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Mindful Movement in our Young Athletes

I absolutely LOVE working with young people. The idea that they have the passion and desire to move in their bodies and feel amazing and strive towards their goals excites me. I love being part of that journey. I graduated from the Univerisity of Alberta with my Education degree in P.ed and Atypical Education in 1989. I taught in the education system for over 25 years. WOW - feeling a bit old now as I continue my blog here. I have played in the fitness industry for over 30 years and have been an athlete involved in many sports all my life. I LOVE MOVEMENT. Over the years in my own experience, I have watched my children through movement in their sports. Both my kids have taken serious injuries in their sports, and we have mindfully brought them back into their sports as safely as we could. We have had dislocations, torn muscles, broken bones, muscles spasms, surgeries, and much more. Lets face it - if you play hard... you get hurt sometimes. My kids are adults now and are mindful and respectful of their bodies. Injuries occur in sport and sometimes it can not be avoided... BUT .... sometimes it can! How we train our young athletes and allow them to train themselves is key! As the parent, it is our role to educate ourselves to keep them safe and be their advocate and voice.

Young athletes watch amazing dancers, gymnasts, hockey players, volleyball players and acrobats of various kinds in the elite athlete world and our young ones aspire to reach these goals. Goals are important, and keep us focussed, but as parents, we are the advocates for our goal achievers and we MUST set limits and be mindful of their bodies and what these young bodies physiologically, mentally, and emotionally can achieve. The athletes they are watching are ADULTS. It has taken them years of training, under strict watchful eyes, to perform at this level. It is unreasonable to believe our young athletes can train and recover the same way. They lack the strength, mobility, and coordination. They also tend to have inherent muscle imbalances. It is not physiologically possible or safe. We therefore need to physically prepare our athletes for their sport. Children and teens are vulnerable to growth plate injuries as long as there are open growth plates in the body. In most girls, the plates close from age 15 - 17 and in most boys, they close from 16 to 18. Damage to the growth plate area can have long term implications, such as a limb being crooked or shorter than the other. I see young girls trying to achieve the amazing back extensions and bridges they watch on youtube. They practice over and over - focussing only on the flexbility of the pattern without awareness of the connection used to achieve these movements safely! It is not simply about flexbility. It is the awareness of what muscles are used to actually achieve that movement pattern correctly and safely without causing a stress fracture, herniated disc, muscles spasms, dislocations, improper firing sequences, or shearing and compressing of the vertebrea. WOW... thats just not fun or cool, but sometimes it happens. We do not want to see any of these injuries in our young athletes! We can not control a sudden injury from being hit or landing wrong but we most definately can control an over use injury or an injury from improper practice.

Quote: Often times, kids who are participating in athletics are going to have the cardiovascular energy to push themselves,` Szalay says. `There`s nothing stopping them in energy and output.` For them, all they can think about is, `I want to get to the next level.` This puts the role on us as parents, trainers, and coaches to keep our young athletes perspective. Focussing on one sport, using the same bones, muscles, and ligaments in the same way all the time, leads to residual fatigue, and that increases the injuries we see in our kids. Cross training is such a key training concept to focus on. Let them be kids and simply play. Learning a sport other then their competitive sport is SO important. Different movement patterns HELP the body acquire more muscle control and firing. This will make the athlete stronger in their actual sport NOT weaker.

Practice DOES NOT make perfect! What is does make is habitual patterns and muscle sequencing which might be incorrect. Far from perfect - but a great recipe for injury. When we repeat mistakes again and again, we build a muscle memory for those mistakes. This improper pattern then becomes even harder to overcome later. When we practice something - we build up a procedural memory and the brain quickly instructs your muscles to carry it out. Repeating improper patterns hour after hour teaches the wrong memories for the mind and muscles to achieve. I had an adult client recently tell me, she is the most pain FREE she has even been in her running since she started Pilates training. She is mindful of her running more then ever now and realizes when she is pushing into the wrong muslces. She is enjoying her running more then ever. Isnt that the real reason we move... because we LOVE it. If we dont LOVE it, then why are we doing it. Our young athletes are the same. They love their sport and want to succeed. In our young athletes we MUST build good muscle memories and focus on the quality of the quanitity. They need guidance to achieve this. I LOVE using videos clips to help myself achieve movement. I watch with a mindful eye to see if my alignment is out. If I can`t see what is wrong - I ask someone else to assist me! My son utilized video clips of his volleyball approach and hit to see what he needed to work on. Sometimes hearing the correction didn`t resonate with him, but seeing the movement allowed the mind and body to work together effeciently. This allowed him to see and make his own corrections. Remember, we all learn in different ways! We have kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learners. Many young athletes are visual and kinsethetic, so when working with them - use various forms of feedback. This will allow them to learn appropriate muscle patterns properly and turn PERFECT PURPOSEFUL PRACTICE INTO PERFECT!

Embrace movement, play safe, and love what you do! Support those young athletes in a safe journey to their goals!

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