Reflections on my first walk for Operation Flinders: Part 1

Reflections on my first walk for Operation Flinders: Part 1

In May 2021 I completed my first walk for Operation Flinders as an Assistant Team leader (ATL). The implication that this will not be my only walk is deliberate. Truth be told, I can not wait to be back up there.

I have taken with me incredible memories. I’ll remember the bravery in the young men I walked with; bravery to toil against the pain of fatigue and injury, and bravery to voice their fears and doubts. Bravery to cry.

I’ll remember vistas so achingly beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. And sharing such moments in silence with people who were strangers only days before.

I’ll remember rolling around in a dry riverbank in a fit of laughter so intense it was painful.

I’ll remember the elegant simplicity of life out there. Our days centered around satisfying the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our days started by reigniting last night’s smoldering coals; we’d then pack up our shelters- basically a yoga mat underneath a small tarp. Food is just fuel for the day- we’d fill our bellies then fill our packs with the leftovers. Water became our most precious commodity, so our last job before we’d start making tracks was to fill all of our bottles.

Our days’ were spent hiking to our next camp where food, water and firewood awaited. We’d arrive into camp at dusk, and use the remaining light to build our new shelter, scrounge for kindling and dig a shit-pit. Sitting around the campfire at the end of each long day, warmth, shelter food and water all in order, we could relax into some conversation of real value. The lads were funny, honest, vulnerable, inappropriate, offensive, relaxed.

I loved living that way. I think to to some extent our whole group did. When life’s most basic needs are your foremost concern, the complexities that we’d all left behind at home did not exist. Some of these young men had left behind some incredibly difficult circumstances- and a week out bush was never going to change that. The hope is that these young people return home changed in at least some small way for the better. At the very least they will have returned learning a little bit more about themselves.

At home I am greeted by a warm bed, heating at the push of a button, a full pantry and fridge and cold and hot water at the turn of a tap.  I also return to a loving family and great friends. I am grateful that my basic needs are satisfied, yet I miss that simple daily struggle to meet them. However, there are things I can change to take elements of my time out bush and incorporate them into my normal life:

My changes:

  • Dig a fire-pit and cook in it.
  • Sleep outside under the stars just for the hell of it.
  • Walk all day from time to time.
  • Sit and enjoy the quiet.

 

Running vs Riding: Two very different relationships.

Running vs Riding: Two very different relationships.

My two favourite pastimes  are running and mountain bike riding. You can be sure when I secure a little window of ‘me time’ I am either tying up my shoes laces or buckling up my helmet. I love both very much- but I have a very different relationship with each. I am sure those that run in particular will be able to relate to the following analogy!

My relationship with running is complicated. It is at times exhilarating, at times exasperating. When it is good, boy is it good! It feels so natural, so visceral- it can feel at times like I am flying. But when it’s bad, it can be very hard work. I can feel like I am dragging a tractor tyre behind me. And the most frustrating thing is it can be almost impossible to know beforehand which one it is going to be on any given day.

Imagine going to dinner with your significant other and the conversation is easy, yet deep, engaging and witty. You are in raptures- how lucky I am to be with someone like this?! On the next date however the conversation is forced, broken, dull- then the night culminates with them throwing their plate at you! Where was the person from the other night? How do I get them back? Imagine trying to marry someone like that? You spend months and months planning the wedding of your dreams. Everything is going great, until on the big day inexplicably they leave you stranded at the altar! Many people who have attempted a marathon can relate to this. They have a perfect preparation only to have their achilles tendon swell with pain and stop them dead at kilometre 20. WTF?!  

For me cycling is nothing like that. It is predictable, reliable, trustworthy. Before I start a ride I already know how it is going to turn out. As a partner, I know that when we go out, the conversation will be steady, easy and pleasant. Nothing wrong with that- but it does lack a little zing. But hey, vanilla is a lovely flavour- and at least I know if a plan something far into the future I can trust this one to actually rock up!

If I had to choose one of these partners to spend my life with, I’m going to choose number two every time. Fortunately I don’t have to choose between running and riding. I can have both. I can have the tumultuous, thrilling, aggravating love affair with running undergirded by the solid, yet gentle cycling to fall back on when running breaks my heart!

3 Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners

3 Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners

Mountain biking is a great outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and all skill levels. When you delve into the world of mountain biking it can seem a little daunting at first. There is a huge range of price points and brands to choose from. How do you know what bike is right for you and what you need to begin with? Adelaide has a plethora or great trails within an hours drive from the city. How do you know which ones are right for beginners and which ones are too dangerous? These are all questions that you can find the answers to with a little research and chats with the right people. The advice i’d like to give you here are the 3 tips that I feel every beginner mountain biker should follow.

 

The Nuts and Bolts

1. The bike fit: You have done your research and talked to some people about what bike to get and you have picked one up that suits your need and your height. What you should do next is get a bike fit done by a professional that knows what they are doing. A  bike fit will aim to get the motor for the bike (You!) working in collusion with your machine. It will look at areas such as saddle height, size and position. It will assess handlebar width and distance from the handle bar to the saddle to ensure you are sitting in a posture that allows your legs to work efficiently and powerfully. If you are going to wear cleats it will ensure good cleat position. All up the bike fit will get you seated correctly and comfortably and this will make your riding experience both efficient and much more enjoyable.

2. Ride often: Now that you have your bike and know it is all adjusted to fit you well you can find some places that you want to ride. Don’t go for anything technical to start with. Start with basic, easy trails with few obstacles. If you need to, just getting out around the backstreets is great. Time on the bike is time well spent learning how to stay connected with it. You want to feel like the bike is an extension of yourself. You should feel comfortable moving your body weight forward, backward, leaning side to side all whilst maintaining control. Becoming proficient at this is a learned skill and at first may feel a little strange. The best way to improve this is to spend time riding.

3. Get in the gym: Finally, get into the gym! This point holds true for riders of all ability. Getting strong in the gym will make your riding a whole different experience. Essentially, getting stronger means delivering more power to the pedals. More power to the pedals translates to faster riding, easier and more efficient climbing. You’ll also feel like you have much more control over your bike over all types of terrain. There are of course a multitude of extra health benefits on top of all the bike related points too.

 

Now you have a few tips to get things rolling. Get your new (or old) bike and get some riding into those legs. One final bonus tip before we finish. Ride and progress at your own pace. Push yourself to try new things but ultimately if you aren’t 100% comfortable with an obstacle (a jump, rocky section, drop) then its best to walk it or find a different way around. As you ride these skills will develop and you will quickly find things that once troubled you are now a non-issue. Happy mountain biking.

 

About The Author

Fitness Loss Over The Christmas Break: What You Should Know About Detraining

Fitness Loss Over The Christmas Break: What You Should Know About Detraining

The holiday season is fast approaching, organized sports are coming to a halt, work is winding up and many of us are embarking upon holidays. The Christmas break is a time where we are often given the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family while having a break from a regular schedule. While this opportunity to recharge may be necessary, it can also be to the detriment of any fitness progress and goals you have achieved throughout the passing year. Fitness loss is commonplace, not only during the Christmas holidays but during any extended period of reduced physical activity and we often refer to this effect as detraining.

 

Detraining and the Residual Training Effect:

Lets talk about detraining, you may have heard about it somewhere along the grapevine or maybe you have had first-hand experience with it, most likely the latter. The relationship between detraining and the residual training effect revolves around the idea that after cessation of training or an acute reduction in volume the body begins physiological processes which slowly untie any positive adaptations to training we may have made (detraining/deconditioning). It is these physiological characteristics that when grouped together make up what we call fitness components. These components include speed, maximal strength, aerobic endurance, strength endurance and anaerobic endurance. Now, while these may not all relate to you, there are most likely one or two which are inclusive in your fitness goals (no matter how basic or specific they are).

However, it may not be all doom and gloom. It is important to know that not all of these characteristics deteriorate at the same rate, some are much more resilient to detraining than others.

The table below gives an outline of how long the physiological adaptations are maintained during a period of detraining.

 

The Residual Training Effect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What effects the residual training effect?

  1. Duration of training before reduction or cessation
  2. Training age and physical experience
  3. Intensity used during the detraining period (moderate to high-intensity exercise reduces rate)

You may be asking “how does this relate to me?”

As shown in the table above we can see that speed is the most susceptible to change (2-8 days), whereas maximal strength and aerobic endurance are the most resilient (25-35 days). If your goals are to maintain speed and strength endurance it would be counterproductive to completely stop training, these components would best be maintained with a few short sprint and full body hypertrophy sessions during the break. Whereas if your goals are to maintain maximum strength and aerobic endurance; While it would not be ideal to completely stop training, the reduction in training volume would not have such a detrimental effect as the components mentioned previously.

 

So what should you take out of this? 

  • Try to integrate some moderate to high-intensity training into your break to slow down these detraining effects.
  • Short sessions with a focus on the components that are most susceptible to change or relate closest to goals are recommended.
  • Sports where repeated sprint ability (RSA) is critical to performance (AFL, Soccer, Basketball), should focus training on sport-specific needs for the athlete and include short sprint sessions. There is not a great need to prescribe or complete long aerobic/anaerobic endurance sessions during the break where time is often scarce.
  • Reflect on your current and previous goals and how this concept relates to you if you are planning on taking a break.

About The Author

Strength Training for Injury Reduction in Athletes: The Evidence

Strength Training for Injury Reduction in Athletes: The Evidence

The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a review of the evidence for Strength Training as a strategy to reduce injuries in Athletes- and the results are impressive! For those that tend to just read the first few lines of an article, take this away. If you are an athlete, or you coach athletes, strength training should be a priority in your programming if you want to reduce injury risk. For the rest of you, please read on.

This article was by Lauresen, Andersen and Andersen (2018). Below is a summary:

The Interventions

  • 6 studies were included, totaling 7738 participants aged between 12-40 y.o.
  • The average intervention duration was 21.39 weeks.
  • Average volume of training was 80 reps per week.
  • Average intensity was 8.39 RM (these means the maximum number of repetitions that can be performed for a given exercise).

The Outcomes

  • Strength Training reduced sports injuries by 66% with a 95% confidence interval of 52% (combined results from 4 of the 6 studies).
  • A 10% increase in strength training volume resulted in reduced injury risk of 4%.
  • No injuries occurred as a result of the strength training throughout the interventions.
  • Strength training was both safe and effective for adolescents as well as adult athletes.

Why? The Mechanisms

The authors can only speculate as to why strength training helped protect athletes from injury, but their proposed mechanisms to explain its effectiveness are:

  • Preconditioning- effectively toughening up the muscles/tendons so they can deal with greater loads.
  • Variation of loading across the body so that parts of the body that are not stressed by the sport take more of the load in the gym.
  • Improved coordination and technique in the gym crossing over to movements in sports.

The Recommendations

The authors concluded with the following recommendations for strength training, and I advise that if you choose to trust an Exercise Professional to help you or your athletes commence a strength training program that they can demonstrate an understanding and adherence to these principles.

  • Commence with a familiarisation period so that the athletes can develop the confidence and capability to perform the exercises correctly.
  • Ensure the athlete is supervised in the gym so that exercises can be completed well and loads are monitored accurately.
  • Loads are individualised to the athletes capability and are altered appropriately over a training cycle.
  • Exercises are varied across the year of training.

I would add in that it is also important that the strength training program is correctly synchronised with the training and competition schedules, so the Exercise Professional must be in regular communication with the athlete’s coach. For example, during an athletes off-season they can focus on improving function and technique; during pre-season switch to muscle building; and within season aim to build/maintain strength and power. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform have extensive experience managing the strength training programs of athletes across many sports. If you would like to speak to one of our EPs about the services we offer athletes, please contact us!

About the Author

Lauersen, J. B., Andersen, T. E., & Andersen, L. B. (2018). Strength training as superior, dose-dependent and safe prevention of acute and overuse sports injuries: a systematic review, qualitative analysis and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, bjsports-2018.

Injury Risk Factors for Elite Junior Tennis Players: What you need to know

Injury Risk Factors for Elite Junior Tennis Players: What you need to know

Recently the Journal of Sports Sciences published a Systematic Review detailing the factors associated with injury in Elite Junior Tennis players. It is important that coaches and parents of such athletes are aware of the findings (Oosterhoof et al, 2018).

Risk Factors for Lower Back Injury

Previous Lower Back Injury:

Previous injury is often a good predictor of future injury. Why? That is not clear, but one reason may be that rehabilitation of injuries is often not done to the level that it needs to. Rehab is often done adequately to get a player back on the court, but functional deficiencies can remain. This can predispose the athlete to recurrence, or to injury of another part of the body due to compensation. Elite Junior Tennis players should undertake their rehabilitation under the guidance of a Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist that are experienced in this field.

Training Loads > 6hrs p/wk:

Elite Junior Tennis players will be training and playing at least this amount. So how do we mitigate against this as a risk factor? For one, the athlete needs to have a good recovery repertoire and be diligent with it. A recovery program should be personalised for the athlete, but some common features of an athlete recovery plan are; adequate sleep; good diet, hydration and nutritional support (protein especially); massage; stretching and cold-water immersion. Secondly, Functional Resistance training can help build strength in muscles and tendons, mobility in joints, stability in movement, balance and spatial awareness. If your child, or an athlete under your guidance does not have a recovery plan, and/or is not undertaking a quality, personalised functional strength program I would speak to a qualified and experienced Exercise Physiologist to help them build one.

Risk Factor for Upper Extremity Injury

Fewer Years of Playing Experience

The authors do not specify what it meant by ‘fewer years of experience’ so we can only speculate. But generally speaking, when a young person starts at a new sport, their body is going to be exposed to forces that they may not be conditioned to deal with. I recommend that young people new to tennis undertake an overall movement capacity assessment, such as the ‘Movement Screen’ (Movement Screen ). This will identify any functional limitations that can be corrected through a functional strength training program. We use the Movement Screen with all of our young athletes at iNform.

Risk Factor for Lower Extremity Injury

Stretching

Interestingly, in the studies included in the aforementioned review players that regularly stretched the muscles of the lower body had an increased risk of injury than those that didn’t. This is counterintuitive for most, as stretching is supposed to be good for us, right? Stretching can be useful for increasing the mobility of a restricted joint. However stretching can also acutely reduce our muscles responsiveness and power. So there are pros and cons to stretching for athletes. If an athlete is going to be prescribed stretches, they should be recommended only for areas that display movement restriction (and have shown a positive response to stretching) and should be timed so that performance is not impacted negatively. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform can easily identify whether a young tennis player would benefit from stretching, and recommend when is best to do it.

Summary

Whilst there are injury risks associated with playing Elite Level Tennis at the junior level, they can be mitigated by taking an intelligent and strategic approach to the young athletes programming. The Exercise Physiologists at iNform have extensive experience helping Elite Young Tennis players stay strong and healthy and on the court.

About the Author

  1. Jacobien H.F. Oosterhoff, Vincent Gouttebarge, Maarten Moen, J. Bart Staal, Gino M.M.J. Kerkhoffs, Johannes L. Tol & Babette M. Pluim (2018) Risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries in elite junior tennis players: a systematic review, Journal of Sports Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1485620