How to Maintain Your Movement When Taking Time Off

Much of what your body requires to perform at a high level in your sport is the same that it requires to perform healthfully and happily in daily life. This includes things like sleep, hydration, good nutrition, tissue quality, cardiovascular conditioning, joint mobility, joint stability, strength and coordination.

Sports performance, at times, simply requires a bit more of these things—as well as the ability to express them in specific movement patterns relative to the sport.  

When taking time away from your sport it is important to implement a few basic lifelong strategies for daily living. This helps you maintain a great base to build on when you are able and inspired to return.

Maintain Your Raw Materials

The following are a number of elements related to healthy performance in life and sport. Think of them as your "raw materials." They are listed in a general order of priority, however, committing to any one, or as many as you can is always better than doing nothing.

  1. Sleep
  2. Hydration
  3. Nutrition
  4. Good Posture
  5. Movement: Mobility and Stability
  6. Conditioning

These action items can help:

  • Get as much sleep as your body requires.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Eat clean, nutrient-dense, minimally processed, small, balanced meals.
  • Make good posture a priority throughout your day.  

Maintain Your Movement

Beyond those basics, you should also be sure to maintain your movement.

Let's say you take a break and give no mind to movement. You sit, walk, sit some more, and lay down throughout your days during your time off. Much like how movement is limited when a brace or a cast is being worn, muscles are apt to weaken and shorten. This can inhibit joint mobility and decrease tissue quality (i.e. tight muscles, knots) among other things. As they say: use it or lose it.

Much of what is required to perform a daily activity such as squatting down to pick a heavy object up off the floor properly is comparable to what's required to perform an efficient cycling pedal stroke or a running stride.  

Squatting down to pick something up the correct way requires the ability to move the hip, knees and ankles through a wide range of motion. It requires abdominal strength and core stability to maintain good posture throughout the movement in order to protect the lower back. It requires leg strength, especially in the ever-important glute muscles.

If you lack core strength and stability and allow the back to flex (round) in an attempt to lift the item with your arms and back instead, you not only increase your risk of injury, you end up strengthening an improper movement pattern that will likely cause more trouble in the long run.

Similarly, in cycling and running, a lack of core strength and stability will minimize your ability to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Also, a lack of joint mobility in one or more of the hip, knee or ankle joints can greatly impact performance by either minimizing power output, increasing risk of injury, or both.  

You should be able to consistently maintain good posture and a neutral spine while the hips, knees and ankles flex and extend simultaneously.

Certainly there are other sport specific elements to cycling and running that set it apart from the basic activity mentioned above, however it is important to recognize the basic similarities, or "raw materials," and make sure you maintain those.  

There are a number of great programs and tools to help you do so. Here are just a few. Choose one that works for you:

Make it your goal to maintain a lifelong level of good nutrition, sleep, hydration, tissue quality, strength, mobility and stability. That way, when you return to sport, though you may lack some strength, cardio conditioning or coordination of a specific movement, you will, at the very least, have a body that is well-fed, well-rested and capable of getting into the position your sport requires. It's a great place to build your next bout of training upon.

Move well!

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Jessi Stensland is an elite endurance athlete and movement specialist. For additional strategies for injury resistance and efficiency in endurance performance visit her websites: www.gojessi.com or www.movementu.com.

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