Everybody makes mistakes. And if you think you’re any different and you don’t make any, you’re really kidding yourself and it’s probably time for a reality check.
We all make mistakes, whether we like to admit it or not; this is human nature. It’s part of the learning process. Strength and conditioning coaches are not different. I’m no different.
This is the time of year where everybody makes resolution for the new year or highlights what they learned or changed in the last year. I’ll give my 2011 review a different flavor by giving you my top 5 mistakes I made in the last year (or the ones that have lasted up to this past year).
1. Recommending minimalist footwear for everyone. I wrote a whole blog post on the subject not too long ago (if you missed it you can check it out HERE). The idea is that for too long we have restrained our feet in footwear with a lot of cushioning, big heel lifts and support all around. That made the feet become lazy, and they stopped doing their job because they didn’t have to anymore. But the thing is that the problem can originate somewhere else; in other words, the feet are not always the source of the problem, but rather the result from a problem originating somewhere else. In our lifestyle in 2012, there is more than just our footwear that’s wrong. Sedentary lifestyles, prolonged sitting, poor posture, long commute in cars, and early development in young athletes who do too much too young are all factors that can wreak havoc on our bodies. Any of these factors (or a combination of) can lead to permanent structural changes on our bodies. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), femoral anteversion and retroversion and other hip problems can lead to different feet position and structural variations.
Before I digress too much, it simply means that not everyone can get away with wearing Vibram Five Fingers or New Balance Minimus all day. I used to blindly recommend those type of shoes without assessing the person. Let’s just say that I’m a lot more careful about it now. As a side note, overweight and poor running mechanics are 2 other factors that would lead me to not recommend a minimalist type of shoes for physical activity.
2. Minimizing the importance of breathing. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you should know by now the importance I pay to breathing patterns. I’ve blogged about that many times during the last year, and I must say that the more I learn about it, the more I realize how crucial it is with any movement pattern and for proper alignment (as a side note, I can improve your range of motion just by teaching you how to breathe; that’s how powerful it is). The diaphragm muscles (yes, there are 2 of them) have fascial connections with the thoraco-lumbar fascia which in turn connects with the psoas (that attaches on the spine) and the hips.
Because of that, proper diaphragm function and proficient breathing patterns are essential for optimal posture and positioning through various movement patterns. Ineffective use of the diaphragm muscles could lead to hyperextension of the thoraco-lumbar region, faulty positioning of the hips and plenty of other problems all the way up and down the chain. This is something I coach a lot now, and it has made a huge difference on our athletes at Endeavor. If you’re not familiar with proper breathing patterns and diaphragm function, I suggest you take a look at the PRI stuff (Postural Restoration Institute).
3. Mismanaging training volumes and intensities. Whether it is in my own training or the ones of my athletes, I think I have not always been good at managing fatigue and recovery. On paper, training volumes always look well managed, but the reality is that it goes far bey0nd that. For one, if you always go balls to the walls when you train and push yourself the the very limit every training session lifting maximal weights and pushing lactic conditioning ’til you puke, chances are you won’t recover properly even if the planned training volume for the week is moderate. The other thing is that there are a lot of other factors that factors in the equation (quantity and quality of sleep, nutrition, other sports and activities outside of the gym, the party factor, etc). Whether you like it or not, there aren’t that many athletes that won’t take some time to enjoy life during their off-season, which usually means spending a day at the beach not eating too well (or enough) or have a late night and a couple of beers once in a while. In their off-season, athletes not only need a physical break from their sport, but a mental one as well. Nothing wrong with that, as long as they keep it in check and don’t overdo it. It struck me this past summer when we had one of our pro hockey player return to Endeavor after a very long season in which his team ended up winning the Stanley Cup. First of all he came back from his team mid to late June, almost 2 months later than all the other guys, but he was also way more beat up physically and mentally. It was apparent that even after almost 10 days completely off, he just didn’t have the wheels he had the previous off-season (which started in April the year before- that’s a big difference). He took more days off from training than the previous off-season and the number of days he showed up hungry to get after it were definitely not as frequent. The off-season is not only about getting ready for the upcoming season, but also recovering from the previous one, especially if it was a very long and excruciating one. This is where HRV measurement tools are gonna come in handy; it allows you to measure physical and nervous system fatigue and you can manage fatigue and recovery so much better. And that technology is becoming available to us. I blogged about this before.
4. Aerobic training is not the evil I thought it was. I always stood up against aerobic training for team sports because it’s simply not the way most sports are played. After trying to prove my point for years, and I am starting to realize certain things. I still don’t think I was wrong about the fact that long slow pace aerobic training is not specific to sports, but I’m starting to realize that the pendulum may just have swung too far.
The aerobic system plays a huge role in recovery for the lactic and alactic systems and a decent amount of the energy produced in a team sports setting will come from the aerobic system. It still doesn’t mean that you should go for hour long jogs 4-5 times a week to get ready for your hockey season, but there just might be a place for steady state aerobics in a yearly training plan after all.
5. Not enough external rotation based rotator cuff exercises for my baseball players. With the importance of scapular stability, t-spine mobility, breathing patterns and working the rotator cuff in a stability role, I will admit that I neglected external rotation based exercises a little bit last off-season with my baseball players.
Shoulder injury prevention is about much more than just external rotation exercises, but it might have been another pendulum that swung too far for me because I haven’t done much of it with my baseball pitchers last off-season. The reality is that the external rotators of the shoulder still need to decelerate the crazy velocity of internal rotation that occurs at the shoulder in a pitching motion (over 7,000°/sec), so it’s still specific to do direct external rotation work with baseball pitchers, so these muscles become better at decelerating the internal rotation.
Those are the mistakes I’ve made this past year. What are the mistakes you’ve made during the last year?
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