What is Overreaching?

Overreaching is a training strategy used to build strength and/or performance.  It describes an acute training phase where you temporarily increase the training volume, load and/or intensity as part of a specific training strategy to gain a specific training outcome.  Overreaching can be an effective and important part of a training cycle when properly programed.  It typically results in additional fatigue and soreness.  Upon recovery, the desired outcome is an obvious improvement or “supercompensation” in that specific sport or activity.

When used appropriately, overreaching is an important component of high-quality training although there is the potential of developing Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).  Overreaching is an advanced training concept and should not be utilized by novice individuals regardless of the sport or activity overreaching is occurring in.

Why risk Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) to incorporate Overreaching into your training?

  • Overreaching helps your body to perform the extra steps needed to produce more results in a shorter period of time.
  • Overreaching helps you to “shock” the body in order to get results by shortening the time (days to weeks) in which you push yourself to a state of being nearly overtrained before backing off.  This is more than the typical overload you are attempting with regular training.
  • Supercompensation occurs as you push yourself right up to your limit.  This allows you to surpass prior limits for short periods of time.  It may help you advance your training to a higher level.
  • Quality intermediate to advanced training plans incorporate a stair step increase in performance with 3-4 intermittent bouts of overreaching throughout a typical periodized training year.  Make sure that your training plan is right for you.

Tips to help you safely overreach:

Do not attempt if you are a novice.  Overreaching is an advanced technique for intermediate to advanced individuals.

  • A planned and programmed overreaching session should last no longer than 1-2 weeks.
  • Increase your training and/or intensity and/or volume tactically and strategically, but not more than 40%.
  • Watch for symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome.  Symptoms may include becoming fatigued sooner during the workout or experiencing excessive fatigue or soreness.  Depending on how much longer in the phase you need to progress, you may need to discontinue your overreaching training plan and initiate your recovery protocol.
  • During the overreaching cycle, extra care and planning should be taken so you can work hard at recovery between each bout of exercise.  Specific recovery strategies are outlined in my book, Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome.
  • Once your recovery time is over, continue with your training plan.  Take note of where you are and how you feel in your training.  If you are feeling good and are demonstrating improvement, adjust your training plan by appropriately tapering up the volume and/or intensity to match your added gains.  This is how supercompensation can help your training and performance reach new levels.

Overreaching can be an excellent method to speed up and more quickly advance in your training.  However, there is the risk of overdoing and developing Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).  Overreaching should be performed carefully and thoughtfully as part of a complete training plan.  Overreaching should always be followed with an equally thought out rest and recovery protocol.

Discover how to best utilize overreaching as a powerful training strategy so that you can continue to train hard and avoid the associated poor performance, illness, and injury that can result in lost training days and opportunity!

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome, I show you how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of OTS.  You’ll learn how to utilize prevention strategies to help you develop a personal training strategy that will allow you to push past your limits and prior plateau points in order to reach a state of what is known as overreaching (your body’s ability to “supercompensate”).  This will speed up your results, so that you can train harder and more effectively than ever before!  In addition, learn how to use the foam roller (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions) as part of a health optimization program, recovery program, rest day or treatment modality.

***Only $2.99 through Wednesday! Get it on Kindle now!***

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How to Self-Treat Overtraining Syndrome (OTS)

Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) can affect any athlete in any sport or at any level from high level CrossFit athletes to high school cross country runners as well as professional athletes, weekend warriors, and weekend race enthusiasts.  People of all ages are training harder and longer than ever before with wonderful results!

However, sometimes even the best of intentions can lead to not so desirable consequences.  OTS usually starts with muscle soreness and a feeling of fatigue.  Then it quickly progresses into a case of Overtraining Syndrome or injury.  Overtraining can occur when the intensity and/or volume of exercise becomes too much for the body to properly recover from.  For my tips and strategies to prevent OTS, please refer to How to Prevent Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).

Overtraining Syndrome will significantly impede your performance, and it frequently leads to a serious injury.  In OTS, your body isn’t able to adequately handle or adapt to the high volume and intensity of exercise that you are performing.  If you develop OTS, you will need to take specific steps to speed up your recovery in order to prevent injury and return to a normal training schedule.

Depending on the duration of symptoms and the severity of the case, OTS is a serious condition which can typically take from weeks to months to recover from.  OTS not only affects the muscular system, but also the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the hormone regulation system.  Use the following tips and strategies in your recovery.

How to Self-Treat Overtraining Syndrome (OTS):

Rest

One of the first and primary treatments for OTS is to rest.  More rest is required the longer the overtraining has occurred.  Therefore, early detection is critical.  If the overtraining has only occurred for a short period of time (such as three to four weeks), a brief three to five days of rest may be sufficient while implementing the following treatment strategies.  After the rest days, one must slowly taper back into training at a lower training volume until recovery is complete.

Cross train

Opt for an alternate form of exercise (like Tai Chi) to help prevent exercise withdrawal syndrome.  However, don’t try to substitute more workouts in one sport in order to compensate for rest in another.  This will only worsen the symptoms of OTS, which affects both the parasympathetic (PSN) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

Acupuncture

Incorporating acupuncture into your recovery process can be very beneficial.  Acupuncture can help to address a multitude of conditions which affect the nervous, muscular, and hormonal systems.  All three systems should be addressed during the recovery process.  Along with many of my clients, I have experienced wonderful results with acupuncture.  I highly recommend an acupuncturist who specializes in sports medicine and has experience treating athletes.  During acupuncture sessions, you can take time to specifically work on intentional relaxation and meditation which has the added benefit of addressing the nervous and hormonal systems.

Seek help early

If you are experiencing chronic aches or pain or are struggling with an aspect of your training, seek help immediately.  A healthy lifestyle is a lifelong pursuit.  If you are injured or not enjoying an activity, you will not stay engaged or motivated in the long term.  Seeking advice specifically from an experienced coach, physical therapist or physician can be beneficial.

Decrease the stimulants

It is important to take steps to help both the nervous and hormonal system re-regulate and rejuvenate.  Often with OTS, the adrenals become overtaxed and the level of cortisol (a stress hormone) is too high.  Intake of stimulants, such as caffeine, tends to worsen the condition.  Caffeine can be found in many pre-work out supplements, running gels, soda, coffee, and tea as well as some over the counter (OTC) medications.

Eat healthy

A healthy diet is critical to avoid injury.  Your body tissue needs nutrients to be able to perform at a high level.  In many cases of OTS, I encourage that you consume a higher fat diet to help your body’s hormonal system re-regulate.  Also, adequate protein intake is necessary to support muscle health and development.

Hydrate more frequently

The human body is primarily made of water, which is critical for all body functions.  In the case of OTS, I highly encourage you to hydrate more frequently during recovery.  Adequate water intake is critical to avoid dehydration which can negatively affect your training.  Dehydrated tissues are prone to injury as they struggle to gain needed nutrients to heal and repair.  Dehydrated tissues are less flexible and tend to accumulate waste products.  Stay hydrated by drinking water.

Supplement

Appropriate supplementation can be a highly effective method to get back to training more quickly by insuring your body has the nutrients it needs to properly and quickly recover.

Overtraining syndrome can be dangerous and will severely limit your ability to train.  It also significantly increases your risk of injury.  A recovery protocol should include a multifaceted approach that incorporates strategies to positively affect the muscular, nervous, and hormonal systems.

Nothing can derail your best laid training plans and goals like an injury or suffering from OTS!  If you develop OTS, you will need to take specific steps to speed up your recovery in order to prevent injury and return to a normal training schedule.

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome, I show you how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of OTS.  You’ll learn how to utilize prevention strategies to help you develop a personal training strategy that will allow you to push past your limits and prior plateau points in order to reach a state of what is known as overreaching (your body’s ability to “supercompensate”).  This will speed up your results, so that you can train harder and more effectively than ever before!  In addition, learn how to use the foam roller (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions) as part of a health optimization program, recovery program, rest day or treatment modality.

Discover how you can continue to train hard and avoid the associated poor performance, illness, and injury that can result in lost training days and opportunity!

BUY NOW

How to Prevent Overtraining Syndrome (OTS)

If you exercise or participate in any sport, then you have likely had some experience with Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).  It usually starts with extra muscle soreness and a feeling of fatigue.  These symptoms can quickly morph into a serious case of Overtraining Syndrome. OTS can ruin your ability to effectively train, compete or even exercise for weeks, months and in some extreme cases, even years.

Although not well understood yet, research indicates there are two forms of OTS.  One affects the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).  The other primarily affects the parasympathetic nervous (PNS).  Sympathetic OTS tends to affect sprint or power athletes.  The resting heart rate tends to be elevated in the sympathetic form.  Parasympathetic OTS tends to affect endurance athletes.  In the parasympathetic form, the heart rate is even more decreased than typically found in endurance athletes.

To effectively train at a high level one must avoid Overtraining Syndrome.  It not only impedes your immediate performance, but it also substantially increases your risk of injury.  Injury is one of the most common reason people do not meet their training and exercise goals. To train at a high level, you must put as much emphasis on your recovery protocol as your actual training plan.  Your recovery routine should be an intentional and a multifaceted approach.

How to Prevent Overtraining Syndrome (OTS):

Monitor heart rate variability

Another potential warning factor for Overtraining Syndrome is heart rate variability (HRV).  It is simply the variation in the time interval between heartbeats.  HRV is affected by stress, hormone changes, and changes in the sympathetic or parasympathetic system.  A reduced HRV is a sign of OTS.  The higher the HRV, the more capable your nervous system is able to adapt to stress.

Active recovery

Every day shouldn’t be an intense training day.  As part of your training cycles, be sure to include time to participate in other activities to help the body to recover and rejuvenate.  Participate in a yoga class, take a leisurely bike ride or take a walk in the park.

Proper periodization

You cannot and should not train at a super high intensity all year long.  Your work volume needs to be properly periodized.  Well-balanced gradual increases in training are recommended.  Be sure your training plan varies the training load in cycles with built in mandatory rest phases throughout the year.

Taper up the training volume appropriately

The 10 Percent Rule is a guideline that many fitness experts use to help athletes (of all levels) avoid injury while improving performance.  Many cases of OTS can be attributed to increasing the intensity, time or type of activity too quickly.  The 10 Percent Rule sets a weekly limit on training increases.  The guideline indicates not to increase your activity more than 10 percent per week.

Rest more

Your body must rest in order to grow and develop.  Training every day is not the best way to improve.  It can lead to injury and burn out.  Take a rest day and have fun.  Sleep more.  Proper programming includes mini cycles with an off season as well as active rest cycles in between heavy load and heavy volume training cycles.  Don’t fear rest, embrace it!

Eat healthy

Your body tissue needs nutrients to be able to perform at a high level.  Avoid processed food as much as possible.  Limit sugary food and add more protein and healthy fat in your diet.  Maintaining a diet with adequate healthy fats is essential in providing the nutrients to support all hormone function in the body as well as support the brain and nervous system.  Adequate protein intake is necessary to support muscle health and development.

Stay hydrated

The human body is primarily made of water, which is critical for all body functions.  Adequate water intake is critical to avoid dehydration which can negatively affect your training.  Dehydrated tissues are prone to injury as they struggle to gain needed nutrients to heal and repair.  Dehydrated tissues are less flexible and tend to accumulate waste products.  Stay hydrated by drinking water.  Try to avoid beverages that contain artificial sweeteners or chemicals with names you can’t spell or pronounce.

Supplement

Appropriate supplementation can be a highly effective method to help prevent OTS.  The use of proper supplementation can help your body get the nutrients it needs to support the healing and recovery process.  I take certain supplements during times of heavy training volume or when I am in a phase of overreaching.  I also take them intermittently to help prevent injury or heal from one.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of OTS, be proactive about modifying your training.  It is important to objectively measure your training routine and make adjustments before you become sick, overtrained or injured.  Nothing can derail your best laid training plans and goals like an injury or suffering from OTS!  If you develop OTS, you will need to take specific steps to speed up your recovery in order to prevent injury and return to a normal training schedule.

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome, I show you how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of OTS.  You’ll learn how to utilize prevention strategies to help you develop a personal training strategy that will allow you to push past your limits and prior plateau points in order to reach a state of what is known as overreaching (your body’s ability to “supercompensate”).  This will speed up your results, so that you can train harder and more effectively than ever before!  In addition, learn how to use the foam roller (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions) as part of a health optimization program, recovery program, rest day or treatment modality.

Discover how you can continue to train hard and avoid the associated poor performance, illness, and injury that can result in lost training days and opportunity!

BUY NOW

My Top 3 Most Popular Posts of 2017!

As 2017 comes to a close, I become increasingly more excited for the years to come!  As science evolves and its understanding of how the human body functions, we’re seeing more technology that can help to enhance our lives and optimize function.  More people are realizing the value of taking control of their health care and personal well-being.  In today’s health care environment, we all need to learn how to treat common aches and pains proactively instead of reactively.  We must get to the root of the issue instead of placing a Band-Aid over it.  Our present health care system in America is not designed to help you optimize your health–that is your job!  

The purpose of The Physical Therapy Advisor is to help people like you to take control of your health and to save money by learning how to safely self-treat and manage common musculoskeletal, neurological, and mobility related conditions safely and effectively.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

My Top 3 Most Popular Posts of 2017:

  1. Why You Won’t Heal – Poor Nutrition (Part 4) – You will discover why consuming the proper nutrients is critical in order to fully heal and recover from an injury or illness in part 4 of my very popular 6-part series, Why You Won’t Heal.  The feedback was so positive that I written an even more thorough book on the topic!  Keep an eye out for Why You Won’t Heal (and What YOU Can Do About It) to be published in spring of 2018.
  1. How to Become a Resilient Runner – You will learn how to become a resilient runner so you can avoid injury, train more, recover quicker, and save money.  The Resilient Runner program, which includes prevention and self-treatment for running injuries, is a collaboration with Angie Spencer (RN and Certified Running Coach) and Trevor Spencer (co-host of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast).  The program is a virtual library of self-treatment protocols including downloadable podcasts, videos, and .pdf files of rehabilitation guides.  It also includes a 320 page eBook, The Resilient Runner, Prevention and Self-Treatment Guide to Common Running Related Injuries.  This is a must have program in order to learn how to prevent and/or self-treat lower extremity pains and injuries.
  1. Why Does My Shoulder Hurt? – I discuss the most common reasons why you may develop shoulder pain.  You will discover the key to treating most common shoulder related pain.  In addition, learn how to improve your posture while focusing on thoracic mobility and proper shoulder strengthening.  I offer simple stretches and exercises that you can use to eliminate the pain.

2017 has been an exciting year!  I have successfully published three books (which are now available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats) with wonderful feedback!  I am so grateful that more people are beginning to understand that many of the most common aches, pains, and musculoskeletal injuries can be safely managed and self-treated with proper guidance.

In Treating Ankle Sprains and Strains, I show you how to effectively self-treat and manage an ankle sprain and/or strain in order to resume your training and normal activities while minimizing the risk of additional damage, injury or re-injury.  When you can confidently self-treat, you can limit pain levels, return to activity faster, prevent reoccurrences, and save money!  A proper rehabilitation from the initial injury to the full return to sport and/or activity must include a full return to strength, mobility, and balance.

In Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics, I share very specific strategies for general LBP prevention among athletes such as sport enthusiasts, CrossFitters, weightlifters, and runners.  These principles are helpful for anyone participating in athletics as well as those implementing a healthy lifestyle.  You’ll learn how to address specific causes of LBP as well as the best practices on how to prevent and self-treat when you experience an episode of LBP. 

In Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome, I show you how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).  You’ll learn how to utilize prevention strategies to help you develop a personal training strategy that will allow you to push past your limits and prior plateau points in order to reach a state of what is known as overreaching (your body’s ability to “supercompensate”).  This will speed up your results, so that you can train harder and more effectively than ever before!

Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming books including Why You Won’t Heal (and What YOU Can Do About It) and Running an Injury-Free Marathon (Complete with Training and Rehabilitation Strategies)!

Thank you for supporting The Physical Therapy Advisor!  I look forward to serving you in 2018!  If you have a question that you would like featured in an upcoming blog post, please comment below or submit your question to contact@thePhysicalTherapyAdvisor.com.  Be sure to subscribe to my e-mail list and join our community on Facebook by liking The Physical Therapy Advisor!

The #1 Mistake that Leads to Injury (it’s not what you’d think!)

The painful truth is that 37-56% of runners will experience injury in a given year according to The Journal of Sports Medicine.  The number of runners who will suffer with injury during their lifetime is even higher–I’ve seen estimates as high as 80%.

That’s why we want to give you the tools to become a Resilient Runner.  What is a resilient runner you might ask?

A Resilient Runner is able to take a pounding and keep on running.  You can learn to be a resilient runner, too!  Learn to pre-empt injuries before they get worse and to deal with existing injuries intentionally and effectively so that you can get back to running.

I get asked injury related questions all the time!  That’s why I have teamed up with Angie Spencer (RN and Certified Running Coach) and Trevor Spencer (co-host of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast) to bring you the ultimate resource for self-treating and preventing running injuries. 

The biggest mistake is thinking I’LL WORRY ABOUT THIS WHEN I GET INJURED.  We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to start thinking about injury prevention now.  If you want to meet your current goals and run well into your older years, THEN you can’t afford to wait until you get injured!

CLICK TO LEARN MORE!

What’s inside of the Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics Video Package?

Did you know that an estimated $50 billion dollars is spent annually on back pain related issues?  It affects nearly 80% of the U.S. population at one time or another.  It’s one of the top reasons for physician and physical therapy visits and one of the most common reasons for missed work days.  The best training plan in the world won’t do us much good if we’re unable to implement that plan due to pain and/or injury.

WomanWithLowBackPain

When reviewing research or anecdotal evidence online, there is no shortage of articles, blogs, and opinions regarding low back pain (LBP).  But what about a specific resource for the athlete, the weightlifter, the CrossFitter or the runner who is experiencing low back pain during exercise?  How does an athletic population know how to handle episodes of LBP?  What specifically can an athlete or active person do to avoid low back pain to lessen the risk of injury and lost training days?  Is there a specific step-by-step plan that really works?

The prevention and rehabilitation strategies outlined in my rehabilitation guide, Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics, answer those questions.  You will learn how to safely self-treat your low back pain and helpful methods for a speedy recovery.  (Not to mention, possibly saving you time and money by avoiding a physician visit!)

The good news is that participating in sports, running, CrossFit, and weightlifting doesn’t increase your risk of developing LBP.  On average, being in good health, physically fit, and active actually decreases your risk.

The Treating Low Back Pain (LBP) during Exercise and Athletics Video Package includes:

Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics eBook

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In this eBook, you’ll learn why it is critically important to prevent the first episode of low back pain.  LBP has reoccurrence rates as high as 90%.  If you have already experienced an episode of LBP, you’ll learn why exercise is an important component to long term management.  Most importantly, you will understand how to avoid pain and injury in order to take your training to the next level.  Topics include:

  • Specific strategies for LBP prevention.
  • How to address specific causes of LBP.
  • Best practices on how to prevent and self-treat when you experience an episode of LBP.
  • A step-by-step LBP rehabilitation guide complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions.
  • How to implement prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

7-part Series of Instructional Videos

Nearly 60 minutes of actionable advice to prevent and treat LBP as it relates to active individuals, sports, and athletics.  An in-depth look at treating LBP with a 7-part series of instructional videos in which I address the following:

  • Potential Risk Factors for Lower Back Pain
  • What are the Core Muscles?
  • Prevention during Exercise (Part 1 and 2)
  • Initial Treatment
  • Further Treatment and Taping
  • Long Term Management Strategies and Final Recap

Want to peek inside the video content?  Watch now as I describe what really the “core” is and why it matters.

Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome eBook

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In this BONUS eBook, you’ll learn how to recognize the risk factors and symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome (OTS).  You’ll learn how to utilize prevention strategies to help you develop a personal training strategy that will allow you to push past your limits and prior plateau points in order to reach a state of what is known as overreaching (your body’s ability to “supercompensate”).  This will speed up your results, so that you can train harder and more effectively than ever before!  Topics include:

  • How to recognize the warning signs.
  • Specific strategies for OTS prevention.
  • How to self-treat OTS.
  • How to safely overreach.
  • A complete guide to Foam Roller Stretches and Mobilizations with photos and detailed exercise descriptions.

Is your low back hurting? Are you ready to take your training to a new level?  What are you waiting for?  Let’s get started! 

Purchase Package

When to Return to Activity after Experiencing Low Back Pain

“When can I return to my normal activity after experiencing an episode of severe low back pain?” is a question I am often asked as a physical therapist.  Low back pain (LBP) can be so severe and debilitating that it can completely derailing your training and lifestyle!  It’s hard to run, exercise or even move if your back, buttocks or leg hurts.  You either won’t try or if you do, you suffer through it only to be rewarded with worsening symptoms later on.  However, in spite of what your back pain is telling you, initial activity and exercise are critical when treating LBP. 

Everyone’s experience with low back pain is different and the severity of pain can vary wildly.  For some, even walking normally can be difficult.  This is why having a guide on which exercises and movements to do and not to do is so important.  One critical indicator that you’re ready to taper back into more regular activity (as you progress your rehabilitation-based exercise) is whether or not you can walk with a normal gait.  In particular, can you walk normally with a longer stride length during your normal gait cycle?

The ability to walk normally (notice that I didn’t say without discomfort) is an important milestone as it means that the spine is being stabilized well enough from the core musculature and that the nerves in the leg are not too tight or inflamed to tolerate and accommodate for the stretch that will occur from other activities.

If you are unable to walk normally, then the emphasis should be on regaining lumbar and lower extremity range of motion in addition to performing core and lumbar stabilization exercises.  Limit your sitting, but do not try to taper back into other activities (at least not yet).

It is critical to remember that everyone’s recovery will be different.  Recovery and tapering back into your normal activities should be entirely symptom dependent.  Listen to your body on what it can handle.  The pain will tell you if you need to stop.

When to Return to Activity after Experiencing Low Back Pain:

Follow the rule of thumb for movement:  If the pain worsens by spreading peripherally down the buttock and into the leg and/or foot, then the condition is worsening.  You must stop that activity.  If the pain centralizes and returns back toward the spine (even if the pain worsens slightly), then keep moving as the condition is actually improving.

  • Don’t resume your running, jogging or other training activities until you can walk normally at a quick pace.
  • Be sure to slowly taper back into your training as your back begins to feel better.  Don’t quickly resume your prior training volume.  Instead, taper back up.
  • Prior to activity and training, perform a very thorough warm up (including press-ups, superman exercises, and bridging).  Then transition into an activity specific warm up.
  • Continue with a core and lumbar strengthening program at least until you resume your full volume of training.

Prior to returning to your full and normal training activities, insure the following:

  • Complete lumbar mobility has returned.
  • You no longer have sensations, weakness or instability within the spine.
  • If you experienced leg pain, your involved leg is as flexible as the other.  The pain is now either gone or centralized (meaning that you’re not experiencing pain in the leg).
  • Your hip mobility on both sides is equal.
  • Your involved leg is as strong as the other leg, particularly hip abduction (glutes medius) and the hip external rotators.  Test this by jumping up and down on one leg.  Do you feel strong?  Is there pain associated with this?  If the strength isn’t there or the pain remains, you are not ready to taper up to full training activities.
  • You can jog, run, sprint, and jump without pain.

With proper treatment, low back pain (LBP) should resolve in as quickly as two weeks.  Severe episodes can take 4-6 weeks or longer.  Continue with your rehabilitation protocol until you’re performing all exercises normally.

I highly recommend continuing with a lower extremity stretching protocol and lumbar and pelvis stabilization exercises as a method of prevention for future episodes of low back pain.  There are countless “core” exercises and back stretches that you can perform, but which ones are best to help you to recover faster and experience less pain?  Research is clear that performing proper core exercises and particularly, lumbar stabilization exercises are the most effective treatment modality for LBP.  If you want to learn how to self-treat your low back and learn how to effectively exercise and work the core muscles in order to prevent or treat LBP, CLICK HERE.

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics, you will learn how to address specific causes of LBP as well as the best practices on how to prevent and self-treat when you experience an episode of LBP.  In this step-by-step LBP rehabilitation guide (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions), you will discover how to implement prevention and rehabilitation strategies to eliminate pain and get back to training and exercise sooner.

Learn how to prevent, self-treat, and manage LBP so you can get back to your daily life and exercise goals more quickly without additional unnecessary and costly medical bills!

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The Number One Reason Preventing You from reaching your Exercise Goals

We all know the importance of exercise, fitness, and generally staying active.  For some of us, we look to exercise and fitness as a way to have fun and stay in shape.  Others use activity to help manage stress or chronic illnesses such as diabetes, osteoporosis or heart disease.  Exercising and staying active is an important component to aging well.  It can be very disappointing when you don’t meet your training or exercise goals.  One of the most common reasons for not meeting goals is also one of the most preventable reasons:  injury!  Nothing derails a perfectly developed training plan like an injury.

The most common injury for those in the western world is low back pain (LBP).  LBP is estimated to affect nearly 80% of the U.S. population at one time or another.  And worse yet, once you have experienced an episode of LBP you have a 90% chance of having a reoccurrence.

Risk Factors for Low Back Pain (LBP):

  • Sitting too much.
  • Slouched sitting.
  • Prior episodes of LBP.
  • Smoking.
  • Poor core and back extensor muscle strength.
  • Lack of a proper warm up and a cool down.
  • High training volumes with inadequate rest (overtraining syndrome).

Some of the specific risk factors for LBP are also risk factors for other types of injury.  Lack of adequate core strength (particularly, strength in the outer core and pelvic/hip musculature) can contribute to injuries such as:

  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)
  • Hip bursitis
  • Runner’s knee (Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome)
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Meniscal injuries in the knee
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Plantar fasciitis

Although this is not a complete list, it highlights many of the most common injuries affected by weakness in the core and pelvic/hip muscles.

Consider the amount of repetitive force your body must absorb even with walking (not to mention during sports or exercise).  The outer core muscles are responsible for movement of the trunk and spine as well as aiding in stability.  (Although critical for stability, the inner core muscles don’t actually produce any trunk or spine movement.)  The outer core muscles consists of the following muscles:  lumbar paraspinal muscles; the quadratus lumborm; the internal and external obliques; and the psoas major and minor (hip flexors).  Some may also include the glutes (buttocks muscles), hamstrings, and quadriceps as part of the outer core muscles.

Imbalances or a lack of strength within the core musculature often times will manifest in altered lower body mechanics and an inability for the body to properly absorb and distribute forces.  Over time and many miles, the body’s tissues eventually break down and can lead to a repetitive use injury in the lower extremity.

As a physical therapist, I always assess the core and hip musculature and look for imbalances in strength when determining the root cause of an injury.  In the majority of cases, I find that a component of hip and core muscle weakness has led to the injury.

The good news is that this is a completely preventable problem.  Most of us already know that we need to cross train and that proper core strength is important.  However, too many of us either don’t dedicate enough time to the process or we aren’t performing the correct exercises.  Performing proper core exercises and particularly, lumbar stabilization exercises are the primary treatment modality for low back pain (LBP).

Proper core and lumbar extensor strength is the key to preventing an episode of LBP and is also a critical step in avoiding other types of injuries affected by weakness in the core and pelvic/hip muscles.  The most important factor in meeting your goals is to be consistent in your training by avoiding injury!  Don’t let LBP affect your ability to stay active and keep enjoying your favorite activities!

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics, you will learn how to address specific causes of LBP as well as the best practices on how to prevent and self-treat when you experience an episode of LBP.  In this step-by-step LBP rehabilitation guide (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions), you will discover how to implement prevention and rehabilitation strategies to eliminate pain and get back to training and exercise sooner.

Learn how to prevent, self-treat, and manage LBP so you can get back to your daily life and exercise goals more quickly without additional and unnecessary costly medical bills!

BUY NOW

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Athletes make that can cause Low Back Pain

Whether you are an athlete or weekend warrior, we all want to perform our best.  Many of us live for the weekends so we can participate in the next run, Spartan race, CrossFit Team WOD, or any number of other adventures.  However, no one is immune to one of the one of the most prevalent medical conditions treated in the United States and throughout the western world–low back pain (LBP).

If you want to train hard and compete at a high level or even just enjoy the weekend’s events, then avoiding LBP is critical.  Avoiding the following three most common mistakes can save you from costly medical visits, prescriptions, chiropractic visits, and physical therapy services.  More importantly, avoiding injury and LBP insures that you can keep training and racing to your heart’s content!

The 3 Most Common Mistakes:

 

Sitting too much.

Prolonged sitting (and especially, prolonged sitting on a vibrating surface) is one of the biggest risk factors for LBP.  Sitting (slouched in particular) causes excessive strain on the lumbar discs and ligaments.  It also leads to tight hamstrings and hip flexors and generally tends to inhibit proper gluteal muscle function.

Even if you are running, exercising, and training during most days of the week, we all spend too much time sitting whether it’s at our job or traveling each weekend for destination races and events.  Even worse is sitting with chronically poor posture.

  • Limit the amount of sitting that you spend at one time.  Ideally, move from your sitting position every hour to walk preferably.  If you aren’t able to walk, then try to shift your position at least once every twenty minutes.  Frequent position changes can help you to avoid LBP.  Avoid a long car trip directly before or after a long run, race or event.  For destination events, it’s best to arrive at least a day or two early and wait a day prior to returning home.
  • Sit with correct posture.  Whenever possible, make sure that your knees stay below your hip level and that you are able to maintain your natural lumbar curve.  A McKenzie Lumbar Roll is a great tool to help you maintain correct posture.

Not training the core properly or adequately.  Don’t forget the back extensors!

Proper core and lumbar extensor strength is the key to preventing an episode of LBP, which is estimated to affect nearly 80% of the U.S. population at one time or another.  In general, most of us don’t spend enough time strengthening our core muscles (particularly, the back extensors).

The core muscles are part of the body’s natural method of stabilizing the spine.  The core muscles, along with intra-abdominal pressure, help to form the round cylinder that is utilized to support the spine.  Ligaments and boney articulations are also important in spinal stabilization.  Most people don’t realize that the core actually consists of two separate groups of muscles, the inner and outer core muscles, and neither group involve the rectus femoris muscles (the six pack).

The Multifidus Muscles

  • The inner core consists of the muscles of the pelvic floor, the transversus abdominis (TVA), diaphragm, and the multifidus muscles (which span the vertebrae along the back side of the spine as shown above).  The TVA wraps all the way around the stomach and attaches to the spine.  This is what helps to form the cylinder.  When contracted (in conjunction with the pelvic floor and diaphragm), it helps to increase the intra-abdominal pressure to support the spine.
  • The other muscles that help to support the spine are known as the outer core muscles.  These muscles are responsible for movement of the trunk and spine as well as aiding in stability.  The inner core muscles do not actually produce any trunk or spine movement.  The outer core muscles consists of the following muscles:  lumbar paraspinal muscles; the quadratus lumborm; the internal and external obliques; and the psoas major and minor (hip flexors).  Some may also include the glutes (buttocks muscles), hamstrings, and quadriceps as part of the outer core muscles.

Those that work on core strength may not be performing the correct exercises.  Performing proper core exercises and particularly, lumbar stabilization exercises are the primary treatment modality for LBP.  To learn how to effectively exercise and work the core muscles in order to prevent or treat LBP, CLICK HERE.

Not performing a proper warm up. 

An adequate warm up should always be performed to help minimize the risk of injury and maximize your ability to perform at an optimal level.  A proper warm up should include:  a cardiovascular warm up; a dynamic warm up; a specific spine warm up; and when indicated, a sport specific warm up.

Cardiovascular Warm Up

To properly prepare the body for activity, the first stage of the warm up is to increase blood flow throughout the body, but in particular, to the core muscles and spine.  I recommend approximately 10 minutes as this allows for better mobility in the joints and tissues of the body.  It starts to prime the nervous system for activity.  It also promotes healing as movement is necessary to bring in the nutrients necessary to heal (if there is already damage or an injury).

The cardiovascular warm up will vary and is dependent on your activity or sport.  I will typically start by performing a light jog or possibility some jumping jacks.  Then I may progress into some more intense heart rate increasing exercises, such as  jump roping or any other form of standing movement (jumping, bounding, and burpees), in order to increase my heart rate.  The goal is to increase your heart rate and promote blood flow throughout the body.  The warm up shouldn’t be overly intense.

Dynamic Warm Up

After my initial cardiovascular warm up, I progress into my dynamic warm up series.  This will typically involve warming up the muscles and joints of the spine, pelvis, and lower legs.

The purpose of the dynamic warm up (specifically in the lower extremity) is to insure adequate mobility in the areas that will be involved in the activity.  This will almost always include the hamstrings, hips, and pelvis.  Adequate lower leg mobility is important in order to perform your specific exercise or activity.  The more motion that can occur through the pelvis and legs, the more force can then be generated and passed through the pelvis.  More mobility in the lower legs and pelvis means less need for mobility in the spine.  This means less stress during motion will be placed on the spine—therefore, decreasing your risk of injury.  You want to maximize spinal stability and encourage movement through the hips, pelvis, and upper thoracic.

Within the dynamic warm up, you would perform exercises such as:  forward and backward leg swings; side to side leg swings; squats with rotation; and press-ups.  Utilizing a foam roller as part of a warm up is acceptable.  However, I don’t advocate static stretching before activity as it has been shown to decrease force production and performance.

Spine Specific Warm Up

I am a big proponent to performing a very specific spinal muscle warm up upon completion of the cardiovascular and dynamic warm ups.  Since you may have already experienced an episode of LBP, a very specific and thorough warm up is important for prevention.  Priming the specific muscles of the core (particularly, the multifidus and lumbar extensors) is a critical step to avoiding re-injury.  The multifidus is a critical muscle in preventing LBP and must be active to properly stabilize the spine.  It helps to prevent shearing forces from affecting the spine which is critical to avoiding LBP.

Sport Specific Warm Up

This warm up will vary significantly depending on the type of endeavor you are about to participate in.  For example, a sprinter will need a very different warm up compared to an ultramarathon runner or someone performing in a CrossFit competition.  For runners, the warm up varies.  Are you racing on a flat course or are you heading out for a very hilly trail run?

Examples of running specific exercises include:  butt kickers; strides or bounding; and warm up sprints.  Even running a little on the actual terrain you will be competing on is a good idea.

It’s important to evaluate the requirements for the event and be ready to perform the actual movements required to compete at a high level.  A proper warm up allows your body to immediately perform at its peak and reduces the risk of injury.  Regardless of the sport or event, this is also the perfect time to make sure all of your equipment is appropriate for the conditions of the event.

Don’t skip the warm up regardless of your training or event time and/or location!  You may be the only one performing a thorough warm up, but it’s because you understand the importance of one in order to prevent LBP and to improve your performance.

An inadequate cool down is another common mistake.  Be sure to take the extra time to cool down and stretch.  Start with a slow jog, and then progress to walking until your heart rate returns to normal.  This is an excellent time to utilize the foam roller as well as performing static stretches and press-ups.

It’s important to identify the common mistakes that can cause LBP.  By implementing these prevention strategies, you can avoid injury and keep training.  Fitness is a lifelong pursuit.  If you are injured or just not having fun, then you will not stay engaged and motivated in the long term.  Don’t let LBP affect your ability to stay active and keep enjoying your favorite activities!

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON!

In my book, Treating Low Back Pain during Exercise and Athletics, you will learn how to address specific causes of LBP as well as the best practices on how to prevent and self-treat when you experience an episode of LBP.  In this step-by-step LBP rehabilitation guide (complete with photos and detailed exercise descriptions), you will discover how to implement prevention and rehabilitation strategies to eliminate pain and get back to training and exercise sooner.

Learn how to prevent, self-treat, and manage LBP so you can get back to your daily life and exercise goals more quickly without additional unnecessary and costly medical bills!

BUY NOW

Can Foam Rolling Really Help Prevent Injury?

From a personal and professional point of view, yes!  I believe foam rolling works and can be a useful tool to reduce the risk of injury.  From a research point of view, there are studies that confirm that foam rolling can reduce muscle soreness after exercise and improve range of motion (ROM).  It may also improve recovery times by affecting how quickly a person recovers and performs one to three days post exercise session.

The actual mechanism of how and why foam rolling works is still under debate.  Foam rolling is touted as being a self-myofascial release technique.  Whether or not the fascia is actually being conclusively changed is still under investigation.  What we do know is that the foam roller has positive effects on pain modulation, nervous system control over ROM, and affects blood flowFoam rolling is generally not advised for anyone on blood thinning medications or with blood clotting disorders.

Foam rolling is one way to potentially improve fascial mobility.  Fascia is a form of connective tissue that is integrated throughout the body like a spider’s web and is in and around all of the tissues.  Injury, chronic poor posture, training and exercise, nutrition, health status, and even age will affect the health and mobility of the fascia.  When fascia becomes restricted, adhesions form which cause soreness, restricted movement, gait change, and potential injury or illness.

Although research has not conclusively proven exactly how foam rolling affects the fascial system, it appears to have a positive effect by decreasing muscle and joint pain while increasing circulation and improving mobility, balance, and gait mechanics.

Range of Motion

Foam rolling likely has a positive effect on arterial stiffness and can improve arterial and vascular function while also positively affecting joint range of motion (ROM).  The change in arterial and vascular function may in part be why foam rolling (after training) seems to have a positive effect in reducing muscle soreness.

Foam rolling also appears to have a beneficial effect on ROM, and more importantly, it can help improve ROM without negatively affecting performance.  In contrast, static stretching has been shown to impede performance.

Aids in Recovery

Foam rolling may promote more blood flow to the area, which allows the body to eliminate waste more efficiently while providing much needed nutrients to aid in recovery.  Improved recovery is important if you plan to participate in multiple events over multiple days such as a relay or weekend tournament.  It may also allow for more intense and frequent training while reducing injury.

It may aid training during certain cycles when the intensity or volume may be higher or during an overreaching phase of training.  Overreaching is typically a very short and deliberate phase in your training when you have a spike in training volume for a week or two followed by a return to baseline or below which can lead to improvements in performance.  Care must be taken though because overreaching can easily turn into overtraining.

How to choose a foam roller:

Choosing the right size and density of foam roller is important.  Research thus far concludes that a firmer high density foam roller has a more positive treatment effect than a softer version.

Depending on how you personally utilize the roller, the preferred length may vary.  This is also true in regards to the texture on the foam roller.  There are many styles of foam rollers to choose from which vary in texture and size.  Each size has a slightly different purpose and use.

The BLACKROLL® FLOW is one of my favorite compact textured foam rollers.  It’s the perfect size for travel or home use, and I can use it for nearly all of my favorite stretches and mobilizations.  In addition, the texture is just the right amount without being too knobby or aggressive.  I like how easily I can attach it to my work out bag for on the go use as well.

How to use the foam roller:

Foam rolling has many practical uses.  It works best when used over larger muscle groups such as the legs.  It’s my go to tool for addressing mobility issues throughout the thoracic spine.  Individuals taking blood thinning medications or with blood clotting disorders should consult his/her physician prior to using a foam roller for mobilization.

  • I typically recommend one to three minutes of body weight rolling (if it is tolerated) per extremity, and the same for the thoracic, low back, and buttock area.
  • A good rule of thumb is to roll out an area that is tender and sore, or recently worked, until it no longer feels tight and sore.
  • Again approximately one to three minutes per area although this may vary based on your size. Do not roll too quickly.  Be careful to not over do.  One to three minutes per area is typically optimal.
  • In cases of painful areas and injured areas, it’s often more effective to roll out the adjacent and associated areas near the injury area while avoiding the most painful spots.
  • Rather than constantly working directly on the area that causes pain, slowly foam roll your way away from the pain center to the connecting muscles.
  • Increased time will be needed the more developed your muscles are.
  • Be sure to roll the tissues in different positions and postures especially in more lengthened positions.

For more information on the use of a foam roller, please refer to Does Foam Rolling Help or Hurt Performance?

What has been your experience with using the foam roller?  Is it worth the effort?  Please share your comments or questions!

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