Flexibility Training For Sports And Fitness

To achieve true fitness any exercise programme should include these 3 essential components, namely, strength training, stamina and endurance training and flexibility training. Of these 3 components flexibility training is the most neglected or perhaps completely neglected component. What is flexibility training and what effects does it have on an athlete’s performance?

Whenever we talk about flexibility training, the static stretching exercises that martial artists or gymnasts perform before their actual workouts always come into our minds. But flexibility training does not just refer to those stretching exercises. As we all know, the human body is made up of joints, such as the joints of the neck and spine, the shoulder joints, the elbow joints, the hip joints, the knee joints and the joints of the feet. These joints need to be loose and not tight to enable one to become a more mobile or flexible athlete. Static stretching exercises do loosen up these joints to a certain extent but their main purpose are more on “stretching” the various individual muscle groups, thus making them more “stretchable” and less prone to injury. So from here, we can deduce that flexibility training comes in two forms, namely static stretching exercises and joints loosening up exercises. Some examples of joints loosening up exercises are given below.

Neck Circling Exercise (to loosen up the neck joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your hands on your hips. Now rotate your head in a circular fashion from left to back, then to right and finally to the front. Repeat this for the desired number of repetitions and then do it the other way round, for the same number of repetitions i.e. from right to back, then to left and finally to the front.

Shoulder Circling Exercise (to loosen up the shoulder joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. Now without bending your arms raise them up in front of you, then upwards and then press them as far backwards as possible and finally lower them in front by your sides. Repeat this circular motion of your arms for the desired number of repetitions and then do it the other way round, i.e. first by throwing your straight arms as far to your back as possible, then upwards and finally let them drop in front of you by your sides.

Bending Forward and Backward Exercise (to loosen up the shoulder joints, rib cage and the spine):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. Now without bending your knees, bend forward until your hands touch the floor. From this bent forward position straighten up your upper body while at the same time raising up both your straight arms in front of you and then overhead. When your arms reach the overhead position, bend your upper body and outstretched arms as far to the back as possible. From this bent backwards position, swing both your upper body and outstretched arms back to the front and then down until you are bending forward again with your hands touching the floor. Repeat this bending forward and backward movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Bending Sideways Exercise (to loosen up the shoulder joints, rib cage and the spine):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your straight arms outstretched to your sides. Now without bending your knees or twisting your upper body, bend your upper body with your straight and outstretched arms as far as possible to your left side until your left hand touches your left thigh. Do this movement for the desired number of repetitions and repeat it for the same number of repetitions for your right side.

Trunk Twisting Exercise (to loosen up the neck joints, shoulder joints, rib cage and the spine):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. Now without bending your knees and your feet firmly planted on the ground, twist your upper body as far to your left as possible. Note that both your arms are flung out horizontally to your left while you are twisting to your left. From this left twisted position twist your upper body now as far as possible to your right – both your arms are also horizontally flung out to your right while you are doing this. Repeat this left and right twisting exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

Trunk Twisting And Rotating Exercise (to loosen up the neck joints, shoulder joints, rib cage and the spine):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. With your feet firmly planted on the ground, bend forward with your arms hanging down loosely. From this position, gently swing your upper body and arms circularly first to your left, then as far to your back as possible, then to your right and finally back to your front. Repeat this circular rotating trunk exercise for the desired number of repetitions and then reverse the movement for the same number of repetitions.

Hip Rotating Exercise (to loosen up the pelvic joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your hands resting on your hips. Now rotate your hips first to your left, then to your front, then to your right, then to your back and finally back to your left. Repeat this circular rotating hip exercise for the desired number of repetitions and then reverse the movement for the same number of repetitions.

Front Leg Raise (to loosen up the pelvic joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. With your knees straight simply lift up your left leg in front as high up as possible as though you are doing a front kick. Repeat this for the desired number of repetitions and then switch legs.

Side Leg Raise (to loosen up the pelvic joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. With your knees straight simply lift up your left leg as high up as possible to your left as though you are doing a left side kick. Repeat this for the desired number of repetitions and then switch legs.

Back Leg Raise (to loosen up the pelvic joints):

Stand erect with your feet about a shoulder’s width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides. With your knees straight simply lift up your left leg as high up as possible to your back as though you are doing a back kick. Repeat this for the desired number of repetitions and then switch legs.

Some examples of static stretching exercises which are very popular among gymnasts and martial artists are given below:

Side Split Stretch

With your feet about 3 shoulder’s width apart, slowly bend forward until both your palms are resting on the floor. From this position slowly lower down your upper body until your buttocks come into contact with the floor. Note that while you are lowering down your upper body, both your outstretched legs will be forced to split further and further to the sides – hence the name “side split”.

Side Split Side Bend Stretch

This stretching exercise is a continuation from the side split stretch. After you have achieved a side split, simply bend your upper body sideways to your left until your face touches your left thigh. Be sure to repeat this bending sideways movement on your right side also.

Side Split Front Bend Stretch

This stretching exercise is also a continuation from the side split stretch. After you have achieved a side split, simply bend your upper body forward until your face touches the floor. Both your arms should be outstretched and resting flat on the floor.

Front Split Stretch

With one foot forward and the other backward (about 2 shoulder’s width apart), slowly lower your upper body until your buttocks come into contact with the floor. You can use both your hands to assist you while you are doing this by placing both your palms on the floor. Note that while you are lowering down your upper body, both your feet will be forced to split further and further apart from each other, one to the back and the other to the front – hence the name “front split”. Be sure to alternate the position of the feet when doing this stretching exercise.

Front Split Bend Forward Stretch

This stretching exercise is a continuation from the front split stretch. After you have achieved a front split, simply bend your upper body forward until your face touches your front thigh.

Bend One Leg And Stretch The Other

Begin by squatting down until your buttocks almost touch the floor. From this full squat position, stretch out your right leg to your right and straighten it while your left leg remains bent. Be sure to do this stretching exercise in the reverse direction also – by alternating the stretched out leg and the bent leg.

Apart from the static stretching exercises as described above, Yoga is also a very good programme for flexibility training. There are dozens of yoga stretches and poses and it would be impossible to describe all of them here.

How Do A Cycling Coach and Athlete Work Together?

If you’re not a pro-athlete, you might not know much about how a cycling coach works with their protégé. One of the common misunderstandings of cycling coaches is that they only work with professional cyclists and triathletes. In reality even many amateur cyclists and triathletes work with a coach. Anyone who wants to improve their performance in the cycling sport can benefit from it.

Cycling coaches can work with their trainees both directly and via distance.

If they choose to work face-to-face then they can actually train together on cycle ergometer or new inventions like the cilomulino which originated in Italy.

If the relationship is based on distance training, the Internet has allowed cycling coaching to communicate thru email and the web. For example devising training and nutrition programs and monitoring progress. Having a relationship primarily through the Internet can be successful if approached properly.

Here are some ways to improve your relationship with your cycling coach and guarantee you get the most out of the partnership.

Set your goals

To be successful in any phase of life, we must have goals and cycling is no exception. You and your coach should identify these goals and make certain they are detailed and achievable. You don’t want to have a goal like “win races this year,” but somewhat categorize which particular races you want to succeed, what time you want to achieve and why.

Raise and ask issues

If you don’t know why you are doing a specific training, don’t hesitate to ask your coach to give explanation. As an athlete, it’s essential that you know why you are undertaking certain drills and how they may contribute to your goals. Many workouts have a specific physiological factor that relates to a race condition or prepares you for a particular type of event. There is nothing better for a cycling coach to hear than for an athlete saying that they had won a race because a particular situation in the race reminded them of the consistent training they have done.

Temper and anxiety levels affect your training. Many athletes and all amateurs also have full-time jobs and have family obligations. It’s normal to be stressed, and this stress level can impact your training and racing. A coach, devising a program or getting an athlete prepared for a huge race, needs to take these situations into account. You should keep your coach updated on almost everything that is going on with your life. You don’t have to give the full details, but it’s a good idea to keep them abreast of your disposition and anxiety levels. This will help your coach create a program that is flexible enough to put up with the unavoidable life issues that emerge for most people over time.

Recovery

Improvement and recovery from races and training might be the one most important part of your cycling program. How you recover from rigid training days and racing will conclude how your program is expanded over time. It is also important to know which activities are most suitable to be included in your recovery program Be positive to relate this important information to your cycling coach.

It goes both ways. A cycling coach truly learns about improving their coaching skills from the athletes. The best source of a coaches knowledge is from their athletes, so good communication is vital. A good coach will be open to learning from their athletes and will have something to offer in return. Your coach should have an objective view of you and your training, helping you become the best athlete you can be. Ride safe, ride strong!

Sport and the Russian Revolution

“People will divide into “parties” over the question of a new gigantic canal, or the distribution of oases in the Sahara (such a question will exist too), over the regulation of the weather and the climate, over a new theatre, over chemical hypotheses, over two competing tendencies in music, and over a best system of sports.”
– Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution

At the start of the twentieth century sport had not flourished in Russia to the same extent as in countries such as Britain. The majority of the Russian population were peasants, spending hours each day on back-breaking agricultural labour. Leisure time was difficult to come by and even then people were often exhausted from their work. Of course people did still play, taking part in such traditional games as lapta (similar to baseball) and gorodki (a bowling game). A smattering of sports clubs existed in the larger cities but they remained the preserve of the richer members of society. Ice hockey was beginning to grow in popularity, and the upper echelons of society were fond of fencing and rowing, using expensive equipment most people would never have been able to afford.

In 1917 the Russian Revolution turned the world upside down, inspiring millions of people with its vision of a society built on solidarity and the fulfilment of human need. In the process it unleashed an explosion of creativity in art, music, poetry and literature. It touched every area of people’s lives, including the games they played. Sport, however, was far from being a priority. The Bolsheviks, who had led the revolution, were confronted with civil war, invading armies, widespread famine and a typhus epidemic. Survival, not leisure, was the order of the day. However, during the early part of the 1920s, before the dreams of the revolution were crushed by Stalin, the debate over a “best system of sports” that Trotsky had predicted did indeed take place. Two of the groups to tackle the question of “physical culture” were the hygienists and the Proletkultists.

Hygienists
As the name implies the hygienists were a collection of doctors and health care professionals whose attitudes were informed by their medical knowledge. Generally speaking they were critical of sport, concerned that its emphasis on competition placed participants at risk of injury. They were equally disdainful of the West’s preoccupation with running faster, throwing further or jumping higher than ever before. “It is completely unnecessary and unimportant,” said A.A. Zikmund, head of the Physical Culture Institute in Moscow, “that anyone set a new world or Russian record.” Instead the hygienists advocated non-competitive physical pursuits – like gymnastics and swimming -as ways for people to stay healthy and relax.

For a period of time the hygienists influenced Soviet policy on questions of physical culture. It was on their advice that certain sports were prohibited, and football, boxing and weight-lifting were all omitted from the programme of events at the First Trade Union Games in 1925. However the hygienists were far from unanimous in their condemnation of sport. V.V. Gorinevsky, for example, was an advocate of playing tennis which he saw as being an ideal physical exercise. Nikolai Semashko, a doctor and the People’s Commissar for Health, went much further arguing that sport was “the open gate to physical culture” which “develops the sort of will-power, strength and skill that should distinguish Soviet people.”

Proletkult
In contrast to the hygienists the Proletkult movement was unequivocal in its rejection of ‘bourgeois’ sport. Indeed they denounced anything that smacked of the old society, be it in art, literature or music. They saw the ideology of capitalism woven into the fabric of sport. Its competitiveness set workers against each other, dividing people by tribal and national identities, while the physicality of the games put unnatural strains on the bodies of the players.

In place of sport Proletkultists argued for new, proletarian forms of play, founded on the principles of mass participation and cooperation. Often these new games were huge theatrical displays looking more like carnivals or parades than the sports we see today. Contests were shunned on the basis that they were ideologically incompatible with the new socialist society. Participation replaced spectating, and each event contained a distinct political message, as is apparent from some of their names: Rescue from the Imperialists; Smuggling Revolutionary Literature Across the Frontier; and Helping the Proletarians.

Bolsheviks
It would be easy to characterise the Bolsheviks as being anti-sports. Leading members of the party were friends and comrades with those who were most critical of sport during the debates on physical culture. Some of the leading hygienists were close to Leon Trotsky, while Anotoli Lunacharsky, the Commissar for the Enlightenment, shared many views with Proletkult. In addition, the party’s attitude to the Olympics is normally given as evidence to support this anti-sport claim. The Bolsheviks boycotted the Games arguing that they “deflect workers from the class struggle and train them for imperialist wars”. Yet in reality the Bolshevik’s attitudes towards sport were somewhat more complicated.

It is clear that that they regarded participation in the new physical culture as being highly important, a life-affirming activity allowing people to experience the freedom and movement of their own bodies. Lenin was convinced that recreation and exercise were integral parts of a well-rounded life. “Young people especially need to have a zest for life and be in good spirits. Healthy sport – gymnastics, swimming, hiking all manner of physical exercise – should be combined as much as possible with a variety of intellectual interests, study, analysis and investigation… Healthy bodies, healthy minds!”

Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the revolution, sport would play a political role for the Bolsheviks. Facing internal and external threats which would decimate the working class, they saw sport as a means by which the health and fitness of the population could be improved. As early as 1918 they issued a decree, On Compulsory Instruction in the Military Art, introducing physical training to the education system.

This tension between the ideals of a future physical culture and the pressing concerns of the day were evident in a resolution passed by the Third All-Russia Congress of the Russian Young Communist League in October 1920:

“The physical culture of the younger generation is an essential element in the overall system of communist upbringing of young people, aimed at creating harmoniously developed human beings, creative citizens of communist society. Today physical culture also has direct practical aims: (1) preparing young people for work; and (2) preparing them for military defence of Soviet power.”

Sport would also play a role in other areas of political work. Prior to the revolution the liberal educationalist Peter Lesgaft noted that “social servitude has left its degrading imprint on women. Our task is to free the female body of its fetters”. Now the Bolsheviks attempted to put his ideas into practice. The position of women in society had already been greatly improved through the legalisation of abortion and divorce, but sport could also play a role by increasingly bringing women into public life. “It is our urgent task to draw women into sport,” said Lenin. “If we can achieve that and get them to make full use of the sun, water and fresh air for fortifying themselves, we shall bring an entire revolution in the Russian way of life.”

And sport became another way of conveying the ideals of the revolution to the working classes of Europe. The worker-sport movement stretched across the continent and millions of workers were members of sports clubs run mainly by reformist organisations. The Red Sports International (RSI) was formed in 1921 with the express intention of connecting with these workers. Through the following decade the RSI (and the reformist Socialist Worker Sports International) held a number of Spartakiads and Worker Olympics in opposition to the official Olympic Games. Worker-athletes from across the globe would come together to participate in a whole range of events including processions, poetry, art and competitive sport. There was none of the discrimination that marred the ‘proper’ Olympics. Men and women of all colours were eligible to take part irrespective of ability. The results were very much of secondary importance.

So, were the Bolsheviks anti-sport? They certainly did not seem to go as far as Proletkult’s fervent ideological opposition and, as we have seen, were prepared to utilise sport in the pursuit of wider political goals. No doubt there were many individual Bolsheviks who despised sports. Equally many will have greatly enjoyed them. Indeed, as the British secret agent Robert Bruce Lockhart observed, Lenin himself was a keen sportsman: “From boyhood he had been fond of shooting and skating. Always a great walker, he became a keen mountaineer, a lively cyclist, and an impatient fisherman.” Lunacharsky, despite his association with Proletkult, extolled the virtues of both rugby union and boxing, hardly the most benign of modern sports.

This is not to say that the party was uncritical of ‘bourgeois’ sport. It is clear that they tackled the worst excesses of sport under capitalism. The emphasis on competition was removed, contest that risked serious injury to the participants was banned, the flag-waving nationalist trappings endemic to modern sport disappeared, and the games people played were no longer treated as commodities. But the Bolsheviks were never overly prescriptive in their analysis of what physical culture should look like.

The position of the Bolsheviks in those early days is perhaps best summarised by Trotsky in the quote that opens this chapter. It was not for the party to decide what constituted the “best system of sports” or produce the correct line for the working class to follow. Rather it was for the mass of people to discuss and debate, experiment and innovate, and in that process create their own sports and games. Nobody could foresee exactly what the play of a future socialist society would be like, but equally no one could doubt that the need to play would assert itself. As Trotsky said, “The longing for amusement, distraction, sight-seeing and laughter is the most legitimate of human nature.”

Stalinism
The hopes of the revolution died, alongside thousands of old Bolsheviks, with the rise of Josef Stalin. The collectivist ideals of 1917 were buried, replaced by exploitation and brutal repression. Internationalism was jettisoned in favour of “socialism in one country”. As the values and imperatives of the society changed so too did the character of the country’s physical culture. By 1925 the Bolsheviks had already turned towards a more elitist model of sport. Around this time Stalin is reported to have said: “We compete with the bourgeoisie economically, politically, and not without success. We compete everywhere possible. Why not compete in sport?” Team sports reappeared, complete with capitalist style league and cup structures. Successful sportspeople were held up as heroes in the Soviet Union and the quest for records resumed. Many of the hygienists and Proletkultists who had dared to dream of new forms of physical culture perished in the purges.

Eventually sport became a proxy for the Cold War. In 1952 the Soviet Union was re-integrated into the Olympic movement ensuring that the medal table at each Games became a measure of the relative strength of East and West. As the country was inexorably compelled into economic, political and military competition on the international stage, so it also found itself drawn into sporting competition with the West.

Just as it would be a mistake to judge the ideals of the Russian Revolution by the horrors of Stalinism, so we should not allow the latter days of Soviet sport to obscure those remarkable early experiments in physical culture. Sport in Russia may have ended as a steroid-enhanced caricature, but how far removed that was from the vision of Lenin when he said: “Young men and women of the Soviet land should live life beautifully and to the full in public and private life. Wrestling, work, study, sport, making merry, singing, dreaming – these are things young people should make the most of.”

The Sports and Hobbies of Mozambique

Mozambicans are quite passionate about their sports; with a firm focus on soccer and to a lesser extent other sports. There are lots of opportunities for hobbies and recreational activities, but as these can be quite costly at times you will find most Mozambican’s aren’t able to partake. As with most other facets of this beautiful country, the lack infrastructure combined with the poverty levels have had a profound effect on the development of sports and hobbies through the entire land.

As a result of this, many of the most popular sports are those that don’t require much money to play.

Soccer

Soccer, sometimes known as football due to the Portuguese influence, is hugely popular in Mozambique as in other African nations. You will often come across both children and adults having an informal game whenever possible, especially on weekends. The structure for proper club soccer is not as good as in other countries due to infrastructure challenges, but there are still some professional clubs about. There is a lot of exchange between Portugal and Mozambique in soccer terms, with players and teams from each country regularly playing with and against each other.

Athletics

Athletics is a sport that is not a widely practiced as it should be, given the relative ease of getting involved. Mozambican does at times punch above its weight in this field of sport, having won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics proving that they can compete at the highest level.

Basketball

Unlike most other southern African nations, Basketball is a very popular sport in Mozambique. While being internationally recognized since 1978, the Mozambican national team has yet to win any notable championships. This of course hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for the sport and it is still quite widespread.

Capoeira

The martial art sport of Capoeira is starting to take off in Mozambique, with the popularity growing at a rapid pace.

Stadiums

Stadiums and sporting facilities in Mozambique are in short supply, with some world class facilities recently being constructed with foreign investment. The outlying areas tend to have little to no facilities, while the soccer clubs seem to attract all the investment. The newest and best stadium is the Estadio do Zimpeto which was opened in 2011 and is able to seat up to 42,000 people. While being touted as a multi-use stadium, it is almost exclusively used for soccer matches.

Hobbies

The types of hobbies available in Mozambique are generally all of the physical, outdoor variety. The more popular hobbies include:

Fishing: With a substantial coast line, Mozambique is well known for fishing. This takes the form of both subsistence and recreational fishing. The country is well known for game fishing and is largely unspoiled, making it a firm favorite with both local and international visitors.

Watersports: Any sort of sport involving the water, whether it is sailing, diving or even just swimming, is quite popular due to the warm weather and water.

Sand boarding: Being quite an easy sport to learn and not always needing lots of equipment, sand boarding is a relatively new hobby that is starting to become quite popular.

Dr Tod Sweeney, MD, Sports and Family Medicine of Colorado on Sports Injuries

Dr. Tod Sweeney, MD, Sports and Family Medicine of Colorado, Arvada, Colorado lives the lifestyle that earns his practice the label “healthy patients, healthy doctors”. A hiking, running, biking and skiing enthusiast, Dr. Sweeney has competed in events such as The Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. A Colorado native, Dr. Sweeney attended medical school at The University of Vermont and completed a Family Medicine residency at Maine Medical Center.

A former University of Pennsylvania baseball player, he brought his passion for athletics into the medical realm by completing a Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship at The University of Colorado. Being Board Certified in both Family and Sports Medicine is what gives his practice the traditional feel of a family doctor with the added advantage of sports medicine expertise and advanced medical technologies.

An accomplished lecturer and writer, Dr. Sweeney shares his knowledge at medical conferences across the country. He is team physician for several local sports teams and local area high schools. Dr. Sweeney assists many local athletes with injury recovery and prevention. He also is a clinical instructor at The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

We were fortunate enough to take a few minutes of Dr. Sweeney’s time to ask him about common sports injuries and their treatment.

Dr. Sweeney, what is the most common sports injury you see in your clinic?

Dr. Sweeney: We see a lot of different sports injuries, largely based on our training background. My partner and I were originally trained in family medicine but we both have done non-operative fellowships in Sports Medicine. We see a lot of sprains and strains, a lot of knee pain, low back pain, rotator cuff injuries and we also see a fair number of concussions.

Doctor, are there any commonly held beliefs involving these types of injuries that may be doing people a disservice?

Dr. Sweeney: With concussions, for example, a lot of people believe that you have to have a loss of consciousness to have sustained a concussion. That’s not the case. The other thing is with children, because of their open growth plates, parents don’t often realize that this is a concern and something we need to take into consideration when we are doing our evaluation.

Are there situations you come across where your patients are unknowingly contributing to their condition?

Dr. Sweeney: If we go back to your first question which is some of the more common sports injuries we see, overuse injuries are actually very common. A lot of times it’s an issue where the athlete or individual is doing something too frequent or too intense or the duration is not appropriate. They may be unknowingly contributing to an overuse injury by doing the activity too frequently, too intense or too long.

Some of our endurance athletes, for instance, we find that sometimes they try to push through the pain when in fact they should be limiting their activities to minimize further injury. A lot of times with overuse injuries they will reach that tipping point where it becomes an issue that really sidelines them.

Is it possible to treat an injury and still stay active?

Dr. Sweeney: Yes, it is. The key is if they can engage in an activity that doesn’t delay the recovery process or do further harm.

Doctor, is there anything people should do before seeking treatment for a sports injury?

Dr. Sweeney: I think doing research on the physician. It’s important to find a physician that is properly trained and board certified in sports medicine.
I think the patient should also have a goal in terms of do they want to know what the diagnosis is, what the prognosis is and what the treatment strategy should be. So I think having goals is key but certainly finding someone who is well trained in their area of concern.

Doctor Sweeney, thanks for giving us some insight into sports injuries and their treatment.

Dr. Sweeney: It was my pleasure

Dr. Tod Sweeney, MD, Sports and Family Medicine of Colorado, Arvada, Colorado, can be contacted at his clinic in Arvada at 720-898-1110. The clinic website is sfmcolorado.com and the sports concussion center website is sportsccc.com

Kevin Nimmo is a writer and online media strategist. He interviews subject matter experts and educates his readers based on information provided by experts in their respective fields. He is also Executive Editor of The Western Medical Journal.