For those of you wanting to stay healthy while doing this amazing hobby of ours we will be featuring health focused tips, prep and suggestions from Dr. Nick Gentile. For more info about the doc you can visit his website at: http://drnickgentile.com/
We’re quickly heading towards a very busy time in the Legion calendar around the world. Coming up in the US we have the Las Vegas Open and Worlds at Adepticon, and down here in Australia we have Cancon just around the corner.
Although I’m a Legion fanatic by night, by day I’m a Chiropractor, and whenever I’m going to events or their coming up in our local area, I get a lot of questions around how best to deal with the physical stressors of tournaments.
The 2 things that people ask me about most often around tournaments are Headaches and Lower back pain. While there’s a lot of different causes for these issues, what I’d like to share for you over the next few minutes is some of my best tips for events for helping to prevent these pains, and then finally I’ll give you a couple of tips to deal with them if you’re unlucky enough to be struck down during an event.
Why do we get headaches and back pain at tournaments?
By far the most common reason that we get headaches at tournaments is dehydration. Dehydration does a tonne of things to our physiology, it causes our muscles to become tense, it increases the ratio of waste products in our system, it makes it more difficult for us to generate energy, and it can even cause our brain to temporarily reduce in size. This combination of muscle tension and loss of electrolytes is what most often causes our pain.
When it comes to back pain the reasons are relatively simple. It’s a combination of muscle fatigue and bad posture. At most tournaments we spend anywhere between 8 and 10 hours standing, which although as human beings this shouldn’t be an issue, we just aren’t conditioned for this in our modern society (regardless of how much CrossFit you do!) Our postural muscles get tired and our big muscles and ligaments have to start covering for them. Secondly, at most tournaments I’ve been to, the tables are at a height designed for sitting, which means that we as players spend a lot of time bending at the waist to move minis, check line of sight and generally just playing the game. Unfortunately, bending forward at the hips with minimal bend in our legs is the number one worst posture when it comes to causing lower back pain. What it boils down to is it puts a whole heap of force through your L5/S1 region (right where your spine connects to your butt) which then your body has to work really hard to protect, so muscles and ligaments tighten up, and that spasm causes pain.
So how do we avoid getting to this painful, headachy point?
Before the event:
The first thing you want to focus on is sleep. If possible you want to aim for a full night’s sleep the night before a tournament. There are enough reasons to the benefits of a full night’s sleep before a big event for me to do a whole blog post, in the interest of brevity however, your muscles will last longer, your mind will be sharper and your patience will be greater if you have 7+ hours of sleep the night before. So get your painting done early!
The morning of the event you want to focus of having a good breakfast. Something that will keep you energized through until the afternoon. To achieve this you want to make sure that you have a combination of Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats in your meal. A typical breakfast for me before a tournament will be Bacon, Eggs (Protein and Fat) Avocado (Fats and Carbs) and Brocollini (Carbs.) You can add in some Sourdough toast (or really anything that isn’t white bread) or Oats instead. The reason you want a combination of all these things is because it will help you feel full for longer and by hitting all the Marco groups with real food you’ll also go a long way to getting enough Micronutrients as well. If you’re vegetarian or vegan you can add some nuts and seeds to replace the Eggs and Bacon, so you might want some Oats with fruit like Banana and some Walnuts and Sunflower seeds. Don’t turn up hungry, that’s a recipe for disaster! (Haha see what I did there?)
Hydration is the next big step when getting ready for a tournament. If you want to do it properly you need to start the day before, and really focus on having at least 2 litres (0.528 Gallons for those Americans reading 😛 ) and then make sure you’re starting your day with at least 1 to 2 glasses (8-16 ounces) with breakfast .
So the last thing you can do before the event to take your preparation to the next level is to pick up a Magnesium supplement. In Australia you can get them from the local Chemist or even the supermarket, I imagine it’s similar around the rest of the World. What magnesium does is it helps to keep your muscles relaxed and aids in the transfer of information along your nervous system. Magnesium is a great little hack to keep you functioning at your best all day. One disclaimer though, if you are taking any prescription medication, make sure you check that a magnesium supplement won’t have any interactions with your meds.
When it comes to surviving 8+ hours of high intensity Legion, there’s 3 really great tips that will make all the difference to your endurance and gaming experience.
By far be the best thing you can do to save your body throughout the day is SIT DOWN. I cannot stress this enough. Every time you are not activating a unit or doing something like checking line of sight make sure you are sitting. Remember earlier when I was talking about the shear forces that standing and leaning forward places through your lower back? The less time you can spend in that position, the better you will be. In addition the more fatigued your legs get, the less they are able to support the structures around your lower back, the more likely your lower back will get sore. As a general rule of thumb, aim to ALWAYS be seated. Of course sitting all day at a tournament is impossible, however if you aim for sitting all the time you will keep it at the front of your mind and sit a lot more than you would normally.
Bring your own lunch. If you’ve ever been in the hot sheds of Cancon at lunchtime you will understand that it often takes longer than your whole lunch break to buy something to eat. Coupled with that, often the food available, while delicious, is not often conducive for optimum performance. Packing your lunch serves a couple of benefits. One, it saves you time trying to get in line and standing around waiting to be served (at big cons at least) and secondly, it allows you to pack food that’s going to fuel your brain and body more effectively. You want to follow the same rules as with breakfast, a combination of Protein, Carbs and Fat. Typically I’ll bring hard boiled eggs, a can of tuna, some cut up vegetables, maybe a Cliff Bar or two and some nuts and seeds. This gives me enough stuff to allow me to snack between rounds as well as something more substantial for lunch. Just like with breakfast, you want something that’s going to keep you full for as long as possible.
Lastly and most importantly, make sure you stay hydrated. For a full day of Legion you want to drink at least 2 litres (half a gallon) of water. If you can drink more than that all the better. You also want to make sure you get some electrolytes in with that as well. You can either do this by adding some dissolvable electrolytes to your water or just standard sports drink like Gatorade. “But Nick,” I hear you exclaim “I’m a hipster from Melbourne and have a great desire to home brew everything that I consume, I even have my own Moisture Vaporators in the back yard!” Never fear, something that is healthier and a more delicious source of electrolytes is my own home made sports drink;
- Fill about 1/5 of the container you are using (cup/drink bottle etc etc) with real Maple Syrup
- The juice of half to a whole lemon (depending on the size of the container)
- Up to a tea spoon of Pink Himalayan Salt (taste is the limiting factor here)
- Water to fill
This combination of ingredients has all the electrolytes that you get from sports drinks, minus the colours and flavours, is better absorbed by your body, and is delicious. I always pack a bottle of this when I head to big events.
What happens if I lose a hand?
So if you manage to follow my guide I’m confident that you’ll get through the tournaments smoother and easier than ever before, you may even roll better! However, just like Luke in cloud city, sometimes you just lose a hand. Well, hopefully not a hand, but you may still end up with a headache or some back pain.
When it comes to back pain, the best thing you can do if you’re starting to get sore is to lay on your back on the ground and one at a time, hug your knee to your chest while keeping your opposite leg straight out. When hugging your knee you also want to aim it slightly towards your armpit. This should be a very comfortable position. Repeat with side as much as necessary.
If that one doesn’t work, you want to lie on your stomach, keep your pelvis on the ground and lift your upper body onto elbows. This is essentially a modified cobra stretch. You don’t want to push up very far, just enough to lift your chest slightly off the ground. Again, this should feel good almost straight away.
If neither of these are helpful, short gentle walks should make a good difference. I should add, if back pain is something that you’re experiencing regularly while gaming or painting you should probably seek the advice of a professional, either a Chiropractor, Osteopath or Physio.
When it comes to headaches drinking water and electrolytes as soon as you feel it coming on is the best thing you can do. Some self-massage particularly around the base of your skull (the sub-occipital muscle group) often can help as well. However, with headaches, prevention is by far the best approach.
So that’s about it when it comes to surviving a big tournament pain free. What I hope to share with you in the future is some more tips for being healthy and comfortable through every aspect of our hobby. If there’s anything specific you’d love me to cover just contact us here at the Fifth Trooper and I’d love to oblige.
Until next time, May the Force be with You!