This is a small spin off my last blog post “Why Your Normal Exercise Routine Shouldn’t Be Normal”. Before reading this, head on over and check that out. I’m sure you’ll find some information there that will be intriguing.
You decide to start working out regularly. There comes a time when you are feeling great and are progressing in your workout routine, until one day you develop knee pain, back pain or even some hip pain. You rest, it feels better, and you decide to return to your normal routine only to have the pain return a month later. I’m sure at that point you said to yourself, “Why won’t this ache or pain just go away? Why does this keep happening to me?”. I’ve been there and I’m sure many of you have too.
Our bodies are strong. This is something we typically forget when we’re in pain. We are adaptable, capable and most important resilient. A lot of the time, discomfort is just a warning sign. It’s a warning sign that you need to change something! Have you ever felt pain with one repetition of an exercise but not the next? More than likely, it’s because you performed that repetition just a little bit differently and your body was more accepting of the movement.
All too often, we develop an exercise niche that puts us at risk for injury and performance plateaus. If your regular routine has started causing discomfort, did you ever think to try something different or new? For example, if you continue to have back pain and you stretch every day, have you ever tried not stretching and strengthening instead? It is important for our bodies to become capable and adaptable to different activities.
Just before I started writing this post, I had a patient say to me that one of the most important things he has learned since working with me is “creating variability in your routine and being pushed outside of your norms is important to being a better athlete”. This is an individual who, on initial evaluation was experiencing knee and ankle pain while playing soccer and weightlifting several days per week. He also said, “I learned, even though I was doing things that weren’t necessarily wrong, I should be doing different things to help my body.” He is now working on improving performance and decreasing his risk for future injury!
To help my clients improve their abilities, I like to introduce the idea of a pyramid of performance. What is it? It is a system to help expand our bodies movement patterns, try new things, improve techniques and skill set. It’s a highway system that has many ways to get to a similar place. It is the farthest thing away from creating perfection and instead, is a method to decrease narrow mindsets and improve our bodies overall well-being.
There are many different depictions of the pyramid of performance. In my opinion, it can be adapted for all people and not just athletes. If your goal is to be able to perform housework without pain, we can make a pyramid to get you there. It will obviously look different than the pyramid for an elite soccer player who has been suffering from recurring groin injuries, but your pyramid should be founded upon what your goals are!
The variability and introduction of movements at lower loads, intensity and volume create a large and stable base that can be expanded upon as the pyramid grows. For example, I may have someone squat in 20 different ways without any weight to help improve their movement base. Sometimes, I even have people show me all the variable ways they can get from the floor, step up on a step, or get out of a chair. Remember, a large base is the foundation to a sturdy pyramid!
Creating a broad base to build upon means trying new things. Try these activities in a slow and controlled manner. For example, if you’ve never squatted, don’t do jump squats or weighted squats right out of the gate! If you’ve heard a movement is bad for you based on online research, don’t always listen. Try that movement, if it doesn’t hurt, why not add it to your foundation. The more diverse base you have, the taller your pyramid can grow.
Trying different things or doing things differently is the key to success and building or re-building a solid foundation! Just remember, pain doesn’t always mean tissue damage, and sometimes it’s just warning you that you need a change. Stay tuned for more information regarding the pyramid of performance and how to improve your performance!