Osteopath and Performance Therapist Martin Wilson has been in Australia, working with elite athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Here, he shares his advice on avoiding common injuries.
One of my biggest pieces of advice to anyone is get a good team around you. Because that’s how the best people in the world do it.
I’ve had the pleasure of being around Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis… and they have a team – they’ve had a team for a long time. It starts to work when their team is formed around them, and it doesn’t change.
You have your nutritionist, your strength and conditioning specialist, your coach – whoever it involves, you all have to be on the same page. Make sure you’re all talking with each other because sometimes things need changing and issues can be resolved pretty quickly if you all have a conversation.
Be willing to invest in yourself. Your sport will give you what you put in. You have to understand that you yourself are the product; money you spend on a coach, therapist, etc. is an investment, and the outcome will be that you have one of the best years you could ask for. The rewards can be massive.
How to prepare your hamstrings
Hamstrings are your standard athletic injury and it’s probably the same across most sports. I work with a lot of sprinters, and hamstrings will always be the most prominent issue. To mitigate the risk, I believe it’s about having the correct movement patterns.
If you don’t move in the correct manner and you then try to move fast, or throw or jump, if your mechanics are incorrect what you’ll do is compensate. So someone will think their hamstring is weak but generally speaking it’s a mechanical issue.
So what I would advise is to get your drills right. I have seen a ton of athletes who do so-called drills and do them incorrectly. If you are drilling the incorrect movement you will have the incorrect movement, and when you try to do the incorrect movement at 20km/h or so it’s going to end badly!
And then you add in your stretching and conditioning. You have to have the right conditioning – that’s important as well.
If you’re talking about areas of weakness, it’s not usually the thing that gets hurt that’s weak, it’s normally something that it was compensating for.
It’s very rarely fixed with a quick click – it’s about having the patience to take three or four weeks away from the gym to get these things right. And once you do, not only will your injury risk be reduced, but your performance will increase as well.
I’d recommend that you stretch at least twice a day. Most people will stretch before their sessions as part of their warm-up – they’ll have an active stretch as well as a passive one.
If you’re fortunate enough to be an athlete who can spend 90 per cent of their time just training, make some time later in the day to have a little stretch routine just to improve the pliability of your muscles and tendons. I think that’s an important thing to focus on, providing you’ve done some of the things we’ve talked about previously.
So what’s an effective stretch? A stretch is effective when it’s done correctly, in a way that isn’t rushed. Treat it as importantly as you treat the race itself; it may feel boring to stretch for 20 minutes but it is extremely important. The glory is in the winning, not in the build-up.
If people wonder how athletes like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, for instance, become so incredibly good – these guys are putting the work in. They’re not magically doing better than everybody else.
The best type of stretch is one that doesn’t compromise your body and you can also feel what you’re supposed to be stretching.
For more advice on stretching and recovery, take our short course “How to Avoid Injury and Illness”. You can get started by clicking HERE.