Being a chiropractor, I often hear a self diagnosis when people come to me with a problem. “I just need to stretch more.” I like to follow up that question with, “then what do you need me for?” This is where the patient goes into a story of how they are an athlete (beginner to elite) and how they have these nagging injuries, aches, and just aren’t performing as they know they should.
I ask them what are they doing for stretching? They list a mile long list of the stretches they are doing and the time it takes up. Either they are right, they just need to stretch more, or there are other factors that are destroying their athletic performance.
In my years of clinical experience, the person’s problems are rarely a deficiency in stretching. What I do see are some massive deficiencies and toxicities that are destroying athletic performance.
Let’s look at a couple basic performance killers I see that are setting you up for future injuries, whether you are a professional athlete or the recreational 5k runner.
Carb Loading: This has been a staple training mantra, especially for endurance athletes over the years. By carb loading, I mean bread, pasta, cereal, and grain loading. It has been justified that you need to do this because you need carbs for energy. It will make you go faster.
Problem #1 with this approach. Most of the carb loading occurs the night prior to competition. Unless you are going to use all that energy substrate right away, it’s just going to get stored. The next day when you are looking to compete at top level, you are going to bonk because your body is going to hold onto that stored fuel as fat instead of burn it as sugar. Want to burn fat? Then go slow. Want to lose a race? Then go slow.
Problem #2 with Carb loading is the high intake of grains causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is going to set you up for recurrent repetitive injuries. Why will there be inflammation? Reason #1 is that all those grains will break down into sugar, which will literally rip through your arteries and veins like razor blades. Inflammation will occur to help repair the tissue.
Reason #2 for problem #2 is that grains are rich in Omega 6 Fats. Omega 6’s are essential for the humans but having a diet high in grains throws the Omega 6 to Omega 3 way out of whack. A genetically congruent type diet like the Paleo or Innate Diet will put the ration at about 1:1. In a low fat, high grain diet, that puts Omega 6 to Omega 3 at about 15-20:1, a lottery for inflammation and injury. But you just need to stretch more, right?
Problem #3 with carb loading is you won’t lose weight. Most people run and train to lose weight or look fit. This thing with getting a chronic onslaught of grains (sugar) is that it will get stored around your butt, gut, and thighs. Check out this Twitter picture a guy that did 10 marathons in 10 days. You would think he would be ripped. While you’re on Twitter, hit me up. All those grains moves you towards a state of insulin resistance.
The solution is easy. Stop eating crap. Seriously, if you need carbs for energy, the absolute best source are vegetables and fruits. I would also suggest greatly increasing your fat intake, especially EPA:DHA Omega 3 (fish oil). By decreasing your grain intake and increasing your fat intake, you will start to balance out the ratio of Omegas. I would recommend a minimum 4,000 mg of the fish oil daily.
If cutting out grains is intimidating, then start by just switching to gluten free products. Just be careful, paint chips are technically gluten free.
Not Slow Enough and Not Fast Enough: I see this all the time. People train in the same comfort zone all the time, day after day. Usually this comfort zone is too fast on days where you should be going slow and too slow on days you should be going fast.
What happens is that in this in-between phase, there is a chronic release of Cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone to save your life but it does so by actually breaking your body down. You literally eat yourself.
The purpose is to free up energy stores to give you the necessary fuel to escape the danger. The problem is that when this is constantly occurring by your training, emotional stress, and eating crap, you’re never going to repair properly.
Your body is going to continue to shut down to the point where you give up running or basketball because it hurts too much, despite all your best stretching efforts. You blame it on old age and keep telling stories about your glory days when you were young and agile. You might as well wear a shirt that says, ‘retired superstar.’ I know they exist because I have one.
The solution is to start paying attention to your heart rate and efforts. Your slow days should be boringly slow. You might just have to stick with walking on your slow day. It sucks but you’ll thank me.
For the fast days, it’s simple, go fast. I would highly suggest looking into Cross Fit type workouts to supplement your training. I can’t tell you how many athletes (especially distant ones) that incorporate Cross Fit and they see some fantastic results in their performances.
You can also take your normal training distance of 3 miles. On one day, walk it. On the next day, sprint it. Of course you can’t sprint the whole time so you will have to take breaks and then do sprints again.
Want a lot of energy? Mimic how kids move. They are either walking or sprinting. There’s no jogging. None of those injury prone in-between movements.
Training on a Crappy Foundation: I recently read an article about how Kobe Bryant, the perennial all star L.A. Laker says he won’t take charges. For those non-basketball people, a charge is like playing chicken. I stand up straight and let someone else run at me full speed just to have the pleasure of being slammed to the hard wood floor. His reasoning was if you analyze the best players with the longest careers, they didn’t take charges, they were preserving their bodies.
He’s onto something but for you it’s not the charges or MACRO trauma like that. Instead it is the MICRO trauma, the little things that add up. In this case, I’m talking about sitting. Sitting every day for hours upon hours or texting on the your mobile device creates a skeletal foundation that once you start adding more stress to the system of repetitive exercise, you’re just looking for injures or not perform well. Imagine running 3 miles on the sides of your ankle.
Poor posture creates a faulty foundation for you to reach your athletic goals. Worst off, posture affects your nervous system mightily, the very system that runs and coordinates every function in your body. How well do you think you can perform if the nerves to your legs are getting compromised? Your muscles are only as good as the nerves that supply them. Making them longer by stretching isn’t going to change the problem.
The solution is easy, stop sitting so much. Make your work station into a standing work station. At the least, sit on an exercise ball. But for many of you, this has been an ongoing thing for much of your life that you may need some professional help. Being a chiropractor, I feel chiropractic is the best equipped profession to help you restore the integrity of that nervous system. Need help finding one in your area, let me know.
If that chiro says you just need to stretch more, punch him in the nose.
|Dr. Kurt writes from either his home or office in Colorado Springs where he enjoys life with his wife Lindsay, and sons Kalin and Lukas. They have 2 dogs, Boots and Jersey, that are Boston Terrier/English Bulldog mixes. He’s known to play a little guitar, play a little basketball, and when time allows it, soak in the 300 days of sunshine that Colorado Springs boasts. He hopes his blogs will fire you up and get you focused on asking the kind of questions that will produce real health for you and your family.|