The most exciting moments in sports often occur in the closing minutes. Why? Well, for starters, that’s when the outcome is determined. But also, it’s because most sports have an endurance factor that requires both mental and physical strength over several hours. We expect athletes to be healthy and strong at the beginning of an event, but how they perform at the end usually tells us who is the most prepared, who is in the best shape, and ultimately who wants to win the most. Watching athletes dig deep while doing something spectacular in the final minutes as the competition fades is exciting! Of course it matters how you perform the whole way through, but what really has the greatest impact is how you finish. How do you perform when your body starts protesting in ‘fatigue’? In a football game, for example, you are more likely to see a decline in performance and an increase in injuries resulting from poor form in the 4th quarter. We call these ‘4th quarter mechanics.
As endurance athletes, we can all relate. A good example is an athlete in a marathon. We can divide these athletes into three sections:
Front pack, mid pack, back of pack.
In the Front pack, we will see our elite athletes who will encounter fatigue at some point but will be better prepared and will hold their form so as to limit disruption to run efficiency. In our mid pack, we will have a mild drop in efficiency as fatigue sets in. This may be noted in a mildly slower cadence, mild valgus knee position, reduced heel drive and slower pace. We then watch the back of the pack - those whose fatigue has overcome their musculoskeletal system, and their race has become a fight to the end. We note slow cadence, poor form, short stride, increased risk for injury, slow pace and often reduced to a walk at times.
It is undeniable that there will be times that extenuating circumstances lead to poor performance: extreme heat, adverse weather conditions, poor health leading into an event, increased stress leading into an event, pre-existing injury, etc. However, there are definite cues and strategies that you can incorporate into your training to prepare for these situations.
At MVPT we specialize in education and performance. These two subjects go hand-in-hand in that if you are better informed about your body, your biomechanics, and your form, you are more likely to have a better body, better biomechanics, better form and subsequently improved performance. Nobody is perfect, and we all have ‘holes’ in our armor. It is how we manage those ‘holes’ that impact our performance. Fatigue exposes these ‘holes’ - often in spectacular fashion for all to see. We can give you the tools and ability to hold form through into your ‘4th quarter mechanics’.
I am going to use a personal example. I first visited Ron Gallagher earlier this year after racing Ironman Canada. Leading up to this I had had an overwhelming race and training schedule, for which I had adopted an arrogant bull-headed approach of muscling through. I had developed foot pain only during running but it was severe enough to reduce me to a limp. Ron took me through a full ‘table’ and ‘gait’ assessment and we identified weaknesses in my hips that were putting an uneven and high force through my foot every step I took. He gave me a couple running cues and some exercises to work on, which I did, and to my delight, I ran 6 miles pain free the next day.
Fast forward to this past weekend. I was racing in the Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii. This races boasts some of the toughest conditions from weather, to terrain, to the sheer difficulty level overall. In triathlon I would consider the run portion as the key to monitor your ‘4th quarter mechanics’. I set out onto the run course nice and steady; this run has a ton of steep climbing and requires patience in the early stages. About 2miles in I could feel my legs falling into their fatigued ‘flop’ and knew that if I didn’t correct it that foot pain or some other pain might appear. Being mindful and consistent I focused on the simple running cues I needed. Instantly I felt my pace increase, my form more efficient and most of all it felt easier! This is the exact reason we educate and take the time to go over these philosophies: so you can apply them to your sport and feel the benefits in your improved performance. Each time I could feel fatigue offering to overtake, I corrected and held my form to the very last step! I had the 3rd fastest run split in my AG, and best of all, I felt strong to the very end.
How about you? Do you finish strong, or do you fade in the 4th quarter? When you are competing, does your body’s performance match your desire and will, or do you lean on grit and determination to get you to the finish? You’re only as good as your mind allows you to be. This is where the bulletproof part comes in. At MVPT we don’t just take you to what most would consider ‘functional strength’, we specialize and pride ourselves on having the knowledge and experience to bring you to the highest level of performance, and we give you the tools to get there.
As I said, almost all of us have things we can be working on. I am yet to meet an athlete who is content in their performance, ability and strength, and I’m very glad of that! There is always some way, sometimes big sometimes small, that we can improve, develop and progress. This is also not exclusive to sports athletes. However, we do consider everyone to be an athlete, the main difference is our goals. Some athletes are shooting for sub 2:30 marathon; some athletes are striving to complete their normal daily tasks without pain. Either way, come and see us for a full evaluation, whether you are injured or not, so we can help you find your bulletproof 4th quarter mechanics. Go to maxvelocityPT.com to "request an appointment" or call 702-278-3671 to make an appointment!