Patrick Ward: Enhancing the Physiological Buffer Zone

A healthy athlete needs to have a Physiological Buffer Zone; What are you doing to that area between full physical capacity and the point of breakdown, injury or pain? Patrick Ward asks, “What can we do to extend this range as big as possible?”

People come to us and we apply a stressor to their body. We apply that stressor in the hope that we get a certain response.

Hopefully we get a favorable response and if we do, we should be asking ourselves, ‘Is there something I can do more? Can I make this better?’

If we get a negative response, which unfortunately sometimes happens, we need to be asking ourselves, ‘What can I do to change this?’ or ‘Why isn’t this person responding the way that I think they should be?’

That really feeds in to the idea of what I call the Physiological Buffer Zone. So, a buffer zone is really just an area between two points. And in terms of the Physiological Buffer Zone, we’ve got a point of physical capacity and a point of breakdown, injury or pain.

I’m sure most of you guys can think of an athlete or a client or someone who you’ve worked with who has this enormous Physiological Buffer Zone. They can train for hours on end. They can do crazy amounts of volume and intensities. They compete regularly without breaking down and their body tends to tolerate this stuff very well. They seem to not be the person who has any problems.

Then, you can probably think of someone who is the total opposite . . . whose Physiological Buffer Zone is much smaller and any little thing that you do, maybe you push just a little too much, and all of a sudden, they blow up. Maybe they compete just a little bit too long and that turns into an incident, maybe not a catastrophic injury like a horrible muscle pull but like a tweak . . . “My shoulder feels a little bit sore today.” Whatever sore means to them, or however they perceive that.

So, the question is, “What can we do to extend this Physiological Buffer Zone as big as possible?”

When I think about the healthy athlete . . . when I think about the high-performing athlete, there’s three things that fit into the triad of this Physiological Buffer Zone:

Those athletes have good movement,
They have high levels of fitness, and . . .
They have high stress resistance.

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