Why is it that sometimes we can get up and perform with flow which rockets our confidence levels and we find the swing and the game just ‘so easy’. Conversely, why is that some days we swing the club as if it is a foreign body that has never been in our hands before? Even more frustrating these times don’t seem to be predictable, what is sure that when you desperately need that ‘flow’ in performance, the harder you try the more the feeling eludes us. The reflex argument is that it must be mental and you just need to keep persevering and eventually you will get there. Sadly it is often the opposite – the harder you try the more illusive this state seems to be.
From purely a mental standpoint I would question the implicit /explicit balance, in other words in terms of thinking less is more. One or two simple, but fully engaging, thoughts help to demote much of our thinking into our subconscious procedural memory where it belongs. Sometimes this helps to move towards this state, but be no means always. Now here is the bombshell, why is it that sometimes when we have been training physically very hard, after a time this state of ‘flow’ pops up and we are lulled into sense that we have made it and all we have to do is ‘bottle it’ and it will be ready for the when we really need it. Unfortunately when we desperately need it – it has disappeared again!
So the question remains is it just a mental thing? I am not sure and I feel the clue is when we have worked to near exhaustion this ‘flow’ pops up, even though we might want to suppress it ‘not now – wait until I need you in competition’ you scream in frustration. So what happens to our body when it is subjected to repetitive stress while swinging a club? While unit repetition is important to improve muscle memory by reinforcing neuropathways to carry out a specific motor function, or movement, at some point there could be a case of diminished returns. Any athlete, or any person for that matter, is subject to the same laws of physics if their bodies aren’t properly taken care of after performing repetitive functions.
A golfer swings the club several hundred of times a week, if not more, all in the same relative direction. While this is important to improve accuracy, we can see the effects of an overuse syndrome whenever a shot doesn’t go as expected This can be the result of concentration fatigue or lack of adherence to the pre-shot routine. There are however other factors that can come into play when this happens; those uncontrollable factors, such as weather, ball lie, etc., but one of them that is, perhaps more in the golfer’s control, than they might realize.
Repetitive strain in athletes will inflict stress on the muscles and joints that will not only lead to small tears in the tendons (i.e., medial epicondylitis) but also microfiber tears in fascia encasing the muscles. While many golfers are focusing their treatment on the tendons at the elbow joint for epicondylitis, it is equally important, if not more so, to look at how the restricted fascia affects other areas of the body and its ability to move freely and smoothly
Microfiber tears in the fascia will accumulate over time, get thicker and restrict motion if they are not properly reduced or eliminated. The first place they are likely to occur is the area of greatest stress and for golfers, this is typically their elbows and forearms. See Figure 1.
Figure 1. Stress occurs at elbows and wrists on contact.
Between the 26 muscles of the forearms and hands that grip the club, allow for elbow pronation, etc. the amount of strain the forearms and elbows incur is significant.
Since the fascia is one continuous three-dimensional web of tissue in the body giving form as well as allowing for flexibility, restrictions in one area will ultimately affect others. The next place fascia restrictions affect after the elbows, forearms and hands are the shoulders. See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Fascia restrictions will migrate into shoulders with repetitive use.
From there, if the restricted fascia is not properly released (and no, stretching your muscles won’t do it…more on this later) the thoracic spine, opposite hip and eventually the opposite knee and ankle will soon start to experience a loss of motion due to restricted fascia. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. Fascia restrictions occurring in the thoracic spine, opposite hip, knee and ankle/calf.
Walking while golfing
When you add the repetitive stress on the body from walking more than six miles per day while playing, you can begin to see how fascia restrictions that, if left un-corrected, will continue to persist, get thicker and restrict motion to the point where a seemingly unrelated region of the body starts to underperform all be it without the player being consciously aware of this decrease. At some point, fascia restrictions can become so severe they can act like an internal cast completely restricting motion. For a golfer, or anyone for that matter, the consequences can be eventually disastrous.
Fortunately a therapy technique known as cell remodeling can be applied to the fascia by a trained therapist and over a period of time, the restrictions can be released and the golfer can return to the level of play they once enjoyed and more able to find that elusive state of ‘flow’.