“I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed!”
By Leizl Adolphi, PT, FAFS
You’ve just been passed an oblong ball and now have six men averaging 250 pounds rapidly moving toward you. They are coming from all different directions, with what seems like inhuman speed and agility for men of that stature. You hope that the adrenaline that is currently surging through your system, along with your training and conditioning, has made you faster and better able to out‐maneuver your opponents, as you hurry toward the goal post 40 yards away.
Fast forward 60 years … No longer can your eyes focus with the clarity they once had, your right hip was replaced five years ago, your lower back aches, you’re hunched over, and you feel chronic stiffness in your neck. You are crossing the paths of stopped cars weighing in at 2,945 pounds each, trusting that the citizens in these vehicles are patient enough to wait for you, because their light has already turned green. The same adrenaline is pumping through your system as you hurry toward the sidewalk 10 yards away.
When the terms “speed and reaction” are mentioned, we often picture the first scenario described above: someone demonstrating the utmost in quickness and agility – an athlete in his prime. But when we’re rehabilitating or training the individual described in the second scenario, how often do we consider speed and reactivity in our programs? This person may be experiencing the same amount of anxiety crossing the street as he did running with the football 60 years earlier, perhaps even more. He needs to be able to move quickly and efficiently through what he now perceives as a very intimidating environment.
So how do you prepare your “seasoned citizen” to quickly and safely cross a busy street besides just having him walk faster in your facility? In the Functional Video Digest Series on GAIT, Gary offers a fresh approach in looking at one’s gait – from above. He describes walking as a summation of transverse plane motion within our body so that we can propel ourselves forward. You can picture the pelvis rotating in one direction, while the shoulders are rotating in the other. What would our client described above look like from this view? Addressing probable limitations in all three planes of motion, but particularly in the transverse plane at the feet, hips, and thoracic spine will cover key areas that can promote greater stride length. Speed is defined as the distance traveled per unit of time. Translate that into the body’s function and increasing their stride length will allow them to cover greater distance.
Straight speed, however, is usually not the only determinant in measuring one’s success throughout most sports, as well as in everyday function. Picture our same client crossing a busy pedestrian intersection, where people are passing him from behind, heading straight toward him from the other side of the street, and cars waiting to turn directly into his path. How quickly can our client make abrupt direction changes, or even make a sudden stop, without losing balance and regaining his stride? In the video/techniques portion of this newsletter, Gary demonstrates some strategies that condition the body to react quickly in all three planes. Very similar techniques could easily be applied to our client, albeit slower in the speed continuum. Verbal cues to create sudden direction changes or maneuvering your own body around your client to interrupt his forward momentum during gait are strategies that offer some degree of unpredictability to help facilitate reaction skills. Though it’s not likely he’ll be playing “catch” while crossing the street, tossing a ball to your client while walking, forces his body and mind to attend to more than just one task.
When training or rehabilitating clients at any age, keeping the individual, the task, and the environment into focus will allow you to develop a comprehensive program that will better prepare them to move quickly and safely through any given situation.