- Kate Mihevc Edwards PT, DPT
Basic Building Blocks of Performance
None of us have time to be injured. We would rather be running outside enjoying the sound of our feet as they hit the ground, smelling the fresh cut grass, or feeling the wind on our face. Yet injury is a regular occurrence for runners. Injury derails our performance goals, it steals our quiet time, stress relief and community. If we get injured we don't have the opportunity to perform at any level, let alone a high level.
Getting injured is often our own fault. We LOVE our sport SO much that we can become blind to the warning signs our body sends us and we ignore the things we don’t want to do…until we become injured.
We don’t mean it, but we get in our own way. It is difficult to see what we don’t know and even more difficult to look past what we already know so that we are open to trying new things.
I think it is time we stop reacting to injury and start building the resistance we need to avoid it. It’s much more difficult to recover from an injury than to be proactive and avoid it in the first place.
Staying healthy and injury free is not as difficult as it may seem, but it requires self-reflection, an open mind and doing things you may not want to do. I am stuck in my ways and for many years I too refused to hear what I didn’t want to do...until I was forced to stop and listen. Don’t be like me. Get ahead of your injury so you can keep running, enjoying every mile and shatter your goals.
Meet your basic needs before you move forward. There is a reason why sleep, nutrition, and hydration are considered basic needs. It is because we cannot function without them at a physiological level. Our cells breakdown, our decision making is impacted, our reaction time slows, perceived exertion increased (everything feels harder), our muscles don’t fire as well and we become at risk for injury and illness. If you are not:
Sleeping 7-9 hours
Drinking 64+ oz of water a day
Eating enough of the right calories
If any of the above is not happening, you are not meeting your basic needs of survival and performance. How can you be at your most optimal performance when you are tried, mentally foggy and your cellular function is below average?
I know focusing on sleep, hydration, diet and breathing may not be fun, “sexy” or instagramable but it is how we are going to build resilience, strength and power from the ground up. Meeting your basic need is only the first step, but it is an important building block.
The recommended amount of sleep per night is 7-9 hours. Even 2-3 hours less can begin to negatively impact your health and performance.
Sleep Deprivation in Elite Athletes:
Elite athletes often get less sleep than non-athletes. Researchers believe is it may likely be due to a combination of factors including intense training schedules, travel/changes in time zones, spending time on the phone after practice and before bed, pre-race stress and anxiety.
Sleep deprivation in high performing athletes impacts mood, strength, endurance, accuracy and cognitive function. Athletes that sleep less have decreased sub maximal lifts, demonstrate a faster time to exhaustion, have increased rate of perceived exertion. decreased and altered sprint times, decreased muscle power, decreased running performance and more. This is all in addition to what non-athletes experience.
Sleep Deprivation impacts everyone:
Neurocognitive, metabolic, immunologic, and cardiovascular dysfunction
Impaired brain function that could affect judgment and/or decision-making
Obesity, Diabetes, Weight Gain
Sleep-deprived individuals may crave unhealthy foods and show impairments in glucose sensitivity, which may impair glycogen repletion and potentially affect appetite, food intake, and protein synthesis
Negatively affects growth hormone and cortisol secretion
Impairs immune system function
Impedes muscle recovery and repair from damage
Leads to autonomic nervous system imbalance
Alters pain perception
The recommended amount of water athletes should drink varies based on how much they sweat. However, 64 oz is the amount they need to consume before the addition of exercise. When a person becomes dehydrated, water leaves the cell due to osmosis and the cells begin to shrink. When the cells begin to shrink, they no longer can functional at their optimal level and if cells aren’t functioning well neither are we. We become less focused and clear, muscles can’t contract properly, basic cardiovascular functions are compromised, and nerve impulses are impacted.
Every car needs gas (or electricity) to move forward. Athletes need to consume enough fuel for their basic bodily functions AND their exercise demands or they will breakdown. When, how much and what an athlete consumes will impact their ability to avoid injuries, perform and recover. Men and women also require different nutritional programs based on their hormonal fluctuations. I am not a dietician or nutritionist, but I highly recommend my athletes touch base with a dietician if they have any food aversions, tend to restrict their diet, a history of REDs, struggle with stress fractures, low energy availability or have any questions about food. Food can be a difficult subject for athletes, especially with those who have struggled with disordered eating. BUT help is available and if you want to be a serious athlete it must be addressed. Food is fuel and no engine, not even yours can survive and perform without the proper fuel.
This is one of my very favorite subjects. It is underrated, overcomplicated and completely ignored by most. YET how you breathe impacts your core stability, running posture, strength, physiology, your nervous system, hormones and more.
Learning various breathing techniques can help improve your sleep, decrease levels of stress and anxiety and improve your running form will impact your health and performance in ways that are unimaginable.
Meeting your basic needs is a basic building block of performance that many high school, collegiate and elite athletes never master.
Stop and assess where you are at this moment. Are your basic needs being met?
If not, imagine the possibilities. What could you achieve if your body was able to run at its fullest potential? What would it look like to have the energy, the focus and the strength to push a little harder or a little longer in training? How would it feel to stay healthy so that you could perform?
Start with meeting your basic needs. Once you have met your basic needs then we can start talking about mindfulness, mental performance and so much more. The ways we can help you decrease injury and improve your performance are limitless. You simply have to try, listen and do the things that might be a little less fun, but so very important.