Friday, January 28, 2011

Maintaining Balance

This isn’t one of those blog posts, where I ramble on as I often do about how I carefully try not to fall over the edge cliff, or cross the tipping point, and maintain balance in all the areas of my life. Work, take care of kids, and an Ironman, coach and train can sometimes unravel you at the seams and leaving you running in crazy directions. But I’ve been conquering and managing that balance and have made it through 1 month of 2011 feeling under control.

This is about maintaining balance of your musculoskeletal system. The body that allows you to swim bike run, and cross the finish line is pieced together like a puzzle and when all the pieces line up right it works efficiently and move you to do amazing things. When balance is lost and the pieces start to not line up right and joints, tendons, muscles and more start to get irritated, inflamed, weak, tight and then those amazing things you can do start to not feel so good wonderful.

Triathletes spend many hours moving forward, flexed, and using the anterior (front) of their body. Reaching forward to swim, flexing forward into aero bars, or slouching over the bars and lifting / driving legs forward while running. Follow that up with commuting in the car, and sitting hunched over a computer (more seated and flexed postures) and the anterior muscles become tight, flexed, contracted. Sometimes so much so that it becomes difficult to even stand up straight. The muscles on the back side (posterior) are nearly forgotten! They become weak, atrophied, and saggy. (Ok a little exaggeration). But this imbalance can lead to any number of overuse injuries that creep up and suddenly seem to appear from nowhere.

Here are some examples:

Shin Splints (which can ultimately turn into stress fractures): the calves and deep leg musculature obviously get tight from running and even cycling. They can become overdeveloped and tight, while the anterior leg muscles which are small and almost seem non existent in comparison. The tight posterior force and with weak anterior leg can lead to a shearing force causing the pain.

Low Back Pain: Hours in the saddle flexed forward and pedaling the bike can significantly tighten the hip flexors of the anterior hip. As they become tighter they can pull the pelvis forward, placing strain on the low back. If the small trunk musculature and core is weak and can overcome the anterior pull, then back pain can develop.

Knee Pain: When the quads and ITB become tight from miles of pedaling and running without an equal amount of strength from behind (literally), extra force and strain can be loaded to the knees. Restrictions, knots and tightness can easily build up in the quad, and all those hours spent moving forward doesn’t allow much chance for the glutes to work and active which have an important role in stabilization of the trunk. Weakness here can also contribute to extra pounding to the knees.

Shoulder Impingement: leaning for hours on those aero bars following repetitive reaching and forward with a swim stroke can significantly tighten the pec, neck and chest muscles. Without addressing the rhomboids, middle trap, lower trap and posterior shoulder muscles, extra strain can be placed on the front the the shoulder causing irritation and inflammation and a sore shoulder making even simple daily activities like combing hair painful.

All of these together can leave a triathlete with the gorilla posture I’ve talked about before.

When the miles start to add up, maintain some balance in your body.

1 comment:

Jim Dicker said...

Great Post. My TP has me doing a version the back exercise.