Athletes are only human. We all have limits that our bodies can achieve. Coaches and players want to get the most out of their bodies. How do we do it?

You need more than desire. You need to be smart. To achieve your best you have to be in balance emotionally, physically and nutritionally.

Pushing yourself to the max all the time is a recipe for disaster. Rest and recovery is an important component of a well-balanced training program. There is no reason to feel guilty for taking off a day or two from training.

Stress is in everyone’s life. You cannot avoid stress but you can determine how you handle it. You can use it to your benefit or it can have detrimental effects on your performance.

A patient that I have worked with is an excellent athlete. She loves to play tennis and is a strong middle-distance runner. She also is a successful small business owner and is a classic Type A personality.

When she gets stressed out from issues at work or over training, she starts to break down physically. Her symptoms can be low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, to a migraine headache.

Her well-being is affected. Her body is in a state of “dis-ease.” She does not sleep well and her energy will be low. Her immune system is compromised and it can’t protect her from catching colds and chills effectively.

You can use stress to your advantage by getting fired up for the big game or race that you have entered.

Your training should be based on how you feel. I recommend that you check your pulse rate before getting out of bed. The lower the rate, the more rested you are. This would be a good day to push yourself. If it’s higher than normal, you aren’t rested and should take it easier.

Our patient works hard to know her body. I have asked her to get plenty of sleep, eat carefully and drink lots of fluids.

She gets regular spinal adjustments and sees a massage therapist for deep tissue work. She now practices yoga for breathing, relaxation, strength and flexibility.

Breathing properly also helps slow the mind and body. Many people are shallow breathers and never take a full diaphragmatic breath. This is when you take a deep breath and your stomach is pushed out, and not drawn up and in.

You can see athletes taking a deep breath before they swing the bat or get ready to sprint. This relaxes them and when they are relaxed and not stressed, they do their best.

During my examination I may do muscle testing on the patient. A muscle that is relaxed will most always be strong. The muscles I find tense or in spasm will most always be weak. My job with the help of the patient is to get the muscles in balance.

If you become tense in competition your performance suffers. Some people call this choking.

I was watching Andy Roddick recently and he was trying to close out a very close tennis match. He started to get tight. He was not hitting the ball as before and the other player started a comeback. Fortunately he was able to regroup and won the match.

Your body will never lie to you. Listen and reap the benefits.

 

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.