Growing Pains: Hamstrains

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Since starting a new page in my career at Evolutio, I’ve had the honour of attending a mid-season footy training night at Richmond Central Football Club. My role there is to assess any injuries that the athletes are carrying and clear them for return to sport, advise them to rest or to seek further management.

In my previous life, I’ve done a lot of sports training in the form of footy, indoor netball and various fun runs; but never as a physio who was responsible for assessment.

My first thoughts at RCFC were:

  • The familiar smell of Metsal, grippo and sweat. Yum.

  • The challenges of trying to tape over body hair.

  • The overwhelming number of hamstring injuries! This comprised of over 50% of the injuries I saw that night.

So, what are hamstrings?

The hammy is a group of muscles in the back of the thigh (duh!) which consist of the semimembranosis, semi tendinosis and biceps femoris.

Okay, but what exactly do they do?

When doing isolated movements, such as at the gym, the hammy bends the knee and extends the hip.

Moving onto the more functional side of things… During sports, like footy, the hammy is in charge of stopping ballistic movements. It does a powerful and sudden contraction at the end of a large footy kick or at the end of swinging your leg forward during each stride of a sprint.

How do they get injured?

You know what they say; there are a hundred ways to skin a cat…

Pretty much everyone will be familiar with strains in one form or another. Strains are tears in the muscle fibre which occur when moving something that is too heavy. Muscles are at a greater risk of strains when they are already fatigued.

Firstly, let’s look at that kick. Something has to stop that leg from rocketing into outer space. In this position, the hamstring is in its most stretched out position and at a disadvantage to produce power. Do this a few dozen times in an intense match and you’re bound to feel its effects.

Moving on to sprinting; similar story here. Your hammy isn’t going to be as stretched out but instead of a few dozen kicks, you are striding hundreds of steps in a match or at training.

Moving on: How to prevent hamstrains

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Warming up

Warm up, warm up, warm up. I’m a huge fan of dynamic warm ups. They get your muscles moving in the full range and synchronises your motor neurons to work together like a well rehearsed orchestra.

Slowly build up the intensity of your warm up by adding light drills. In footy, this might be jogging or light kicks. Build up towards running and medium kicks followed by sprints and large kicks. Before you know it, you’re training at full intensity.

Cooling down

Cool downs are important, too. Don’t just go from full blast workouts and drills to suddenly not moving. Keep those muscles moving by walking around or jumping on a low resistance bike.

Stretching can help but I generally reserve this to only while the muscle is warm so straight after exercise is best.

Between training and matches

Keep those hamstrings strong. Remember I mentioned that strains are at risk if they’re tired? If your hamstrings are strong, they will do every movement with less effort. Hit the gym to do some leg curls or deadlifts to name a couple of examples.

Practice makes perfect. If you’re not good at running, get good at running. If you’re no good at kicking, get good at kicking. If you can do these things consistently each time in a stress free environment, you’re less likely to stuff it up on game day.

Already injured?

Strains can occur in varying degrees. So depending on how severe it is, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks before you’re back to sports.

Typical management of strains involves RICE initially, massage and heat then gradual return to sport. If the symptoms of the strain are persistent or recurring, it’s not a bad idea to get it looked at by someone at Evolutio to get you back quicker and better than before.

 

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TRUST(ING) THE PROCESS (PART TWO) #TTP: CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

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Okay, so, now it's my turn to blog and I'm going to be a bad cop to Phill's good cop.

If you've been into the clinic or met us you'll you know that these are pretty obvious roles for us – his hair is higher, he smiles a lot and he has less of a tendency to go off on elaborate angry rants for unclear reasons.

The thing to remember about the good-bad cop routine is that they are on the same team. I agree entirely with Phill - in its essence, trusting the process is a very important message. I just have one lil' issue with it and a couple of things I'd like to add. Politely... More or less.

My issue with #trusttheprocess is that I often see it being used to excuse plateaus in progress or injury recovery; to condone consciously bad training choices or to mask piss poor performances due to over training.

Overtraining is an issue that I can and will write several more blogs about, but for the moment let's just define it as excessive exercise volume leading to fatigue, suboptimal performance and elevated risk of injury and illness.

I'm #allin for the original meaning of the phrase – playing the long game, pushing through when things get hard, realising that for every few steps forward there may be a step back, sticking to the program when you're having the odd bad day and it doesn't feel like things are moving in any direction.

Consistency is and always will be the key to progress, so I have absolutely no bones to pick with the OG #TTP.

Pain and fatigue are part of training, and sometimes you just need to quit yer whining and get the work done. Some seasoned athletes even go into a specific type of overtraining – it's called functional over-reaching and it's a short, controlled period of extra high training demands and fatigue that is usually followed by rest/reload and then a burst of progress (which is the point).

But listen up, here's the thing about EVERYTHING in strength and conditioning: the right thing to do is always somewhere in the middle. More training is good for you, up until the point where it's not (devastatingly this even applies to hip thrusts).

So is it possible to over-trust the process? Absolutely yes, if that process is no good.

Yes, we should all trust the shit out of the process, but only after taking the time to #questiontheprocess. YOUR process has to be right for YOU. Every single one will be different – depending on goals, injury history, sport, age, training age, season, etc. etc. etc.

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So if you think I might be talking to you, take an honest look at your training and ask yourself:

Are your results plateauing or regressing?

Can you remember the last time you ACTUALLY deloaded?

Do you find yourself always training at the same loads or intensities because you can't break through?

Are overly tired, hungry or sore?

Do you get unreasonably irritable/emotional or struggle with motivation?

Do you have trouble sleeping, miss periods or find your heart rate elevated at rest?

Do you have an injury or niggle that just won't get better? Or an infection or illness that you can't kick?

If these questions are striking a chord, your training volume may be too high. And even if you don't care about your health, keep in mind that overtraining will steal your gains, stall your progress, and if left unchecked it WILL result in injury.

If you are continually training the same way without set goals and clear progress, then you are putting a hell of a lot of effort into throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks.

What we all need is a system that gets the most results with as little effort as possible. That's what good programming is, and that's the kind of process you can trust.

Now I don't know you, but I don't think you're very good at picking your own process. That's because very few people are – only trained, experienced and smart coaches are good at it for athletic performance, and only trained, experienced and smart physios are good at it for injury rehabilitation. Even if you are one of those I'd still bet against you because the other thing you need is objectivity. Personally, I'm horrendous at picking my process – if left unsupervised I'm just as likely to row a half marathon for Christmas or exercise myself into hospital. 

So, I pick physios and coaches that I trust and then work out my process with them – making sure they have enough info to tweak it as we go, because programs evolve with every session.

Then I quit my whining, get the work done and hashtag the crap out of it.

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Our new friend: Tiff

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So, we've got a new physiotherapist; a former roller derby queen with the nickname 'Fat China' snowboarder, heavyweight champion of sleepy and easy cutter & gladwrap enthusiast. We put together a fun, little interview so you guys can get to know her.

  1. What inspires you?
    Phill inspires me.

  2. What is the most important thing in your life?
    Being able to do the things that I love with the people I love; spending time in the outdoors.

  3. Who is your favorite actor?
    I do love Hugh Jackman, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I like him particularly for his versatility; he can be Wolverine, he can sing dance.

  4. Who’s your favourite person in the world?
    Can it be my dog? Yuna. I love my brother’s dog too.

  5. What is your favorite childhood memory?
    My favourite childhood memory would have to be when I went to New Zealand when I was 7.  My parents took me to some glacier climbing in Franz Josef. And like, you’re not allowed to climb anymore so I got to do it when I was tiny.
     
  6. What is your favorite drink?
    Beer. My favourite beer is called Engine Oil. I also brew my own beer.
  7. What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?
    Cafe grande.

  8. Pick one, Nike or Adidas?
    Nike

  9. Pick one, Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
    Pepsi

  10. Pick one, summer or winter?
    Winter

     

TRUST(ING) THE PROCESS #TTP

So here it is, my debut blog for the illustrious Evolutio Avengers crew. I may or may not have called us that without their knowledge, but it seems relevant given the new Marvel movie is out. Oh, and I’m definitely the Captain America of the group - I’ll let you figure out why and who the remaining characters are.  Now, if I’m being honest writing a blog is way out of my comfort zone, putting words to paper (or laptop) has never been my forte throughout school, and frankly, hasn’t improved much since. I’d much rather use my hands or pictures to express my thoughts. Anyway here goes…

For those of you who don’t know me, or we haven’t yet had the pleasure to meet - I’m Phill. Yes, you read two L’s, I assure you it’s not a spelling error, simply, my mother gave me two so I use them every chance I get. I have recently returned to Melbourne after spending a couple of years in sunny, warm, beachy, picturesque Sydney – yes I liked it, no I don’t regret moving back, yes the traffic is terrible and house prices are outrageous, but it’s still a great place.  We’ll save a Melb Vs Syd blog for a rainy day, because let’s face it, we have plenty of those here in Melbourne. I have decided to call this blog – TRUST(ing) THE PROCESS or #TTP. I feel this is relevant now as the Philadelphia 76ers fans were the first recorded to chant the above slogan during their well-documented dark days, and just last week they played in the NBA Basketball Play-Offs, (which for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of a big deal given that three years ago they were terrible). Their fans stuck by them, and trusted what the coaching and management staff were building toward and continued to support and back them – and for those AFL fans reading along at home, much like the mighty Tigers. Where am I going with this you might ask? Good question. This is actually very relevant to physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation, and/or strength and conditioning.  Here’s why…

 

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I can assume that many of you reading this, at some point may have invested your time and hard-earned cash in trusting what your physio or coach has instructed to build toward an end goal. Whether this is getting rid of that niggly ache in your shoulder first thing in the morning; returning to the soccer field after rupturing your ACL, or making 100% of your lifts in your debut lifting competition. I still remember the first time I signed up for an Olympic lifting competition giving myself almost 12 weeks to prepare for it. I approached a colleague to be my coach who I believed had the knowledge/skills to prepare an appropriate training program for me with the hope of avoiding an embarrassment on the platform. I trusted him. I trusted he knew what he was doing. I trusted that if I put in the required time and effort to follow the process that my lifts would increase. But I admit - it was hard! I don’t mean lifting the 10 x 3 Clean Pulls at 110%1RM, or the Squat Clean and Push Press Complexes over and over and over. Ohh no, that was the easy part. The hard part was trusting that what I was doing was going to achieve my goals. And it did. It’s fair to say there were many doubts going through my mind, especially in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the competition. All of a sudden, I started missing lifts, and missing numbers I had been hitting easily just a week prior. The thing is - I wasn’t getting weaker, I was just doubting the process.

 

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So, let’s bring this back. Have you recently seen a physio and gone over a plan that you trust in? Are you currently training for a competition with full confidence you will achieve your final goal? Are you now willing to put in the effort and trust the process to achieve your final goal? If not, maybe the plan’s not quite right for you or maybe it wasn’t explained in a way that makes sense to you. If this is the case, tell us (or them)! Maybe it needs to be explained in another way so you do understand, and so you do trust it. We’re in this process together remember!

Now, I’m not suggesting we’re Dr. Strange and can use the Time Stone to see all possibilities of what will happen in the future, because here’s a little secret… we don’t know exactly what will happen. Unfortunately, we’re not actually superheroes. What I do know for sure, is that the Evolutio Avengers crew are committed to doing our job well. So we create individual plans that we believe in. Plans that we ask you to believe in and commit to, simply by TRUSTING THE PROCESS. #TTP

 

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