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How Professional Athletes Are Addressing Their Mental Health

“File:20140101 Kevin Love (cropped).JPG” by TonyTheTiger is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Health is a word that has a variety of meanings. Although physical health often comes to mind, mental health is equally important. Quality performance training and injury rehabilitation includes activities that improve both your physical and mental health to improve performance in sport.

What is Mental Health?

According to The Center for Disease Control, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood. Positive mental health allows people to better cope with stress, work productively, realize their full potential, and make more meaningful human connections.

Mental illness, such as depression, increases the risk for many physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Furthermore, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.

Put simply — mental health is an aspect of overall health and well-being that cannot be overlooked.

The Impact of Mental Health On Performance

Mental health not only improves your quality of life, but it also improves performance — both in sport and in the workplace.

According to the CDC, poor mental health can negatively affect job performance, productivity, communication, physical capability, and job function. For example, someone could be in elite physical shape, but if their mental health is lagging, their performance will ultimately suffer.

Psychologists and mental health experts aren’t the only ones preaching the importance of mental health. Kevin Love, a professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been very public with the mental health issues he’s dealt with throughout his career.

To help people strengthen their mental health, Love founded Koa, an online learning experience with therapist-led emotional fitness classes and 1:1 therapy. This growing community is helping people taking on real-life challenges and better prepare for the stresses of life.

“Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s a part of life,” said Kevin Love of his struggle with mental health. Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall well-being. Love understands that to perform at the highest level, both his physical and mental health must be properly trained.

What Is Blood Flow Restriction Training? Can It Help You Overcome Your Injuries?

“Running by Coolidge Corner” by jpo.ct is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Since the beginning of performance training, athletes have searched for the most effective training methods out there. Although there are countless strategies available, blood flow restriction training, or BFR for short, has been used for more than 20 years in physical therapy and performance training.

What Is Blood Flow Restriction Training?

Blood flow restriction is a training technique that involves performing exercises with a reduced amount of blood flow to the arm or leg. Using a cuff or strap placed tightly around the limb, blood flow is reduced to that specific area. BFR training combines low-intensity exercise with blood flow restriction to produce similar results to high-intensity training.

In recent years, blood flow restriction training has become popular for both athletes and patients recovering from injuries. Mike Reinhold, a leading physical therapist, describes the various benefits as:

  • Provides a great workout with smaller weights and fewer reps or time
  • Can help with rehab from injuries
  • Improve strength for clients with physical limitations
  • Pain reduction after ACL surgery or knee osteoarthritis
  • Relieve pain and treat functional scores for older patients

Is BFR Training Right For You?

Much like anything, it’s important to educate yourself before trying any new training method. For example, blood flow restriction training is commonly used in performance training and physical therapy because it allows patients to develop strength and stability without requiring a lot of weight. 

Although it is within the scope of practice for physical therapists and athletic trainers, our PTs at CHP are certified specifically in blood flow restriction training. If you’re returning from a recent injury or want to learn more, contact us to set up an initial consultation

What Should You Be Drinking Before, During, and After a Run?

Much like other areas of performance training, proper hydration as an essential aspect of a comfortable, enjoyable run. Although it’s normal for runners to experience a small amount of dehydration, drinking enough fluids can significantly reduce the chances of any adverse effects. On top of that, proper hydration can improve your energy and endurance and even minimize recovery times.

Here are some general hydration recommendations to maximize run performance.

1. Pre-Run

Your hydration strategy should begin long before you start putting on your running gear. What you drink in the hours before a run is perhaps one of the most important aspects of hydration. Be mindful to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day before your run. Then, about 15–30 minutes before heading out the door, drink 250–500ml of fluids.

2. During The Run

The general rule of thumb is to drink 5–10 fl. oz. every 15–20 minutes while you are running. Again, this requirement can vary based on your individual needs or the temperature at the time of your run. However, this is a great general rule to set a baseline for how much water to bring along for your run.

If you don’t like carrying a water bottle or wearing a hydration belt, you can plan out a running route with access to water fountains along the way.

3. Post-Run

Post-run hydration is essential to get your fluid levels back to normal and helps prepare you for the next run. The general rule of thumb is to drink 16–24 fl. oz. of water for every pound lost during your run. 

Final Thoughts

Everyone — and every run — is different. Some days it’s hot and humid, and you’ll likely want to increase your fluid consumption. Other days you may only be running for 20 minutes, in which case you might not even need to bring water on the run. The more you experiment with different hydration techniques, the more in-tune you’ll be with your body and its unique hydration needs. 

Get The Most Out of Your Runs!

Whether you’re an elite runner or weekend warrior, rest days are equally important. In our years as a physical therapy clinic in Bethesda, we’ve taught our patients that the rest days are a crucial component of any good running program.

Resting is necessary to recover appropriately, avoid burnout, and develop as a runner. On days off, your body repairs and rebuilds broken-down muscle tissue from strenuous runs and training sessions. Without proper rest, you may end up needing a physical therapist in Chevy Chase or Bethesda.

Here are three simple things you can do to optimize your days off.

Catch Up On Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, your muscles relax, and hormones that promote tissue recovery are produced. 

Without sufficient sleep, your muscles might remain tense and sore, which can even lead to chronic pain. On your days off, try getting to bed an hour earlier to catch up on this vital muscle recovery component.

Perform Light Movement

One of the most important things you can do on a rest day is perform a relaxing home exercise routine to address any inflammation or muscle tightness. Examples include light mobility work, yoga, or whatever else you may enjoy. This will help reduce muscle soreness and improve your range of motion. They’ll help your legs feel fresh and get you ready to run hard the following day.

Fuel Your Body

Another important aspect of rest and recovery is nutrition and hydration. Just because you aren’t running on a rest day doesn’t mean you should deviate from your normal nutrition strategy.

On rest days, it’s essential to fuel your body with foods that support muscle recovery and growth. This means prioritizing protein-rich foods, complex carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Focus on healthy, nutrient-dense foods to help improve muscle recovery. 

Final Thoughts

Just as your training runs are vital to your running performance, so are your rest days. Without taking the proper time to rest and recover, you’re putting your body at greater risk for injury or burnout. These three simple techniques can help optimize your rest day and improve your recovery. If you want a customized approach to optimizing your rest days, our sports physical therapy clinic in Chevy Chase can help!

Why the rates of athletic injuries are on the rise

With the weather warming up, COVID-19 cases decreasing, and spring sports starting up again, many young athletes are looking forward to making their return to sport. While excitement is high to get back out there and compete, it is important to prepare your body correctly to avoid injuries and stay healthy. Proper performance training in the Bethesda and Chevy Chase area can be the difference between a dream season and being forced to watch from the sideline!

After a long layoff from sport, the inherent risk of sustaining an injury is high, as one’s body is not used to performing sport-specific athletic activities. That’s why it is important to take some time before the season starts to get your mind and body ready for healthy peak performance.

Studies show that strength and conditioning training in athletes reduces sports injuries by 33% and overuse injuries by nearly 50%. So, it is important to get started with some simple, comfortable exercises in order to get back into playing shape and stay healthy.

A great way to start preseason training is with individual sport-specific drills with an emphasis on conditioning. From here, the athlete can progress into sport-specific drills with a partner or opponent. Then, go ahead and ramp up the activity into team drills, scrimmaging, and finally, game play. You see this progression in professional and collegiate sports, as activity is gradually increased as the body is able to adapt to the increased culminating stress.

The best way to get a sport-specific program that meets the needs of an individual athlete is to see a professional who can create a program based on his/her unique strengths and weaknesses. So, if you’re looking for optimized programs after a long offseason or injury, look into performance training in Bethesda or Chevy Chase and get that dream season off to the right start!

Cheers to a great new season and be sure to have some fun!

An Essential Part of Athletic Physical Therapy: Strength Training for Runners

Many of the runners that we work with at CHP supplement their running with strength training. Strength training is a large component of athletic physical therapy and provides a host of benefits including, but not limited to; reduced injury risk, increased muscular endurance, and faster running times. Research shows that regular strength training improves a runner’s speed and VO2 max. VO2 max is a measure of the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can use during exercise.

However, there is one important caveat to all of these great benefits. A runner’s strength training program must be designed and executed appropriately, and according to the runner’s goals and individual characteristics.

Luckily, most runners have similar goals. They wish to run faster and/or farther, and avoid injury.

Strength training programs for runners should consist of exercises that improve qualities specific to running.

When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.

Therefore, we commonly advocate for runners to include more single leg exercises into their training.

These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aazACzyUR-Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK05iugeIDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjDtPek261c

Furthermore, runners should not neglect upper body training. Arm drive is an essential component of running and helps to drive leg action. An effective runner cannot have one without the other!

A thoughtful and more scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners, may be all that is needed to drastically improve your running performance.