get outside around some green, and you’re likely to feel better.

Outdoor exercise monkey bars

Build Your Immune System By Training Outside

Reducing stress and anxiety helps boost your immune system.  Plus, sunlight can help kill viruses! However, it’s even more beneficial when you are training outside

While the exact mechanics remain a mystery, research has shown a wide range of health benefits to being outdoors.  From the Vitamin D boost of the sun to additional ions and phytochemicals from plants, they add up to a stronger immune system.

How To Workout Outside

When it comes to outdoor exercise, the first thing that pops into most people’s heads is usually running.

running in nature is a great way for training ouside
There’s more to exercising outdoors than just running.

And if you love running, that’s great—but if you don’t, there’s a whole lot more for you to discover.

Whether it’s your own yard, a park, or larger greenspaces and nature, everyone can find something fun and challenge outdoors.

The key to finding the right outdoor workout for you is to engage.

Listen to your body and how you’re feeling. Find what enjoyable for you to do. Look for ways to and play to your workout. Try new things, vary it through the week, involve your kids as well.

Tips For Training Outside

  • Ease into It.  Outdoor exercise is adaptable to everyone’s level of fitness, but it might be different than what you’re used to in the gym.  
  • Exercise early. It’s easier to find excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day.  In the morning you have more energy, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower.  Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the post-workout benefits of less stress and a better mood throughout the day.
  • Avoid temperature extremes.  Your body adapts to colder or warmer weather, but you should still avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold if not acclimated to it. In warmer temperatures, watch for signs of overheating. 
  • Don’t get burned. The sun is good for you, but too much sun is not. Protect yourself with a good sunscreen.  You can also wear sunglasses and a maybe a hat.
  • Drink enough water. “Drink 8 to 10 ounces of water in the 30 minutes before exercising outdoors. Then steady hydration through the workout should suffice. Remember that you can lose water through sweating even in cooler weather.

Workout Ideas

Training outside workout ideas
Just a few ideas of workouts you can try outdoors.
Better yet, lose some of the structure and just play around with this stuff outside!

Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle 

Many of us are conditioned to think of exercise as something we do in a gym.  With the gym closed and a need to stay away from groups, it’s a good time for training outside.

Get back to nature and start adding some outdoor variety to your training routine even when the gym opens back up.

What Is Sport Specific Speed?

sport specific speed training
Everyone knows speed is an important part of performance, but what is sport specific speed?   As an athlete reaches higher levels of sport, the speed of the game increases.  However, the type of speed can also become more specific.
 
It doesn’t take a pro coach or biomechanist to see that sport specific speed is more than running in a straight line.
 
Accelerating, stopping, quickness, agility and change of direction are important parts of game speed.
 
Depending on the sport and position, athletes will use different speed skills including; linear sprinting, agility and multi-directional speed. How often and how far they go each time varies a lot. Still there are some foundations of speed we can begin with.
 

Linear Sprinting

 
Sprinting has two main components; acceleration and max velocity. Acceleration is speeding up rapidly, and maximum velocity is sprinting over ~75% of full speed. Since sprint distance varies from just a few yards to the length of field, athletes typically need both acceleration and max velocity skills. Science tells us that the biomechanics and technique for each are distinctly different.
 
Two clear differences you can see between acceleration mechanics and max velocity mechanics are; body angle and leg action.
 

Angle

 
Draw an imaginary line through the foot contact with the ground and the center of mass (a few inches behind your belly button), this is the Powerline. If the power line is efficient there will be a straight line that runs through the shoulders and head as well.
 
During acceleration the angle is smaller. Somewhere between 45°- 60° from the ground. Compared to max velocity sprinting where the powerline is nearly vertical or 90° from the ground.
 

Action

 
It’s also easy for the untrained eye to see a clear difference in the action of the legs. In max velocity mechanics the athlete uses a cyclical action, with a “butt kick” and “step-over the knee”. In acceleration efficient mechanics are more of a “piston” action with the knee punching forward and then driving backward.
 

Muscles and Strength

 
The differences in the motion and the body positions affect which muscles contribute most. Although most of the body’s muscles are always used in sprinting, some contribute more to acceleration or max velocity running.
 
 

Agility

 
While sprinting speed is very important, most sport aren’t a track meet. Team sports aren’t linear and elite players have great agility as well. Agility can be looked at in two key components, Quickness and Change of Direction. Sprinting speed is great, but if you cant change direction, you’re going to get burned.
 

Quickness

 
Lightning fast movements in 1-2 steps can make all the difference in reacting to an opponent or leaving one on the ground.
 
These are the body fakes and quick re-positioning movements that happen in attacking and defending through-out most sports. Picture and ankle breaking move in basketball or a fast juke by the running back in football.
 
Quickness requires the reactive strength to apply force to the ground quickly, and the body control/balance to make it efficient.
 

Change of Direction

 
On the field or court the game constantly changes direction. Athletes are already moving in one direction when the play changes, then they have to slam on the brakes, and get moving a different way. Players need to change direction in fewer steps and faster than the opposition to have an advantage.
 
change of direction
When the opponent changes from going one way to another, the ball changes areas of play after the pass, or a rebound sends players scrambling after the ball
. These are all cases where change of direction skill will make a difference.
 
To be efficient in change of direction you need great eccentric strength abilities to decelerate, power to reaccelerate and the movement mechanics to apply it at the right angles. Stability in the joints and core also ensure efficient transfer of energy, and prevention of injury.
 

Improving Your Sport Specific Speed

 
Now that you have a clearer picture of what it means to be fast, and a little of what each means, it’s important to know how to improve it.  The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training is a resource where you can learn all about speed training.
 
For all of our movements, we have the formula for speed. Proven by decades with elite athletes across 27 different sports. This is the biomechanics of speed, simplified.
 

The Big 4 are basically the “formula” for speed. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary.
 
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
 
That’s what we coach. It’s true for building the foundation or for sport specific speed. (You can read more about it here)
 
This formula has all of the complexity underneath, but it‘s simple to apply and understand. It can also save you decades and help you achieve better results with your athletes. That’s why I use it.
 
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ~ Albert Einstein
 

Big Force

 
You have to apply force to the ground to go somewhere. The faster you want to go the more force you have to apply.
 
Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue.
 
This doesn’t mean you need to be just bigger or become a powerlifter, but biomechanics research tells us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
The Big Force you need is developed by sprinting fast, using specific sprint and plyometric drills, and getting in the weight room. There are 6 different strength qualities we train, and focusing on Max strength, Strength-speed, and Speed-strength are keys here.
 

Small Time

 
In sports, speed counts so applying that force in a small time, while in contact with the ground, is critical.  You don’t often see the opponent saying, “sure, take all the time you need to generate that force, I’ll wait.”
 
Yes you need a Big Force, but you have to apply it to the ground in a (very) small time. This requires the right strength and motor control qualities. We develop those through technique drills that reinforce a small ground contact time and through plyometrics and strength training drills that develop Rate of Force Development and reactive strength, instead of Max strength or Power.
 

Proper Direction

 
Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right amount of force, but applied in the right direction
 
Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way. When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”
 
The motor control to create Proper Direction is developed through technical drills which teach athletes to move optimally. The stability to transfer those Big Forces comes through specific training drills, while developing strength with resistance training and in our functional strength components.
 

Optimal Range of Motion

 
Goldilocks had it right, not too much, not too little, but just right. We need optimal range of motion in our joints, muscles and tendons. In some movements we need large range of motions, and in others we need smaller. The key is that the athlete can move without restriction or compensations.
 
Many of our technical exercises and dynamic warm-up drills develop this range of motion. In addition we use mobility work such as self-myofascial (foam rollers, balls, etc..) in conjunction with stretching techniques or working with a tissue specialist.
 

Sport Specific Speed

 
To play your best game you need several kinds of speed. The exact mix depends on both your sport and position. However, every player needs to start with speed fundamentals before moving to sports specific speed.
 
By creating a foundation of speed and agility, athlete have more tools in their toolbox. As their training becomes more sport specific they have more to draw upon. Players all have strengths and weaknesses, but you can’t afford any glaring holes. As an elite player you need:
 
  • Acceleration
  • Maximum Velocity
  • Quickness
  • Change of Direction
 
You don’t’ have to leave this to chance. While you may need the right genetics to be the fastest in the world at these, through the right training you can improve. Improve both your physical attributes and your motor control and you’ll be faster.
 
Speed is a skill, and like any skill it can be taught.

Tips to help you eat better when you travel in 2020

travel food

Travel is a necessary component of competitive sports that can start as early as middle school. When you’re on the road, all the careful planning and meal prep you do at home to guarantee your body get all the nutrition it needs for optimal performance suddenly disappears. Your body already has to contend with a host of challenges that can’t be helped – jet lag, long periods of time spent sitting on planes, strange beds, etc. – so change something you can control and make sure you’re still fueling your body well.

Prepare for Success

First and foremost, plan ahead. How long is the trip? How much of that will be spent traveling? Are you likely to need food on the plane? Can you make arrangements ahead of time for healthier in-flight eating? What kind of food will you have access to wherever you’re going? Answering these questions will help you form a plan and avoid the trap of grabbing whatever is easiest because you’re hungry.

Stay Hydrated

The recycled air on planes and in airports is dry and will dehydrate you faster than normal, thus requiring you to replace what you’ve lost more frequently. You can’t bring bottled water through security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle and fill it up at the bottle-fillers most airports have these days. You’ll feel better when you land and won’t feel any of the cravings that dehydration can cause.

Bring Your Own Snacks

Probably everyone who has ever traveled regularly has fallen into the trap of grabbing whatever is most convenient. Your flight might be boarding in the next two minutes, or maybe you know you’re about to be on a long flight and that bag of chips or candy bar looks like the bit of comfort you need to make it a little more tolerable.

We’re not here to say you shouldn’t ever have indulgences, but bringing your own, healthier snacks will help avoid impulsive choices that you will regret later. Below are a few nutritious options to keep you fueled and feeling good.

  • Fresh fruits and veggies: When you’re traveling, something you can eat with one hand is always welcome. Baby carrots and grapes fit nicely in a small plastic bag, and bananas and oranges come in their own container!
  • Almonds: Pack them easily into a small container for a protein-packed snack.
  • Pre-Packaged Single-Serving Options: These days there are plenty of snacks already packaged into a convenient travel size. Hummus cups go great with your baby carrots, and single-serving peanut or almond butter makes a nice addition to your banana or apple slices.
  • Make Your Own Protein Bars: A quick internet search will turn up far more recipes for protein bars than you will ever need. Make them in bar form or roll them into balls for a handy, nutritious snack.

All you need is a little planning and you’ll never have to wonder how you’re going to avoid hunger on the go again.