Thursday, July 8, 2010

Soft Tissue Management: Whats Best?

Whats most important for your athletes to do for their recovery?  Stretching? Foam Rolling? Whole Body Vibration? A.R.T.? Modalities? Cold Tubs?

Should it be the ATCs, coaches, massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist?
and on and on and on....

Certain coaches will argue that one or another from the above lists is the key.  They're all probably right in some case. 

I know I used to get too caught up in specific approaches.  This was very true in my earlier years as a coach when I was getting exposed to specific methods in the firstplace.  When you witness a good practitioner, who believe in what they are doing, and applies it consistently, you will see benefits.

As I kept (and still am) exposed to different methods, you start to get a more complete picture.  Forgot the names and various intial and trademarked systems, and start to think TISSUE QUALITY MANAGEMENT.

Thats what its about after all. Maintaining the integrity, capacity and functionality of the body's tissues. Muscle may lead many lists, but more and more people are realizing its also fascia, tendonous/bone junctions, and joint capsules. 

The beautiful part is that once you get beyond thinking just about one tissue, or one approach, you'll find its the combination that really gets results.  The best people I work with use a combination of methods.  The massage therapist who is doing as much stretching as soft tissue work.  The chiropractor who is doing myofascial work, with stretching, manipulation and active movement.  The performance coach who is having his athletes do specific, focused self myofascial work and then AIS stretching.

It's about getting the tissue to the quality required.  To allow the athlete to recover and be prepared for the next training session or competition.  That's the goal.  Tissue quality.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Talk to a bunch of coaches, go online, or to a conference and you will get passionate arguments about the right way to train an athlete.  Each coach can give examples that fit their point of view.  In many ways though, it's a lot like this Indian fable...

One day, three blind men happened to meet each other and gossiped a long time about many things. Suddenly one of them recalled, " I heard that an elephant is a queer animal. Too bad we're blind and can't see it."

"Ah, yes, truly too bad we don't have the good fortune to see the strange animal," another one sighed.

The third one, quite annoyed, joined in and said, "See? Forget it! Just to feel it would be great."

"Well, that's true. If only there were some way of touching the elephant, we'd be able to know," they all agreed.

It so happened that a merchant with a herd of elephants was passing, and overheard their conversation. "You fellows, do you really want to feel an elephant? Then follow me; I will show you," he said.

After reaching their destination, the merchant asked them to sit on the ground and wait. In a few minutes he led the first blind man to feel the elephant. With outstretched hand, he touched first the left foreleg and then the right. After that he felt the two legs from the top to the bottom, and with a beaming face, turned to say, "So, the queer animal is just like that." Then he slowly returned to the group.

Then the second blind man was led to the rear of the elephant. He touched the tail which wagged a few times, and he exclaimed with satisfaction, "Ha! Truly a queer animal! Truly odd! I know now. I know." He hurriedly stepped aside.

The third blind man's turn came, and he touched the elephant's trunk which moved back and forth turning and twisting and he thought, "That's it! I've learned."

The three blind men thanked the merchant and went their way. Each one was secretly excited over the experience and had a lot to say, yet all walked rapidly without saying a word.

"Let's sit down and have a discussion about this queer animal," the second blind man said, breaking the silence.

"A very good idea. Very good." the other two agreed for they also had this in mind.

Without waiting for anyone to be properly seated, the second one blurted out, "This queer animal is like our straw fans swinging back and forth to give us a breeze. However, it's not so big or well made. The main portion is rather wispy."

"No, no!" the first blind man shouted in disagreement. "This queer animal resembles two big trees without any branches."

"You're both wrong." the third man replied. "This queer animal is similar to a snake; it's long and round, and very strong."

How they argued! Each one insisted that he alone was correct. Soon they came to blows over it, yet still there was no agreement.  Of course, there was no conclusion for not one had thoroughly examined the whole elephant. How can anyone describe the whole until he has learned the total of the parts.

Another modern version has a different ending a may fit may today's sports performance profession even more...

“We now know that the elephant is like a wall,” said the one who touched the side. “The evidence is conclusive.”to see what all the fuss was about. While the blind men were arguing fiercely, she examined the elephant. But instead of stopping after one feel, the prophet touched the whole thing, including the tail, which felt like a rope.

“I believe you are mistaken, sir," said the one who touched an ear. "The elephant is more like a large fan."

“You are both wrong,” said the leg man. “The creature is obviously like a tree.”

“A tree?” questioned the tusk toucher. “How can you mistake a spear for a tree?”

“What?” said the trunk feeler. “A spear is long and round, but anyone knows it doesn’t move. couldn’t you feel the muscles? It’s definitely a type of snake! A blind man could see that!” said the fifth blind man.

The argument grew more heated when along came a blind, self-declared prophet

“It’s just a big animal with big sides, ears, feet, tusk teeth, nose and a skinny tail,” she thought. “What a bunch of fools these guys are.”

Then the prophet said, “Stop! I have discovered the truth. I know who is right.”

Being a prophet and all, they stopped and listened and said, “tell us!” 

“I have examined the elephant with mine own two hands,” she said, “and I find that you are all right.”

“How can this be?” they asked. “Can an elephant be a wall and a fan and a tree and a spear and a

snake?” And they were very confused.

The prophet explained “the elephant is a great Tree, and on this tree grow leaves like great Fans to give most wondrous shade and fan the breeze. And the branches of this tree are like Spears to protect it.

For this is the Tree of Creation and of Eternal Life, and the Great Serpent hangs still upon it.

“Unfortunately, it is hidden behind a great Wall, which is why it was not discovered until this very
day. It cannot be reached by normal means.

“However I, in my wisdom, have discovered a Most Holy Rope, by which the wall may be climbed.

And if one touches the tree in the proper manner which I alone know, you will gain Eternal Life.”

They all became highly interested in this, of course.

The prophet then named an extremely high price for her services (or dvd or seminar), and made quite a bundle.

The college strength coach has a different perspective and environment than the physical therapist.  They both differ from the track coach and what he sees.  This is different than the performance coach in a private facility and different than the personal trainer.

Next time when someone has a different answer, try and consider their perspective, and keep the possibility open that they have seen something you haven't. 

Beware of the strength and performance gurus who have the absolute answer and will share it for the right price.  Especially when they haven't proven their worth with anything but the intern.