By: Daniel Bouvier, MD In this current age athletes participate in sports well into middle age and beyond. We find children specializing in sports at a young age, high volume, and high intensity early in their skeletal development. Gone are the days of free play, climbing trees, building walls and forts, and kickball games in a neighbor’s back yard. Early specialization and repetition, as well as participation later in our years, can be a recipe for injury.
What Can We Do to Optimize our Body’s Strength and Conditioning?
Cross training and whole body fitness can go a long way toward making our bodies more durable, more balanced, and less at risk for injury both at work and at play. Strength and conditioning allows us to participate in the sports and activities we love without the increased risk of injury.
Types of Cross Training:
Cross training may be as simple as doing something different from the specific activities of a single sport that one may be performing over and over again in a week. One example would be cycling or swimming, as opposed to running every day. Modern day whole body fitness incorporates total body fitness with some sport specific focus designed to make the athlete better prepared to perform their sport and to hopefully lessen the risk of injury.
Benefits of Strength and Agility Training:
- Increased strength of muscles can lead to increase performance due to higher and more efficient energy output, which may increase speed and explosiveness.
- Combine flexibility and proper movement patterns, which can lessen the incidence of injury.
- Increased balance, agility, and coordination.
- Dynamic stabilization of joints that may otherwise be at increased risk for injury.
- Can decrease the rate of normal muscle loss that occurs after age 30.
- Can maintain bone density and prevent or slow osteoporosis, and increase the basal metabolic rate (burn more calories at rest).
Benefits of Cross Training:
- Cross training is used often if an athlete is unfortunate enough to sustain an injury, whether it needs surgery or simply rest. “Rest” does not mean inactivity, but sometimes can mean “different” activity. Using things like stationary cycles and swimming pools, athletes can maintain a level of fitness while allowing injuries to heal on other parts of the body.
- Cross training can also be used to create more complete balance amongst multiple muscle groups to attain a more “diverse” level of fitness, as opposed to training the same muscles over and over again to perform the same task. This is likely to decrease our risk of injury and create a more “durable” athlete.
When deciding to begin a strength and conditioning program, there are a few recommendations to consider:
- Begin with a certified, educated person who can observe your movement and techniques to assure that you are doing things correctly. You may want to ask if they are certified in the FMS®, or functional movement screen, a tool designed to assess movement abnormalities and areas of weakness so that areas of focus and balance can be created for you.
- Avoid training without adequate supervision, or in groups that become large enough that you’re not getting the attention you need. Improper technique is easy to fall into, especially when fatigue or a time clock is upon you.
- Expanding on the previous point, be very cautious about using programs designed PRIMARILY around maximum repetitions for speed and weight, especially if there is not a trainer or partner with you during these.
Modern day strength and conditioning, as well as cross training, are tools that we as health care providers as well as you as athletes and weekend warriors can use wisely to improve health, protect and prevent injuries, and safely return everyone back to the activities they enjoy.