A Letter to the Girls Missing Sports and Preparing to Return. PART 1 by Keesha Shankle PT, DPT
I see you, I feel for you, and I believe in you. Sports are a huge part of life for many of you and this past March, COVID-19 caused an abrupt end to this. I know that this has been a difficult time and you have probably gone through a range of emotions. As a former gymnast myself, I can remember freaking out if we had a family vacation planned that would force me to miss up to a week of practice. The thought of being out of the gym for months would have terrified me. I am here to listen and help.
In today's world, specializing in one club sport and competing year round is oftentimes recommended in order to reach your maximum potential. However, the more we learn, the more we understand that cross training and adding flexibility to a rigid one sport schedule can be really beneficial for you. Single sport specialization is more likely to lead to overuse injuries, fatigue and burnout. COVID-19 forced many of you to take a much needed break. I hope you were able to "let go" a little this summer. I hope that you have found some fun and creative ways to cross train, and I hope that this break rejuvenates your passion for the sport you love.
With that being said, these past months have been an unprecedented break from sports and will require a little extra effort for a safe and successful return. I have included 3 tips to help you return safely and optimize your chance of using this experience to become a stronger athlete.
1. Be mindful of your training volume and/or training time
It took your body months, sometimes years, to adapt to the demands placed on it in your sport. No matter how much cross training you have done during this "off" period, your body will need time to adapt to the demands of your sport again. The good news is that all your training prior to this break created muscle memory patterns within your body, and you will get back to where you were much quicker than it initially took to get there. However, a sudden increase in training volume is a leading cause of injury so you must be careful. You will need to be patient with your body and listen to what it is telling you. Pushing through symptoms is not healthy. Your body needs rest along with work, in order to reach its maximum potential.
As you return, I recommend focusing on drills and fundamental skills of your sport before any return to full sport activity. Once you feel comfortable again with sport specific skills and do not have any symptoms, begin getting back to full sports activity using an alternating pattern. As long as you feel confident returning to full speed and power, begin adding this level of training one day and then returning to more of a focus on drills the next. Over the course of a month, I would gradually decrease the amount of time spent on fundamentals and increase time in full sport training. You may be surprised to see how your body responds to this, and realize that continuing with this pattern of full effort vs. days of rest to focus on fundamentals will be something you want to maintain moving forward.
I also want to encourage you to use this ramp up time as an opportunity to grow in other ways. One aspect of sport that is undervalued yet SO important is your mindset. Take this opportunity to work on strengthening your mental confidence.
A close friend of mine, Ashleigh Carpentier is a sports psychologist and expert in helping athletes tap into the mental side of sport. I have had the privilege of interviewing her and gaining insight into how you can take steps to improve your mindset as you return to sport. I will share more on this in the next blog.
2. Perform a dynamic mobility warm up
When you return to sport, make sure that you are warming up properly. A comprehensive, full body, moving warm up will increase blood flow, wake up muscles, and best prepare your body for the demands of your sport. Use full body movements that address all three planes of human movement. This means that you should be doing exercises in which you are moving forwards/backwards, side/side and rotating. A rotational exercise could be a lunge with an upper body rotation added. The rotational exercises are excellent ways to introduce tension through the midline and wake up your core system. A strong, coordinated core system is key to optimizing your power, strength and control in sport.
3. Get a movement assessment
You will greatly benefit from a movement assessment. This will help you better connect with your body and become more aware of how your body is moving in sport. After this long break, a screening prior to sport return will empower you and give you more confidence in your body's readiness to return to high level sports training. I offer a comprehensive, hour long, movement assessment to fully assess your fundamental movement strategies and work with you to optimize movement strategies going forward. In sport, it is essential to master the foundational skills and drills in order to reach your maximum potential with higher level sport play. Following a movement screen you will know what to do to build a strong movement foundation and connection to your body, so that you will be equipped for success with more complex movements at higher speeds and with increased power.
In the movement assessment, I will also take time to look specifically at the demands of your sport. Each sport is unique and the demands are different. I will help you better understand what it really means when we talk about training volume and training time. Rather than looking broadly at this subject, we will break it down to look at how much stress is being placed on your body with various aspects of your sport and training. We will work together to develop strategies on how we can maximize your training and minimize the stress on your body.
This has been a tough period and will change sports forever. However, I fully believe that you will get back to where you were, quicker than you think. You are strong and capable. Keep moving forward.
If you want to learn more about me and my passion for helping female athletes you can do that HERE.
Are you interested in how a movement assessment can help you but not ready to book yet? I would love to chat with you and learn more about your challenges and answer your questions. You can book a free call with me HERE.
Maybe you are 100% wanting to book a session now. Sweet! don't wait. I am offering $40 off for the first 3 people to book a movement assessment. You can do that HERE. Discount applied at time of service.