I’m going to do a few things with this post, since it’s likely to be the last one of 2013. Firstly, I’m going to apologise to my regular reader (there’s that single reader joke again, never gets old) for the lack of updates on my blog. My personal and working life has just been too busy lately to give any time to this blog. I think this is just going to be the way it’s going to be from now on. long, fallow periods where the URL gathers dust, followed by a blog post with a first paragraph apology. Get used to it I suppose.
Now that the apology is out of the way, the meat and bones of this blog post can proceed. I’m going to update you on my own injury rehab and what I’ve been doing, as it’s pretty interesting I think. Secondly, I’m going to highlight a simple fitness test protocol for anyone who trains alone and wants to measure progress.
I’ve been out of regular training for about 8 weeks now with two injuries. The first is a pretty bad shoulder impingement issue, and the second is a fracture of my left fibula. The fibula thing was just a freak accident and not all that bad, but I thought the shoulder might make for some interesting reading. Now I know what you’re saying right now. “Isn’t this the guy who told me about how to take care of my shoulder? What a hypocrite.” That’s true, I posted a bit on the shoulder here, and I suppose that this is a great case of either ‘do as I say, not as I do’, or ‘physician, heal thyself’, depending on your point of view. I neglected my shoulder mobility and ignored the warning signs to such an extent that a little tightness became a full blown loss of the use of the limb for anything other than shaking hands. So lesson one, do your mobility work. don’t let it take over your training, but keep on top of it.
Once it became a real problem, I committed a sin. I cheated on Dave, my physio. He has been looking after me for about 5 years and knows my injury history, but his office is on the other side of the city, and I didn’t want to drive all the way over there, and hey, this was just a shoulder thing right? So I went to another one. This was a mistake. After 4 weeks of shoulder work with absolutely zero improvement (in fact, my movement deteriorated and the pain increased), I relented and went to see Dave with flowers and chocolates. Well, not really, more like cap in hand. He diagnosed me with the same impingement as the other physio, but he went after my spine, and noted some improvement in my pain and movement after soft tissue work around my mid back. In other words, the impingement was around the facet joints of my T spine as opposed to in the shoulder. Lesson two then is find a good physio who can find the root of the problem and not just the symptom.
Now why am I telling you this? Well I thought it was a pretty good follow on from the shoulder thing I wrote before, but also a little lesson in general ‘prehab’ and mobility. I suffered a shoulder injury because of a lack of thoracic mobility, not because of any issues in my shoulder. My rehab is to mobilise my T-spine and to loosen the tight muscles in that area. After that, it’s projected that trigger points in the infraspinatus will begin to loosen of their own accord (with a little help) and I’ll have a fully functioning shoulder again. I know that trainers and coaches are supposed to be the perfect models of mobility and fitness, but I need this little lessons in pain from time to time just like everybody else. Now the shoulder isn’t recovered to 100% yet, but it is at a stage where I can train and improve it’s function simultaneously. I was helped in my recovery by fracturing my fibula, which had the effect of forcing me not to train for a couple of weeks at a stage when I might have decided to come back. Every cloud and all that. Lesson three is don’t rush back. I don’t recommend breaking a bone to prevent you doing that, maybe just use some common sense.
On to the next thing. I get asked what fitness tests I do and there are quite a few. I know that people test, test, and test again but to be honest, I don’t test that much anymore. Firstly, I think when you’re working 1 to 1, you don’t need to do it very often, and when you do, unless there’s a performance goal in mind (lower body fat for example), there’s only really a nice psychological effect. In fact, sometimes I think excessive testing can have a detrimental psychological effect. Expectations rarely match reality, and people can become obsessed with moving one number or another up the charts. Anyway, to cut a long story short, there are substantial differences in the tests I use with footballers and fighters, and even more differences between the ones I use for athletes and personal training clients. So to make life easier, here are some tests you could consider for your own training.
So first, what are the requirements for a test? Well it’s interesting you should ask that because I have a… wait, stop… I asked that. The lines between reader and author are becoming blurred here. Look, just read the bullet points, I’ve heard they’re a good way of explaining things. In fact I’m going to have an experiment. I’m going to do this backwards and write the explanation in bullet points and the summary in a paragraph.
- Almost anything can be a test
- As long as it’s repeatable and the conditions are as close to exactly the same on each occasion.
- You also want to define what physical quality it is you’re testing.
- Are you testing cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance
- Strength, max strength?
- I’d just say don’t use anything that uses skill.
- Skill can be practiced, and technical proficiency can mask results.
- So use stuff that’s easy to do, and that you won’t just “learn” how to do better the next time.
- Know what I mean?
- Did the bullet points make it easier?
So in summary, use a test that you can repeat without other factors influencing the results. The human body is unpredictable enough without having to adjust for wind sheer. Here are some simple tests that anyone can do.
- Run 5k in as fast a time as possible
- 50m sprint
- Max push ups in 1 minute
- Max pull ups to full extension
- Take off your top in front of you partner. Take a photo of their reaction (ie. disgust, disinterest, one eyebrow raises etc.)
- The scales and the mirror, or a self portrait taken on a phone. No, I do not recognise the word “selfie”
- Anything else that you feel is a target for you. Seriously. If your target is to complete 1 hour of 5 a side without having to be resuscitated then that’s good too.
I’d also be interested in hearing what other tests people have for themselves. To be clear, I’m not looking for how educated you are or how many NSCA papers on heart rate variability or agility tests you’ve read. You can play soggy biscuit with other trainers somewhere else. I want to know the little handy things that you can do or do with your clients or yourself.
Hope this was a diverting read. Have a great Christmas.