Note from Rob and Leon: This is a guest post by the Lawlor Clinic on the technical side of preparing our bodies for the walking and kayaking, for which we are most grateful. A post about our physio sponsor in Hong Kong, Sports Performance, will be coming soon.
On talking with Leon about the expedition, it became apparent that physical preparedness was essential in the successful completion of the expedition as their bodies will be subject to extreme conditions and made to endure many hours of physical activity.
Physical preparedness is something that we advise regularly to all our clients regardless of their level of physical activity. Our bodies have to move efficiently to avoid injury during activities of daily living.
Here at the Lawlor Clinic, we use the Selective Functional Movement Screen to assess client’s ability to demonstrate functional movement. The screen basically provides a blueprint of how somebody moves, from head to toe looking at their mobility and stability. We then compare the results to a base line, a quality of movement that we would like to see and plan our treatments around correcting the areas of limitation.
Leon has and will continue to work on his mobility and stability though specific exercise plans that have been established for him, but what happens if he starts to get sore when he is out there?
Here are a few exercises that can be done on the expedition which should help Leon and Rob if their bodies start to feel the strain:
The Thoracic Spine:
The desert section at the start requires 14 days of pulling a trailer with food and water - weighing at least 250 kg. The extra load when walking will increase flexion of the thoracic spine potentially causing an ache across the shoulder blades and/ or mid back.
A nice way to help free up the thoracic spine is to use the reach backs exercise pictured below:
Improvising with equipment it would be worth trying to make a foam roller like device. Roll a metal drinks bottle in a jumper or towel and place it on the ground. Using it like is shown in picture below we can place the roller between the shoulder blades. Spending 2 - 3 minutes extending the back over the bottle should certainly help ease any ache or pain in the mid back.
These exercises are worth doing even if you do not have any pain in the mid back as it will keep that particular area of the spine mobile.
This stage is followed by 2 weeks of trekking through desert with just backpacks. From then Leon and Rob will inflate the pack rafts. A switch in physical demands, Rob and Leon will no longer be using the lower body but the upper body to paddle their rafts for 4 weeks along the Yellow River.
The latissimus dorsi, shown in the picture to the right, is a strong extensor of the shoulder. Paddling will ask the lat dorsi to work hard to generate power in the stroke thus leaving it susceptible to becoming tight which in turn can increase risk of strains or micro tearing in the muscle.
To ensure that it can function efficiently and reduce the risk of injury it is important to maintain the muscles elasticity. Below is a great exercise to stretch the lat dorsi. Obviously Leon and Rob will not have a swiss gym ball but this exercise can be done anywhere. Just make sure that you get down into the kneeling position, bum onto heels and that arms are extended straight above your head.
After paddling it is back to trekking however this time through snowy mountains. This could be some of the hardest walking due to the depth of snow and the incline. Calf stretching is always important whether we are running or walking on an incline.
Hill walking or running requires the ankle to dorsi flex, ankle and toes moving towards the head which means the calf muscle has to lengthen. If it doesn’t lengthen it can put strain on the Achilles tendon, plantar fascia or even up the kinetic chain towards the knee and hip.
A standard calf stretch is useful to minimise the risk of this becoming a problem.
In combination with Leon and Rob’s physical preparation for the expedition, we at The Lawlor Clinic feel that the above exercises should certainly help their bodies meet the demands of the trip.
We wish you both all the best and look forward to hearing how you get on.
Yours in Health,
The Lawlor Clinic
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