The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many challenges to our daily lives. Among them, many athletes of all kinds have lost access to the places they exercise and the people they participate in their sports and recreation with. Gym closures, team sports cancelled, job and childcare changes are all shifting or disrupting your daily routine. In addition, stress and anxiety can be running higher for many of us, making motivation and scheduling time for exercise and self-care more challenging. Particularly as we are getting into the local dark and rainy season, what can we do to help fill these gaps? And if you’re a team sport athlete, how can you make sure you’re ready to start off safely and at a high performance level when groups are allowed to congregate again?
One way to look at this time is as an extended offseason. A great way to spend a longer time period away from competition is to address your weaknesses and build strength. In general, performance is better and injury risks are lower if you have more efficient movement patterns, and then build strength in those good patterns to increase the tissue tolerance to load. As good as it may feel to push yourself into a sweaty mess, and exciting as it is to lift a PR, good mechanics need to come first before you add a lot of weight, power, or duration. So how do you start? First off, try to identify where some of the weaker points are:
- Think about any prior injuries or issues you’ve had–any spots that are always nagging or coming back? Do you always feel tight in the same places?
- Do you feel stronger or better balanced on one side of your body than the other?
- Is your sport asymmetric (i.e. throwing or racquet sports that are very one-side dominant). If so, time to work the other side in similar patterns. Yes, even if you don’t throw or swing a racquet with your off hand, it’s important to train that way.
- Do you notice some places you lose control or balance when you’re working out?
Investigating these things will give you some ideas of what tissues might be compensating or taking too much stress. Seeing a Physical Therapist (PT) for an evaluation or performance movement screen will give you a more comprehensive picture including interpretations of what you did notice as well as things you may not have seen, and the implications they have on your overall function. We’ll investigate the root causes underlying any issues and help correct them so you will feel better in the near term and be set up for long-term success through the demands of daily life and training.
Whether you are looking to treat an injury or to improve performance, a PT will examine things holistically and work with you to make a customized plan to move forward in ways to meet your lifestyle and goals. Initially it will be about building solid foundations, and then add complexity, strength, and power. A PT can design a training program or collaborate with a trainer or Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach you already have. Give us a call if you’re ready to learn how to move better, feel better, and come out of this pandemic feeling more powerful than ever!
Written by Deb Scheibe PT, DPT, CKTP, FMS. Deb brings her love of sports and experience as an elite level Ultimate Frisbee player to her physical therapy practice, with the goal of bringing out the athlete in everyone no matter what their activity of choice. She was inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame in 2019.