Keep Injury at Bay: Training Safely and Effectively

March 04, 2015

Training for a race?  Or just getting back in shape from a long hiatus?

If you're like me and are pushing to get back in shape to race, it's pretty important you have a "movement specialist" check you out for any inefficiencies.  What's a movement specialist?  It's a little term I like to use for any therapist that specializes in getting you back to moving effectively.

This could be a certified physical therapist, chiropractor, personal trainer, massage therapist or any combination thereof.  Add to this list a wide array of treatment modalities and you have a little bit of homework to do ; )  So let me take some of the sting out of any potential guesswork and share with you a quick example of what I tried, how it works and why.

I'm kinda lucky that I live in Denver and near Colorado Springs.  With the Olympic training center a short drive away, along with any number of world-class endurance events like the Leadville Trail 100 or the infamous Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, top athletes and trainers are common in this neck of the woods.

Getting Checked-out

I strongly recommend you go to someone that can give you a once-over: check your muscles and joints and see how you're moving and why.  Most of us, not surprisingly, don't just move in the most efficient and safest way all the time.  

Think back to any injuries you may have had or pains you may currently experience.  Chances are these are limiting your ability to move and ultimately train in the most effective way possible.  Anything as simple as lower back pain that keeps you from bending over to neck and shoulder pain that prevents you from lifting heavy weight.  

My sports therapist is Dr. Grove Higgins of Zevolve.  Grove is also part of RIKR Performance, a performance program for the military including joint special forces.  Their performance statistic with these guys are truly amazing, from reduced incidences of injury to increased performance while training and on the field. 

Grove is a licensed chiropractor with years of experience using kettlebells not only for sport and training but also as a rehab tool (check out his video below on shoulder stabilization).  I found him via a referral through the Active Release Techniques network of certified specialists.  


While working with Grove, we've mostly focused on my joint mobility, meaning exactly what it sounds.  He'd study my movement and strength then narrow down the results to specific joints where my body may not be responding optimally or not responding at all, which was my case.

A few years back I tweaked my right knee causing the meniscus not to tear, fortunately, but slip out of track.  The meniscus is the spongy, cartilage tissue that cushions the knee joint.  

Because of this, I compensated a lot of movements by overemphasizing my right side.  Over time, I hardly used my left quad and overdeveloped my right one.  

Once the meniscus was slipped back into place, I had to rub out some scar tissue that developed over time.  Again, limiting my range of motion.  This is where the fun and actual real work began.  


Grove video recorded my movement while walking, running and doing kettlebell snatches.  We played them back in slow motion to see exactly how my body moved and what he could do to further "tune it" for higher efficiency.  

The idea is to train safely and effectively so you're not risking injury when pushing hard but are getting the best return in terms of results for all of that effort.  

I added a little massage therapy in between to loosen up my overly worked right side.  Soon after I could feel a more balanced movement.  What I mean is even while walking, I could sense my left quad "firing-off" (think like cylinders in an engine) more than before.  

In between sets at the gym or on the track, I did some joint mobility tune-ups Grove showed me for my ankles and knees.  These re-engaged the left and even right quad if I began to feel either weaken or "shut down."  Crazy huh?  But it all seems to be working.  

The ultimate test being how my body continues to develop as training evolves and the countdown approaches to our first race (James Short and I) in May 2: the Spartan Sprint at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs.  It's currently being touted as the second toughest course for Spartan Race in the country, second to the one in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Stay tuned!


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