I recently attended a CrossFit (WAIT!!! Don't stop reading this article. I promise it's not all about CrossFit) Mobility seminar in Virginia with the goal of making sure what I was prescribing to my athletes was the most current and up-to-date. Two important terms used in the seminar were "leading" and "lagging" indicators, with an emphasis on our tendency to use lagging indicators to gauge our performance. Pretty self-explanatory terms, leading indicators are those things that come before injury and really don't need to be associated with injury at all if addressed early, whereas lagging indicators are those things that come after the fact, and are generally pain or injury related.
The purpose of today's rant is to discuss our propensity as a society to wait until it's too late and then cry about the fact that we got injured. Now don't get me wrong, all sports and exercise bring with them some sort of inherent risk of injury (more on this in a future Train Talk Thursday), however, it's a horribly backwards model to use where we determine the success of our efforts based on whether or not we require a wheelchair to get home. Waiting to get injured to assess your functionality means that you've waited too long.
Our current model of performance analysis is based off of task completion. Did I finish the race? Did I squat ten times? In this model, good performance basically means that you made it through without any (significant) pain. In reality, the questions we don’t realize we’re actually asking ourselves are “Did I finish the race without blowing out my knee?” “Did I squat ten times without losing feeling in my left leg?” The trouble with this model is that a bad performance means that you now have pain/swelling/numbness/tingling/etc, and the damage has already been done. Now you’re charged with the task of figuring out how to rehabilitate that injury while not losing training time. The worst part? You can’t even kick yourself for being so dumb because your knee is busted.
Conversely, the model promoted during the CrossFit Mobility course and touted for years by the likes of movement gurus Grey Cook and Shirley Sahrmann, is that of quality of movement. How efficient and biomechanically sound is my running? How is my squat form? Do I even have the mobility to be squatting with 150 lbs on my back? This model uses leading indicators to assess performance, meaning that success and failure are based on factors that identify dysfunction and indicate risk of future injury. Adopting this model means preventing pain and injury as dysfunctional movement patterns can be identified early and then corrected.
Enter, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton, the FMS is a series of seven movement tests designed to evaluate essential functional movement patterns and identify asymmetries and dysfunction that can lead to injury and decreased performance. It takes only few minutes to administer and can save an athlete from months of rehab and time away from training. I love the FMS and think that every person regardless of preferred activity should undergo one. If my incredible marketing skills have won you over and you’re interested in scheduling and FMS with me click here. For a list of FMS providers in your area click here.
I challenge you to stop using pain to gauge your performance. Concern yourself with quality of motion and shell out those few dollars to have a trained professional (no, I am not referring to the free running assessments at Jack Rabbit) give you the once over if you don’t know where to start. If your budget is tight or you’re just the type of person who likes to have a go at things on your own first, get online and read as much as you can to get a better understanding of proper movement for your specific sport. Regardless, don’t wait until you’re on a stretcher to do something about that crappy movement. Check yo'self before you wreck yo'self. Your body will thank you.