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Body care tips for athletes

‘Tis the season for competitive events so osteopath Dr Nicole Bates from Lighten Up’s Wellness Hub has given us some tips about how you can look after and get the most out of your body so it can go the distance now, and into the future.

“If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. The same goes with your training schedule: If you need a rest, take one”

Know your limits!

If you are a beginner, be realistic. People who decide to ‘just run 10km’ or start training for a tri three weeks out, and then complain when they ‘break-down’, were always setting themselves up for discomfort and injury. And, no, that’s not an excuse to completely give up – just be better organised next time.

Match your training with some kindness to your body

Rest and relaxation are even more important when you are pushing your body. Epsom salt baths, good daily stretch sessions, using that dreaded foam roller (yes, it hurts, but its benefits are vital, so suck it up!), yoga or meditation. Let your body relax and use this time to really check in with how it’s going. Your body will give you amazing feedback if you are in-tune and aware.


Nicole Bates helping a patient at Lighten Up’s Wellness Hub.

Unresolved injuries

Get a second opinion on those ‘niggles’ if they are not going away. Ask for a proper diagnosis and management plan (your practitioner should be only too happy to help), or for some imaging to be done. Don’t just run through the motions. I see too many long-standing, lingering, and incorrectly diagnosed conditions. Often these injuries will cause the body to compensate and the initial injury becomes a widespread complicated nightmare, which takes a lot longer to ‘unwind’ and resolve, so it’s best to get on top of those niggles ASAP.

“I cannot stress enough how important good diaphragm function is… take the time each day to breathe properly; engage the lower ribs and puff that belly out!”

Recovery need not be brutal

A deep tissue/remedial massage can be of great benefit to recovery, but also stop and remember that you are compressing your body, whether it be with running or cycling, so sometimes it needs a light touch to ease itself out. Swimming is of great benefit as the water helps to remind the body of its more natural, fluid-like state. As an osteopath, I have found using indirect techniques which put the body/muscles/tissues into a relaxed and lengthened state can be more beneficial than ‘hammering it’.

Listen to your body!

These days there are so many fads when it comes to training, diets and supplements. Understand that they can’t/won’t all work for you. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. The same goes with your training schedule: If you need a rest, take one. If you don’t want to do an early start, do it later in the day. Your body really does know best, so listen to it. That approach also goes for the advice you get from the professionals: We can’t possibly know the complete inner workings of your body, or monitor what you are doing every day, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

“Be realistic about how you will feel and how long until you have recovered properly. Don’t be hard on yourself”

Take care of the front of your body

Everyone is so hung up on what the glutes and hamstrings are doing that we often forget to look after the anterior chain (front) of the body. This is your hip flexors, quads, abdominals, adductors (these two are crucial for good pelvic floor function which will help balance the whole pelvis, which in turn is integral to good lower back function), pecs, jaw muscles (those little muscles can compromise neck and diaphragm activity) and the diaphragm – AKA the breathing muscle.

I cannot stress enough how important good diaphragm function is: It attaches to the lumber spine and ribcage, and is innervated from the neck, so it can have a widespread impact if it isn’t working properly or if its attachments, or the cervical spine (neck), are not working effectively. People who feel muscular neck pain when they run may not be breathing properly and will recruit the accessory breathing muscles from the neck, and this causes discomfort.

Take the time each day to breathe properly; engage the lower ribs and puff that belly out!

Townsville Tri Club Open Water Swim

You know your body best, so listen to it.

Know your normal

The body has self-healing and self-regulatory abilities and this is one of the four principles osteopathy was built on. The body knows what it should be doing, but occasionally it needs a little ‘kick along’, and that’s when you see your osteo/physio/chiro/masseuse. However, this can be a double-edged sword: Some pain is just the body getting back to where it should be (some of my patients would have experienced this as ‘post treatment soreness’), so don’t freak out. I always advise my patients to know ‘their normal’ and if something feels wrong, then seek help.

Recover properly post race

Longer triathlon and marathon competitors need to rest properly after a big race. The body will be so depleted post-race. Be realistic about how you will feel and how long until you have recovered properly. Don’t be hard on yourself: Take some downtime and nurture your body. If you do this you will be back to your normal training schedule far earlier.

Build a good healthcare team

Try all modalities and see which suits you. We live in a great age of healthcare, so take advantage of it! What works for some, will not work for others, but explore regardless. And if you are a serious athlete, get your practitioners to communicate. Why double up on exercises/treatment or have contradictory advice? Every health professional has their place, and can most definitely work together to get the most benefit for you.

Have fun rocking the Lycra!

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Nicole Bates

Nicole Bates

With eight years clinical experience, and having worked all across Australia with a multitude of different osteopaths to learn from and be inspired by, Dr Nicole Bates offers holistic healthcare incorporating structural, cranial, visceral and manipulative osteopathic approaches. Based at Lighten Up’s Wellness Hub on Stanley Street in the CBD, Nicole looks after musculoskeletal complaints including back and neck pain, headaches, sciatica, RSI, pregnancy-related pains, sports-related injuries and much more. Some of the most common issues are posture-related from people working at desks, plus she deals with the effects of stress, fatigue and people not being kind to their bodies.

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