Each weekend people worldwide swim, ride and run their way to higher levels of cardiovascular fitness. On the surface, this many being active seems like a great thing.
The long and short of it is that swimming, riding and running (not too mention sitting all week) only take place in one direction (or plane of motion) which opens you up to the potential to experience a whole host of repetitive stress issues. If you’ve got muscle imbalances that have lead to postural distortions this can easily become a matter of WHEN, not if, you get injured.
If you experience joint pain swimming (usually shoulders and low back), riding (typically knees and low back) or running (neck, hips, low back, knees, ankles) the best solution is the simplest one: STOP. DOING. WHAT. HURTS.
I interviewed Spine Biomechanics guru Stuart McGill a few years back, and he told me if “it hurts to hit your thumb with a hammer, put the hammer away, don’t use a bigger one.” However, for whatever reason, this has yet to be fully embraced in the endurance sports community. In my experience, swimming, running and riding more when something hurts rarely alleviates the pain (and very often makes it worse).
You WILL NOT lose fitness if you rest your body allowing it to heal. In fact you may just start to gain more if you give your body the chance to recover.
The take away? If it hurts, find out why, make the appropriate movement adjustments then strength train the right way prevent it from happening again.
There are ways to combat all of this in the gym. After a long weekend of uniplanar repetitive stress activity, you might just have a fighting chance of surviving with the right approach.
Moving in one direction for hours at a time (especially after sitting for seemingly days on end all week long) requires the right strategy to reset that. The good news that basics work best and can be tolerated by most people.
The key is moving the way our bodies are designed to: in a 3D environment in multiple planes of motion as we provide our base of support to move from. A few examples include pushing and pulling in a standing split stance, lunging in multiple directions, hinging, single leg squats and rotating.
What does this all mean?
For endurance athletes this means after a long weekend of training:
- Repeated dynamic hip flexion while riding and running can be helped with hip dominant moves (hinging, kettlebell swings, RLDs, etc).
- Overloading the front half of the body swimming, riding and sitting can be addressed with posterior chain exercises.
- A static upper body needs thoracic spine (upper/mid back) movements like rotation and anti-rotation isometrics to restore mobility. Lack of range of motion in this area can lead to shoulder injuries in the pool.
- The less stable a joint is, the less mobile it will be. If this happens, movement compensations can fast track the onset of pain and performance degradation.
Here are three of my favorite ways to put yourself back together on Mondays after a long weekend of swimming, riding and running. These moves utilize the diagonal loading patterns critical to our movement success as well the muscles in the back half of the body and hips that are essential for postural stability and training pain free.
1/2 Kneeling Cable Lift
Diagonal loading as you provide your own base of support through the hips is what you get here. The inside hip gives you the foundation to begin the move, with outside one being the brake pedal on the way down. Keeping the trunk as still as possible adds additional core demands.
1/2 Kneeling Cable Chop
I really like this move because it emphasizes how the hips support our trunk working in the natural patterns we use walking and running. There is also potential for a hip flexor stretch as the hands go up as well.
This is a good way to open up the front half of the body through working the posterior chain. As the arms move the feet have to dig into the ground, in turn activating the glutes and core giving you your movement foundation. You can also add a hinge to this to engage the lower body as well. The overhead movement component can help with shoulder mobility and improvements in the pool as well.
Endurance sports can do quite a bit for the body (and mind for that matter), there are just a few components that are essential to being able to do it long-term, pain free. Take care of them and you’ll enjoy yourself that much more!
Written by Al Painter, BA & NASM-CPT, PES, CES
Al Painter is a trainer at Integrate Performance Fitness.