“individuals and teams leave the starting line and 'navigate' through a number of checkpoints to the finishing line of each stage of an Event as quickly as they can. Competitors must provide and carry on their person all their own food, gear and clothing, and will be provided with a ration of water .. "(Racing the Planet)
Take note of the bit ‘carry on their person’. This is the hard bit. Running is pretty straight forward, carrying around 8-10kg on your back isn’t. It alters your posture for a start. So, whilst you may have been running fine with no injuries, the moment you alter your position to compensate for the weight, your muscles suddenly start crying out in protest.
So, naturally, you try and be good and not stoop…..but several miles later you have forgotten all about that when you start to flag, and your body slips slyly into an unattractive slouch, adding pressure on your knees and lower back.
I have found the best way to combat my sneaky lazy body slouch, is by training with weights. One of the main areas I train is my core (I also train my shoulders and trapezius muscle, as this needs to be strong in order to help support the rucksack, as well as my quadriceps, to protect my knees).
The core, is an annoying sounding word that refers to where your centre of gravity is located, including your abdominals, back, pelvis and hips. Your core is not just your abs, which is a common misconception.
When your core is strong, all the muscles in the abdomen, back, hips and pelvis work in synchronisation. If some of the muscles in this area are stronger than others, you eventually end up with tweaks and niggles in your back, because as some muscles fail and let you down, the other ones have to take over and work harder, and this can end up in imbalances.
These imbalances then end up regularly as strains and sprains. This is because the ligaments and tendons have to work harder due to the muscles letting them down through fatigue or just general weakness. Tendons attach muscle to the bone and cannot be trained in the same way muscles can. If you overstretch or pull ligaments, they can tear like an elastic band and may take quite a while to fix (when muscles tear, it isn’t usually as complicated).
I think of all the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back as scaffolding for the spine. If you visualise the spine, it is composed of lots of vertebrae, stacked on top of one another rather like lego blocks. When you stack more and more single lego blocks to make a tower, they eventually topple over if you don’t support these blocks without surrounding blocks.
Well, the spine is similar, strip away the muscles and ligaments, and it is a wobbly skeleton. The stronger the scaffolding, the more battering the skeleton can take. And the spine gets quite a bit of battering running 150miles over uneven terrain with a rucksack on it.
In fact, the spine takes a lot of battering in day to day life just carrying shopping, or kids, or being dragged by your over enthusiastic St Bernard during walkies. It also needs to be strong if it is bent over all day over a desk, because you don’t want to end up in that position all the time, you need the stability to get it back in a nice alignment. Making any sense?
It has taken me years of trial and error to find the best exercises for various back pains. Having broken my back twice within the last six years; once only superficially, once not quite so superficially (cough cough!) and also having fallen from over 12 feet onto my hip and pelvis, pushing my leg into the socket giving me a huge mound of problems with my sacroiliac joint, I think I have become somewhat an unintentional expert.
So, if someone comes to me and thinks that their life is all over because of chronic back ache etc, I have at least a few tricks up my sleeve that might just work!
Keep an eye out for tips over the weeks in my blog and feel free to book a
Personal Training session
with me, even if you just want it brimmed to the full with back exercises.