The nice days seem to be coming back, at least here in Minneapolis. With the first sunny days and mild temperatures, everybody wants to spend as much time as possible outside, doing all kind of activities.
Golf players usually welcome those signs of almost spring as it means back to practice.
Although golf isn’t a contact sport, it puts significant demands on your body – which can easily lead to golf injuries.
There are many different angles to approach this.
Some might suggest to work on your flexibility, others to warm up, or don’t hit too hard, and they are probably all right in their own way.
Another angle is to realize that whatever you train for…becoming a better golfer, faster runner, faster swimmer, or better piano player…you train your brain.
The brain’s first goal is to ensure your survival. It doesn’t care about making you a better golfer or runner.
As long as survival is jeopardized by “threat” signals (conscious or not), your physical performance will be held back.
What are the threat signals? They are the ones emitted by the sensors (mostly in your joints), perceived by the brain, letting it know what you are doing (standing, falling, twisting your ankle…) The brain analyzes these signals and decides if you are ready. If you are too stiff, or don’t have the muscle tone, or balance…it is assessed as too dangerous and potentially harmful. In the next stage, if you keep trying, the brain will try to stop you by sending signals of pain or stiffness in certain joints, to prevent further movements, as movements are associated with potential injury.
Three main triggers are:
1- starting the season, after hibernating during winter. The body is simply not prepared. By “hibernating” I mean doing no activity that would prepare you for that. There are smart things you can do all year long regardless of the weather condition.
2- trying to improve your golf swing by practicing “more and more”, therefore adding more “threat”.
3- ignoring the pain signals and believing that they will disappear by themselves; they won’t. They are there for a very good reason…your survival, remember?
Three things you can do to better teach the brain :
1- Practice at a slow speed and smaller range of motion without even using a ball. That will help create a map of the movement the nervous system can identify when you will practice full speed.
2- Stop if you feel discomfort or pain starting. That pain is probably a threat signal that will go amplifying if you try to keep going. The sooner you stop, the less damage done and the sooner you can go back to practice. You will improve if you don’t have to interrupt your golf season too often because of injuries, right?
3- Gradually increase the volume of your golf practice. Too much at the beginning of the season is…too much. And too much is threatening, because you are not used to. That brings us back to the threatening principles and why you have to stop BEFORE it becomes too much(did I say “too much” too much??).
Any level of practice can be good or bad, depending on how prepared you are, and on how you have taught your brain.
The goal of all this is to enjoy your day on the golf course. It becomes then an excellent anti-stress and brain stimulation activity.
Enjoy your golf season!!