Learning To Run Right Is A Game Changer

One of the things that comes up right away when I ask sport coaches what their athletes need to work on is running. Poor mechanics diminish speed, make players less efficient and leave them vulnerable to injury.

Like any skill; throwing a ball, swinging a racket or a club it needs to be learned and practiced to improve. But investing the time and energy to develop a smooth, powerful stride that allows for a coherent efficient flow is a game changer.

Steve Magness has a great introduction to running form, why it’s important and how to coach the changes. You can read it here. Its often neglected because coaches don’t know how to coach it or because with a large number of athletes we feel we just don’t have the time. Magness offers some simple thoughts on how  and where to begin.

One of the things that’s needed is a whole body integrated approach to learning to run well. Another is an individualized or personalized approach to helping the athlete find cues and adjustments that help them developing a smooth efficient style that’s also their own.

There are few things more satisfying than helping and athlete find that sweet spot and feel the “take off” and ease that comes with it. We can do all the strength training and plyometrics we want but if the mechanics or technique aren’t right we’re wasting energy at best and stacking strength and power on top of dysfunction, courting injury at worst. How may cases of shin splints are influenced by poor mechanics?

Check out Steve’s article and his book the Science of Running and if you want to improve your skill as a runner, whatever your sport or age get in touch by clicking here  and we’ll get started.

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Leaving The Drama To Someone Else

We often look to the dramatic, the cataclysmic, the one big moment to create change – to move us toward our goal. We want the “hack”, the plan, the quick fix or the shortcut. What we discover over time is it doesn’t work that way. It’s the slow accumulation of an intentional practice, a daily choice that becomes a habit that moves us toward flourishing and excellence.

Daily stretching, eating the right food, practicing the fundamentals, getting enough sleep. Over time we literally change the structures of our bodies, our brains, our attitudes and the environment  around us. It’s a challenge to stay with it, to pick it up again when we drop the ball but, it’s surest way to discovering and developing our potential. So, surrounding ourselves with others, team mates, coaches, friends and family who are committed to the same thing goes a long way – takes us a long way.

What habit do you want to begin? What small step repeated over time will help you move in the direction you want as an athlete, a coach, a person?  Who can you engage to join you or support you?

And here’s the really cool thing; once we take that step we may discover it opening up possibilities we hadn’t imagined. 

Becoming More Flexible

When people think of flexibility they often think of a gymnast doing the splits or a figure skater or dancer who can lift their foot over their head and touch their knee to their nose. That’s range of motion – the distance a joint can move between the flexed position and the extended position. But, its not the same thing as flexibility.
 In their book Fascial Stretch Therapy, Ann and Chris Frederick encourage the use of the online definition from Merriam-Webster for flexibility:  “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.”  Flexibility is about adaptability.
In a webinar with Human Kinetics a few weeks ago Ann and Chris pointed out how flexibility or adaptability draws on all the qualities we associate with athleticism; strength, power, speed, agility, quickness and mobility.
John Kiely, a leader in the strength and conditioning field and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lancashire refers to what he calls “robustness” or a wide variety of options in how an athlete adapts and responds to the demands of training or competition. When those athletic qualities are diminished through injury, fatigue, lack of skill or improper training we loose that robustness, have fewer options to choose from in our response the the challenges of training and competition and become more vulnerable to injury and underperforming.
Mobility is an important factor on that list. As Chris pointed in the webinar we’re talking about functional mobility, our ability move in order to accomplish a task.
Developing flexibility is about integrating all  those factors in an effective way. For example I worked with a collegiate volleyball player this summer who was strong in the weight room and had a better than average countermovement jump demonstrating power. By addressing hip and ankle mobility through a self stretching routine and Fascial Stretch Therapy sessions  and then incorporating specific plyometric training designed to improve elasticity and reduce ground contact time she was able to increase her block jump by over 8 inches. Working on her conditioning and agility she is better able to take that jump where it’s needed on the court and repeat it effectively throughout the match and adapt to the challenges of the game.
Good training produces athletes who are healthy, robust and  as Steve Myhrland has said, “ adaptable not adapted”. A flexible athlete may not be able to touch their palms to the floor but they move optimally in response the the changing demands of training and competition. How flexible are you?

College Bound Players – The Best Time To Start Working On Your Packet Is Before It Gets Here

It’s almost March. For young athletes who are college bound that means that the summer conditioning and physical preparation packets will be arriving in a while. They’re often received with a mix of excitement, confusion, shock and anxiety. Natural reactions to the challenge of moving to the next level.We work with a lot of players to make the leap. Over the years we’ve found three things that help in the transition and give our players a leg up on the process when they arrive on campus in the summer.

Interpret and Translate

When you open that E-mail or packet it can be overwhelming. The language is new, there are calendars, standards, workouts, schedules, and often information on nutrition, rest and mental preparation. Even our most successful club and high school players find it daunting.  So, the first thing we do is help them understand what’s there and put it in context. There’s a logic, goals and a set of principles behind the plan. Seeing the plan as a coach’s way of helping the team and players be successful can change something like the fitness standards from an obstacle to a stepping stone on a path toward contributing and accomplishing goals. It doesn’t make it easier but it becomes a challenge to rise to more than something to fear.

We often take all the pieces and lay them out in one place on a single calendar and help players see how the pieces fit together; how one phase leads to the next and how the elements like speed, agility, strength and stamina fit together. If there are standards or tests they need to pass we help them understand what they are, what they measure and how to prepare for them. Making the unfamiliar more familiar helps reduces some of the emotional static and makes the plan feel challenging but doable.

DSCF2240Assessment

Once we have a sense of where we’re going, we get a sense of where we are. If the program has hang cleans in the work out and you’ve never been in the weight room then we need to build a bridge from here to there. If you’re expected to run ten 110 yard striders and you’ve never done one, then we need to start there. When we know where we’re starting we can create the steps to get players on the coaches plan and get them to campus ready to go.

Support

DSCF1219On the physical side we look at what parts of the plan can you do on your own or with your team and what parts make sense for us to do together. Then we build a schedule. Every player is unique. Some will train with us 4 or 5 days a week, indiviudally or with a group. Others maybe once or twice a week. We create the workout schedule to fit the player and their needs. Certain lifts make sense to do with coaching, other parts of the strenght training they may do in our space but on their own. We’re there if they need it and they learn to work independently. If there’s a standard or a test to pass we’ll practice it  to become familiar with it and benchmark it.

The mental side is often the bigger part of support. Having someone who is trained and experienced who can stand outside the process while you go through it is huge for a lot of players. Sometimes we challenge and sometimes we encourage. A lot of it is helping them reframe and deveiop habits that they can draw on when the get to school.

When we’re feeling challenged  one of the most important things we can do is stay connected with our goals and values. Why am I doing this? What do I want? What am I expecting or hoping for? Those conversations happen both inside and outside the gym. Being able to go back to that is even more valuable in some dorm room in August when you’re away from home and exhausted.

The Best Time To Start Is Now

If you begin now you can put the things in place that you will need to start working on your college program when it arrives. What you may not realize is that the plan you get is the same plan that the rest of the team gets, players who have been training at a college level for a few years. You’ll be building the capacity to train at the next level and get the most out of your plan when it arrives. It’s a great feeling to be able to jump into that packet when it arrives with confidence.

For those who are moving to a new level it’s an exciting and challenging time. It’s supposed to be. Having a plan, being supported and remembering why it’s important can make it immensely rewarding as well. If you’re going to be taking that next step and you want some help. Let us know. We love getting players ready to leap.

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U15-17 Girls Soccer Next Group Starting March 6

iStock_000004316057MediumGrowing as a player means growing as an athlete. Getting stronger, faster, fitter and more agile go hand in hand with improving your technical and tactical skills. Developing those qualities is also one of the most important ways to help reduce the likelihood of injury and stay on the field training, competing and having fun. Whether it’s training or games you want to come to the field healthy and prepared to give your best.

Getting better together. When we ask our players what they love about playing the game one of the things they say is, “being part of a team.”  A great training environment builds on that. It’s working with other players to challenge and support each other as they go through the process of getting better together.  

A  healthy, straight- forward approach. We focus on creating that space; a positive environment with quality training and a long term approach  designed to help players flourish. Some of our players have worked with us from their freshman year in high school through their senior year in college. No shortcuts, quick fixes or “hacks”. Just good training, good coaching and players like you who love the game and enjoy getting better.

Our next training group for U15-17 girls starts March 6. To find out more and sign up on line CLICK HERE

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Mobility For Health And Performance

img_2972Two years ago I met Kelly Quist. Kelly works for the Minnesota Twins as their massage therapist and stretching specialist. She had been practicing something called Fascial Stretch Therapy™ and invited me to experience it for myself. The results were so noticeable that I sent one of the track sprinters I was working with to see her. A strained quad from a year and a half earlier was healed but, tightness in it kept her from reaching top speed and anxious about straining it again. With one session she was able to train and compete with confidence. She continued with FST for the season.

Mobility is a huge issue in both the health and performance of an athlete. Ranell Hobson of the Academy of Sport Speed and Agility in Australia gives an example of the connections in a helpful blog post here https://playerdevelopmentproject.com/football-mobility/ . As she points out, if the hip flexors are tight, the hips are pulled into constant flexion and the gluteals can’t perform their function. There is a loss of power, stability and an increased likelihood of injury. 

img_1666Coaches and trainers will often tell players to stretch and may even take time before or after practice to do it. I know we do. It can help in some cases. But, it tends to focus only on specific muscles and not on the net of connective tissue and muscles that work together to help us move. So the effects while beneficial are limited.

That’s what is so impressive about FST and why I spent time in Phoenix this January getting trained and certified. It is great to be able to bring it back to our Kick-It! Athletes.

While traditional stretching addresses specific muscles, typically in a static way, FST addresses full fascial lines throughout the whole body. Because FST uses a whole-body concept based in anatomy and functional movement, it results in improved flexibility gains over traditional stretching.

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If you watch the NFL on Sundays or you’ve watched the summer Olympics you’ve most likely watched athletes who use FST.

For players who are interested, I’m offering times on Sundays and Wednesdays to come in for half hour sessions to get a quick assessment and begin the process of increasing mobility and flexibility. In the past few weeks I’ve been able to help athletes increase ankle and hip mobility and improve their vertical jump and squat. There is no extra cost or charge for this for players who are currently training with us although there are a limited number of slots right now due to current training schedule.

If you want to learn more about Fascial Stretch Therapy™ you can check out this short video from the Stretch To Win Institute or visit their website.

To sign up just click here, pick a day and time and hit submit.

Looking forward to unlocking speed, strength, and power with FST.

 

Developing Athletes And Pumpkin Seeds

img_1872I gathered the girls in the soccer training group in a corner of the gym after a workout and gave them each a pumpkin seed. “Do we eat these,” one of them asked?  ” Not yet,”I told her.

I asked them what do you have to do to make this grow? The obvious answers came quickly – plant it; water it; feed and fertilize it; weed around it, give it sunlight.

In a sense it’s how we grow anything. We decide want to grow it. Then we give it what it needs, in the right amount, at the right times, over time. Then we pay attention, respond to what we see and adjust.

For an athlete to develop their potential we do the same things. Give them the right things, in the right amounts, at the right times, over time. Then we pay attention, respond to what we see and adjust. It’s as simple and as complex as that.

That tender seed won’t benefit from the same amount of water or fertilizer that a mature vine needs, in the same way that the workouts or plans or exercises that a 25 year old elite athlete needs are appropriate for a 16 year old. What our college coach did with us is usually not what we need to be doing with our young players.

imageBut, if we do the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time, over time and then pay attention and adjust – wow, the results can be truly amazing. And, we have the seeds for another generation.

OK. You can eat your pumpkin seeds now.