Preparing for the Open

During the CrossFit Open, you need to be prepared for anything. Whether you’re scaling or going Rx, you will be challenged both physically and mentally.


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Preparing for the CrossFit Open

Preparing for the CrossFit Open​

The 2019 CrossFit Open registration has been released. Are you competing this year? Is this your first time or are you a seasoned Vet? To succeed at whatever level, it’s important to know what you’re up against and how to prepare.

What is the CrossFit Open?

The Open is the first Qualifying stage to make it to the CrossFit Games. It’s an opportunity for participants of all skill levels to pit their wits. Lasting 5 weeks, with a new workout each week, announced midday Friday (NZT). Athletes have until Tuesday at noon to complete the workout and register their score.

The format of qualifying for the Open has changed this year.

The Games are broken down into these stages:

The Open – Initial 5-week stage of competition, anyone can compete. The top 20 athletes qualify for the games.

Sanctioned events – 3-day invitational competition for the top athletes. The winners move on to The Games.

The Games – 4-day competition consisting of 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams. The Winner of each is earns the title, Fittest on Earth.

A large emphasis from the CrossFit brand is the community feel within each gym. The Open encompasses this on a global scale, as everyone can participate in the Open. It allows you to push a little harder, work on weakness’ and compare yourself against others.

What to expect from Open workouts

During a regular week of training it’s typical to expect the core foundational movements of CrossFit and WOD’s (Workout Of the Day) that you’re familiar with. The Open provides level of suspense in the wait for its announcement on the day. While keeping the foundational skills of CrossFit they always throw in unexpected movements to throw you off guard.

Sometimes they will repeat a workout from a previous Open, or use a new piece of equipment. In 2017 was the introduction of dumbbells to the WOD’s, which threw a lot of athletes off guard. 

How many times can I do an Open workout?

You have 4 days from Friday midday to Tuesday Noon to attempt the workout as many times as you want. This also depends on your gyms Open policy, as some only offer certain time periods.

Realistically though, you’re likely to attempt it only twice, sometimes three times depending on the workout. You’ll need time to recover from the first attempt by at least 1-2 days.

While it’s important to get the best result you can do. It’s also important to spend time at the gym to offer your mates moral support and help out as judges.

Prepare a workout strategy

If you’re doing this for the first time or just started training in CrossFit speak with your coach about a plan. Coaches will know your abilities and be able to offer you a realistic strategy to get the best result. The main thing for first timers, is to enjoy the experience.

For the more experienced athlete, you have trained long enough to know your limitations, your burn outs, you understand pace setting and max lifts. From this knowledge, whatever workout is announced you should be able to form an air tight strategy to get the best out of your ability.

Think about things like:

  • Where do I exert the most energy
  • How many reps before breaking
  • How to transition between equipment the fastest
  • What pace should I keep to maintain the best time
  • How long to take for a breather

Note: Once you’ve formed a plan let your judge know so they understand. You may also want to write it down to remain strict as you start to fatigue.

Being mentally and physically prepared

Preparing before the Open with only a few weeks to go, it’s unlikely you will learn new skills. Try to focus on the current ones you’re capable of and become more efficient at them. If you plan to do extra training, make sure you’re not over training. Try to focus the extra work on cardio, skill-based training or mobility.

The Open is equal if not more challenging to your mental capacity. This often is what sets two athletes apart. The ability to silence the voice inside that is telling you to stop. Strategies higher reps in your workouts leading up to Open before breaking. Also use visualisation techniques to be prepared in both mind and body.

Embrace the embarrassment or work on your weakness’

In CrossFit they call them goats. The movements you least enjoy and likely the ones your avoiding the most. The Open has the ability of exposing your weakness’. So rather than being exposed put in a little extra time after training to work on that skill. Whether it’s a double under you keep snagging or Olympic lift you’re struggling to catch. Getting better at these will improve your overall placement.

The Open does a good job at showing where your weak links are. Accept it and move on. The silver lining is that it provides you with an understanding of what needs more work for the new year.

Whether it’s your first or tenth time, embrace the experience. Put in a good effort have fun and support the other athletes.

How can Physio help

As mentioned the Open challenges you in so many ways and knowing where you’re failing already provides a tonne of information about which body part could be at fault and how to direct your treatment plan. If you find yourself struggling with an injury leading up to the Open or throughout the competition have a look online.

Throughout the Open as each workout is announced I will be uploading videos of mobility drills to help prepare you for the whats to come. Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram. 

Copyright 2017 © All rights Reserved.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Whether your running, rowing cycling or lifting. Repeated knee flexion may irritate structures on the outer knee. It is important to get on top of this condition to stop it hindering your training.

Setbacks are the perfect opportunity to grow

Iliotibial band syndrome is most commonly experienced with runners. But also in all sports that require repetitive knee flexion under high load. Early signs and symptoms often go unnoticed (or ignored) until it’s blown up into a fully-fledged injury.

What is the Iliotibial Band?

Iliotibial band

The Iliotibial Band (ITB) is a thick fibrous band of strong connective tissue running down the lateral side of the thigh. Its attachment points at the hip are from the Glutes at the back and Tensor Fascia Latae at the front. The bottom connection feeds into the outer border of the knee and patella. It’s at this attachment point that pain and inflammation develops and would be classed as Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

The role of the ITB is to provide the knee with stability and to abduct the hip outwards. When we walk, run or squat it’s working hard to keep the knee in the correct position and force is distributed evenly.

What are the symptoms of ITBS?

Problems arise when the lower limb moves in abnormal directions repeatedly, causing the band to flick over bony structures of the knee, leading to irritation. It may also get tighter than normal through shortening or over activity of the Glutes and Tensor Fascia Latae. This results in the ITB becoming a tighter band pulling more at its attachment and compressing other tissue around it.

ITBS usually is a sharp pain or burning sensation in the lateral knee. Generally, felt during exercise when the knee flexes repeatedly through mid-range. This range of 30-40 degrees is when pressure of the ITB against the bone is at its highest. If this movement is repeated enough, it causes friction and irritates the tissue.

What causes ITBS?

There are a number of factors that can cause a stir up of ITBS. Physically there could be a muscle imbalance, with tightness or weakness around the pelvis, hip or knee, reduced balance, and reduced ground reaction time. Mechanically, often due to the physical limitations that cause incorrect movement patterns, poor weight transferring and distribution of load.

On top of this are issues with training error. How quickly a programme is progressed, especially if it involves load or speed. From running to weight lifting, training loads need to be gradually increased to reduce the risk of injury.

Management of ITBS

Initially you may be restricted from doing the activity that caused your pain while your body recovers. An assessment will help you identify what factors are triggering your ITBS. Treatment will be multifaceted providing advice for tissue loading, gait retraining and specific muscle strengthening and stretches. Additionally, soft tissue manipulation, strapping and dry needling.

With the improved running form, increased strength and flexibility you will gradually be introduced back into the activity. This will make you overall better at your sport and reduce the risk of this problem returning.

Evidence shows that ITBS responds well to conservative management with a success rate as high as 92%.

If you’re struggling with recovering on your own contact me on 09 5290990

Lunge Hip Mobility

The 2nd part of hip mobility focuses on your lunge shape. Having full access to hip extension will improve your running, throwing and kicking abilities.

This is the second part of the hip series. These hip shapes are positions that we should all be striving for to have confidence and feel safe to function if exposed to complex positions. 

Following on from the blog hip opener for the hinge shape is our next hip position we should try to achieve. The lunge shape is full extension and internal rotation of the hip with the knee positioned behind the hip and foot pointing forwards. This shape is most seen in lifters doing split jerks, kicking a football, ball throwing. But most commonly seeing this lack of range with runners, not utilising the full hip extension in the push off at the end of stance phase.

Over the years adaptive changes happen either through injury or more with positions we adhere to. The most common being sitting, which results in anterior structures of the hip becoming limited. Lacking the end range of this movement could mean we’re selling our self short of momentum, power or endurance.

Running-lunge

Using the picture of long distance runner Mo Farah, he demonstrates a great lunge shape at the hip. While maintaining a neutral spine he manages to reach full hip extension and toes are pointed forwards, maintaining the internal rotation of the hip. Lacking hip extension can compromise running form of the upper limb and spine. But as you can see he reaches a good press shape of the opposite shoulder in the arm swing making his running style extremely efficient and balanced.

Below are a series of stretches and mobility exercises to help improve your lunge shape.

Couch stretch

If hip flexors are tight this is one of the best stretches for improving length back. A long sustained hold of this stretch with full diaphragmatic breathing over 2 minutes is extremely effective.

Illiopsoas Trigger Point Release

This muscle sits within the abdominal cavity and if tight it will feel sore with pressure through the abdominal wall towards the muscle. At first the pain can be quite high but relaxing into the pressure overtime the pain subsides and will feel looser once released. Aim for 1-2 minutes hold.

Hip flexor stretch (with band)

Another hip flexor stretch with a joint mobilisation using a band. Position the knee behind the hip. Allow the band to pull the hip forwards, contract the glutes to get the best anterior hip stretch.

Quads and inner thigh release with LaX ball

A lacrosse ball is a great tool for isolating sections of tight muscle. Rolling on the ball like you would a foam roller will be more effective, if tolerated. Then opening up inner thigh/hip adductors using the kettle bell handle. The knee flexion/extension stretches the muscle through range while being tacked down.

Suspended split stretch

This is for the more adventurous. It will help your lunge go deeper while increase stretch through the hamstrings. Throughout this movement, it is important to keep the glutes switched on to avoid hanging of the hip capsules. Spend around a minute each direction.

Continue reading “Lunge Hip Mobility”

What’s in a warm up?

There’s a misconception with the warm up, that it’s mainly used to raise the heart rate and body temperature. But there’s much more to this part of your workout. If applied appropriately it can enhance your overall performance.

Warming up before sport or any strenuous activity it’s important to reduce the risk of injury (1-3). For the typical adult most of the day is sedentary (sitting or standing). Would you expect to jump straight into your fastest 100m sprint or complete a heavy dead lift? No is hopefully your answer.

What structures am I warming up?

Vascular System

When you move, changes happen to your circulatory system. There is increased blood flow to muscles, resulting in increased oxygen supply, along with delayed lactate buildup. 

Myofascial System

During the warm up the muscle and fascia (the connective tissue between muscles) begin to increase in temperature. Muscle fibers are prepped for a smoother contraction. A warm up allows fascia to slide easier.

Nervous System

This is the most important part of a warm up. Your nervous system is connected to every other system in your body. A warm up causes increased neural activity, increased sensitivity of nerve receptors and increased speed of nerve impulses. This provides improved balance, faster reaction times, increased speed, strength and flexibility. 


Warming Up Excites Neural Pathways

The nervous system is constantly responding to a multitude of sensory information to adjust muscle tension, movement patterns and balance. If a light jog was your standard “warm up”, but you’re training for heavy dead lifts. Will you have channeled the right neural pathways for this activity?

There’s a study showing improvements in vertical jump performance following sets of squat repetitions (4). It also demonstrated increased EMG neural activity following the squats.

A baseball study showed improvements in batting speed following warm ups with a weighted bat (5). This enhanced the neural motor pattern of this movement providing more speed and strength.


What’s in a warm up?

Really a lot depends on what you’re preparing for. Consider what muscle groups and movement patterns need to be primed. You need to be firing up your neuromuscular system and increasing your heart rate to enhance the vascular system.

Mobility – If you’re not doing this in your spare time, then check-in 10 minutes earlier to do foam rolling or some static stretches for those notorious tight areas.

Cardio – The best way of increasing your heart rate is a light jog or cycle, jump on the rower or practice some skipping.

Dynamic movements – This is where our nervous system gets kick started. Working on these movements will fire up movement patterns used when performing. These movements should engage our core stabilisors of the spine.

Plyometrics – Implementing this into your warm up will help fine tune your motor skills and ensure precision when training.

Explosive strength – Once going through the above warm ups. It helps to use extra resistance to improve those neural connections. Back squats before box jumps. Chest passing medicine ball for passing speed. Weighted overhead throw for spiking or serving.

Take the warm up seriously. By incorporating these actions to your warm up you will see great results and minimise injury.

  1. Emery et al, (2010) The effectiveness of a neuromuscular prevention strategy to reduce injuries in youth soccer: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. 
  2. McCrary et al, (2015) A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. 
  3. Al Attar et al, (2016) How Effective are F-MARC Injury Prevention Programs for Soccer Players? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med
  4. Sotiropoulos et al, (2010) Effects of Warm-Up on Vertical Jump Performance and Muscle Electrical Activity Using Half-Squats at Low and Moderate Intensity. J Sports Sci and Med
  5. McCrary et al, (2015) A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. Br J Sports Med

Coping with stress – Part 2

Trying to change the environment and cause of stress can be challenging. But there are some basic strategies to lighten the level of stress you feel.

It’s not the Load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

Right, so we understand the main causes of stress, its impact on bodily functions and affect on pain sensitivity when we have an injury. How do we learn to cope with different types of stress? What can I do to make it easier? A “stress free zone” may be impossible but a “stress reduced zone” is better than nothing.

Recognising stress

You might notice your muscles getting tighter when training in the gym. To prevent a strain of the muscle and relieve the tightness, you would stretch or use a foam roller. The same applies to emotional stress. We all respond differently to stress and it sometimes can be the subtle changes that we need to recognise.

Changes like shallow breathing, palpitations, tense muscles, perspiring. If things like this start to happen it’s important to stop for a moment and consider “is this stress benefiting me or another person?”. Remember, stress is a system to save us or someone else from a life threatening situation.

Question your stress – is the feeling beneficial to me or someone else?

Stress is a great response to have, for example if someone was chasing after you with a knife or you needed to save someone from being run over. Consider the stress felt if you’re receiving more emails than normal, having relationship difficulties or have demanding kids. Is this stress response beneficial to anyone?

Managing stress

Look at the following strategies, some may be easier said than done but if it helps alleviate a small amount of stress it’s a start:

  • Take charge of the situation, make changes where possible, including the way you react to it
  • Tune out negative thoughts, adapt to more moderate/positive views
  • Step back from the situation to gain perspective
  • Take regular breaks – diffuse your brain from constant activity
  • Set realistic Goals
  • Keep hydrated, healthy eating and sleeping
  • Find a healthy outsource to down regulate, exercise, deep breathing, meditation

Strategies for dealing with stress

Lung iconBreathing

Focusing on something as simple as breathing is a way to off load demand on our nervous system. Allowing full expansion of the lungs changes the flow of blood through the body and the stretch response on the lung tissue decreases the sympathetic nervous system allowing stress factors to be relieved (1).

Sitting down, place a towel around the ribs and hold it tight at the front. Breath down to the lower ribs to get them to expand. Take in a slow but normal deep breath and exhale at the same speed.

Slsleep-icon-29.jpgeeping

We’ve heard 8 hours of sleep is good for us. How many of you stick to that practice? Sleep deprivation impacts our hormones that regulate stress levels (2) and can have many other health implications (i.e. diabetes, obesity).

Structure your sleep, be consistent with when you go to bed, try not to eat 2 hours before hand, avoid staring at a screen 1 hour before.

*There should be no guilt with napping. Your body clock (circadian clock), follows a rhythm through the day and twice our body temperature drops slightly to prepare us for sleep. Once in the evening and 8-10 hours after we wake up (mid-day slump). Our busy lives during a working week restrict us from napping. But at weekends a siesta can be of benefit (3,4).

Circle-icons-water.svgHydration

Cortisol is a stress regulating hormone in the body and has been found to increase when poorly hydrated (5). Trying to maintain 2 liters of water a day, obviously more if you have been training.

exercise-icon-19Meditation

Giving your self time to step back from your busy life and switch off can be hard. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels (6). Meditation can come in a number of forms; from formal classes, youtube videos, even to walking or running in the park. The idea remains the same, to switch off your overactive brain.

 exercise-icon-19 (1)Exercise

Exercise comes in all types and it’s been well published to help not only with physical but also mental health (7). Find a way of fitting in some exercise each day whether it be high intensity, a team sport or just getting out for a run.

Many of the suggested strategies are essential to our own existence. But how often do we think about full diaphragmatic breathing, prioritising sleep and hydration? These are suggestions to reduce stress levels, the causes of stress will continue to be demanding if not changed.

  1. Eckberg, D. L. (2003). The human respiratory gate. The J of Physiology
  2. Spiegel (1999) Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet
  3. Murphy (1997) Night time drop in body temperature: a physiological trigger for sleep onset? Sleep J
  4. Monk et al, (1996) Circadian determinants of the post-lunch dip in performance. Chronobiol Int
  5. Maresh Et al (2006) Effect of hydration state on testosterone and cortisol responses to training-intensity exercise in collegiate runners. Int J Sports Med
  6. Schmidtman et al, (2006) Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders The J Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
  7. Anderson et al, (2013) Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety Front Psychiatry

Improving front rack position

Improving the front rack position can help us in so many movements. This page shows a number of stretches that will improve shoulder mobility. and help prevent injury.

This is the second part of the shoulder, expanding on a previous post about 4 important shoulder positions that we should all be aiming to achieve. It’s quite important that you can find these positions comfortably, especially under load, as it will help to limit the risk of injury but also make it easier for you to transition out of it.

So, we’re all now great with our over head position. Can you now transition back down to a front rack? à la thrusters, hand stand push ups or catching the wall ball into the squat. Front rack is the most complexed out of the 4 positions as there are so many structures feeding into that position.

With Front rack most of us struggle with finding that shoulder external rotation to get the hands outside of the shoulders while keeping the elbows high. This helps line the hands into a stable platform for the bar.

The forearms are often tight making it hard for the wrists to fully extend. How many of us get achy wrists after front squats? Create that stable platform with good wrist extension.

Our triceps can also restrict the elbow from going into full flexion. And finally good Thoracic mobility as mentioned in the over head position. It will impact achieving extension and getting the maximum lift through the elbows.

Below are a series of mobility exercises to improve that Front Rack position.


Stick external rotation stretch – Grab a stick, hold it outside the arm. Lift your elbow and pull the stick from underneath your arm, across the body. This will pull your hand out further and you will feel the shoulder wind up. Hold for 1 minute. To take this further by repeating a hold-relax method, pulling the stick inwards for 5 seconds then relaxing further into external rotation .

Banded External rotation – Put the elbow into the band, take the hand on the inside of the band and hold on. Keep the elbow close to your head and drive the arm pit forwards. Hold the stretch for 2 minutes.

Wrist Flexor stretch – Kneeling on the floor, with palms facing away, put your hands down on the floor and take the wrists into extension, moving your body backwards. Hold for 2 minutes. Next get the band and place the hand in the same position. Have the band pull away while doing small oscillating wrist extensions into the stretch. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

Triceps smash – Excuse the facial expressions in this video, I don’t always look that way! Resting the tricep on the bar while flexing and extending the elbow. Start at the triceps tendon (above the elbow) repeat 10-12 reps then move higher up the muscle. To increase the pain….I mean load, use the band to get fascia tacked down to the bar.

Thoracic Mobility as mentioned above it’s important to extend at the Thoracic below are two basics.

Improving overhead position

Often we are restricted with overhead movements as it is an action we don’t use often enough. Try these exercises to increase movement if your tight reaching above your head.

So from the last blog we’ve learnt there are 4 positions of high torque when we wind up the shoulder capsule and surrounding muscles. By utilising these positions they will produce better pathways to move from and minimise the risk of injury.

We’ll start off with the over head positions. In every day life we don’t take our hands above our shoulders often enough. It’s understandable the shoulder will feel tight in these positions. But with a little regular mobilising we should be able to feel more comfortable holding our arms up there.

In the shoulder we have big internal rotators and some small external rotators which can cause a bit of an imbalance. Both internal and external rotation needs to be stretched to achieve full over head movement.

The other thing restricting our overhead movements is thoracic mobility. Another area that often gets stiff with a sedentary life. Additional extension at the Thoracic region without hyper extending at the lower back will give us better shoulder flexion.

Below are some basic mobility drills to improve Thoracic extension.

Foam Roller – Slowly moving over the foam roller, trying to extend over the top, keeping steady breathing throughout. Try to keep the neck in a stable position avoiding hyper-extending, also avoid rolling into the Lumbar spine.  Try this for up to 2 minutes. Once you find some stiffness, stay on that point and lift your arms straight above your head. 1 minute.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BT2yyupFzCP/?taken-by=fundamentalphysio

T spine extension – Kneeling, put both elbows up on the step/box. Drop the chest down to the ground. Feeling a stretch at the Thoracic spine and lats. Hold the stretch for 2 minutes. Try to stay strong at the lumbar spine avoiding extending.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BT2zxQgFaYu/?taken-by=fundamentalphysio

Below are just some stretches you can do to access both the internal and external rotation restrictions at the shoulder.

Pec major stretch – Using a resistance band, taking up the slack with the hand behind, turn your body away, producing a large stretch in the chest. Hold for 2 minutes.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BT20WulFJyD/?taken-by=fundamentalphysio

Under arm stretch – Attach a light resistance band to the opposite frame. Hold the other end with your hand behind the neck, pull into the opposite rack and drive the armpit into the poll. You’ll get a good triceps and lats stretch. 2 minutes.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BT20x4YFGYp/?taken-by=fundamentalphysio

Infraspinatus LaX ball smash – Direct the ball into the shoulder blade. With the pressure, take the hand across the body and over head. 1 minute each direction.