Molly Fostek and Katie Allen will present “There is No Off Season: The Role of Strength Training and Injury Prevention for Endurance Athletes” at the Richmond Endurance Athlete Symposium & Expo on January 24, 2015. They will share the stage with two Olympians, Andy Potts and Christian Vande Velde, during this day of motivation and education at the Westin Richmond. Molly Fostek is a Physical Therapist and the Clinical Director at the Tidewater Physical Therapy Great Bridge Clinic. Katie Allen is the Performance Services Director for Tidewater Performance. She oversees three locations in the Hampton Roads region. Physical Therapists (PTs) and Performance Coaches are both experts on the human body.
Performance Coaches help clients improve by preparing their bodies to function at an extremely high level. They do this by teaching, reinforcing and strengthening the athlete’s functional movement patterns. When there is an issue that limits the body’s ability to move, such as an injury, mobility deficiency or kinetic chain disruption, the PT is brought in to address it. Fostek describes PTs as being like mechanics. They understand how something is supposed to move. “We can tell if you are over or under working a muscle and we can identify if the movement patterns are abnormal. If these are corrected we can help decrease risk of injury and improve performance.” Allen and Fostek say that working with endurance athletes is challenging and rewarding. According to Allen, these athletes are highly committed to their sport and to improvement. Many times this comes at a cost. Their time is limited and there is already a high demand being put on their bodies. They are often resistant to rest and will suffer through injury rather than limit their exercise.
In Fostek’s practice, she recognizes that since these athletes are already working out rigorously, they are sometimes reluctant to try alternate forms of exercise in addition to their training schedule. Stopping them and getting them to refocus on correct movement patterns and strengthening requires a lot of education and convincing. According to Allen, “all athletes need to be strong in very fundamental, functionally based movements. These are the same whether you are training a long distance runner, a football player or a swimmer. The ingredients are the same, but each athlete gets a different recipe for success. What is most different about working with an endurance athlete is the mentality with which you train them.” Allen emphasized that when working with endurance athletes it is important to stress balance. It is the Performance Coach’s responsibility to make sure that they are doing everything it takes to keep their bodies performing at an optimal level. No matter how much they resist and insist on doing more, it is the Coach’s role to ensure that they are fueling their bodies properly, resting as much as necessary, stretching regularly and spending time cross training.
Cross training, or strength and power training, is an essential component of any endurance athlete’s program. It allows the athlete to improve the body’s movement patterns, making them more efficient and reducing likelihood of injury. “Strength training is also linked to improvements in running economy, reducing the amount of energy necessary to hold a certain pace. Power training reduces ground reaction time, improves your ability to sprint or handle hills,” explained Allen. Cross training also provides a non-impact form of exercise which provides a rest to the joints. Fostek adds that, “Cross training enables you to “turn on” muscles that may not be firing with running, swimming or biking which will likely improve efficiency and overall performance.” The message Fostek and Allen hope the athletes, coaches and healthcare providers who attend their presentation at the Symposium leave with is just how important it is to include cross training that focuses on training movements, not muscles; rest; and recovery to help avoid getting injured. Allen shares that “many endurance athletes are subscribing to the exact opposite philosophy which is a detriment to their performance and longevity in the sport that they love.” But if an athlete does get injured, Fostek wants them to know that it is not necessary to have a prescription to see a physical therapist. “Don’t ignore pain. Make an appointment and let a PT help you.”