Tag Archives: stress fracture

Total success under the stars: In the Highcountry

Last night, you as a community:

Filled a garbage can full of food (kudos to whoever brought the red beans and rice) for Neighborhood Impact

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Raised money for Central Oregon Running Klub (CORK) Youth Development: 100% of the ticket sales went straight to a great cause

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Watched the YogaSlackers put on amazing show of athletic skill and balance, and come up out of your seats and joined in the fun (note: the 4 people you see on the ground in this photo are trained skilled professionals, the 4 people laying, hanging, and sitting on the trained professionals’ feet are not, and were pulling off these tricks within 5 min!)

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Watch as Joel Wolpert’s camera depicts the soul of Anton Krupicka trekking, running, and climbing all over our world. If you weren’t able to join us last night, you can check out the In the Highcountry here.

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Lastly – I’d like to thank our gracious sponsors for making this evening possible:  Deschutes Brewery, FootZone, Fleetfeet, and the REP Biomechanics Lab @ Rebound Physical Therapy.

Ground-breaking news: runners who are faster than you have longer strides

This year, I got to present along an all-star cast at the USATF SPEED Summit in NJ. Basically, the goal is to breakdown the elements of coaching based on science, and then use this science to bolster what we do on track. Smarter plan = better results. Or maybe I should say smarter people help us develop better plans? This is the conference I was most looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint.

So let’s get past the sarcasm in the title, and go straight to the big picture: if you run slow, you take short strides and your turn over isn’t that quick. The only way to run faster is to increase your turnover and your stride length. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when you hear that faster runners have a longer stride length than slower runners. But now we get into an interesting question…..is stride length the cause or the effect? Or more specifically, why do some runners appear to bound effortlessly over the ground?

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They are stronger. About 80% of the cost of running comes from holding your body up against gravity. If you have strength reserves, it’s easy to combat gravity and float from step to step.  This extra strength enables more “hang-time” which translates to a longer stride length with less effort. Take home here? Get stronger.

How can you develop running specific strength? You can run. Collegiate and sponsored athletes get two workouts a day, and are racking up big miles. You know what else they do? They lift weights to develop strength reserves. Its highly likely that you don’t have the time and energy to rack up monster miles each week. But take a look at your week. Can you examine your training program and budget 30 min 2x’s a week for some strength work? If the answer is no, take a look back at the Achievement Triangle post…..and ask yourself where you’d like to be.  And if you are over 40, this is not optional. Get strong to get faster.

Want more? Check out this reference: Weyand

The MOST important single sentence you’ll ever read about training

I won’t keep you in suspense, here it is:

Instead of getting caught up in the latest fads, always make sure each workout is contributing to your long term goals.

I was in the airport yesterday and starring at the news stand. Every single issue has some variation of “the 5 workouts you must do this month” plastered across the cover. There are lots of great workouts out there, but only you can identify who you want to be.

Its pretty easy to work backwards. Define your goal, and ensure that each day’s heart beats, muscle contractions, nutrition intake, and rest schedules are target focused on that goal. Because we both want the same thing: for you to be able to cross your next challenge off your list.

Pace Maker: an interview with Today in PT

Today in PT is a magazine for the physical therapy profession. They wrote:

Americans are increasingly on the run, with Running USA’s 2012 State of the Sport report counting nearly 39 million runners. Runners spend nearly $2.5 billion annually on footwear, according to the report. But, unfortunately, new shoes don’t come with accurate information and proper training to safely and successfully pursue the activity. For that, Today in PT turned to Jay Dicharry, PT, MPT, SCS, author of “Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention.” click here for the rest

They threw out 10 questions, and i threw out 10 answers. Check out the link if you’d like to see some of the reasons why i do what I do, a few lines on the book, and why i got into this aspect of athletic injury care in the first place.

 

Running Footwear: A critical look at what we know about footwear and how to select the best fit for your athlete

The media likes to spin things to make headlines. I’m not too big on spinning, I’d rather just help educate. If you’d like to clear the air and see what we know, what we don’t know, and what’s been spun, you can check out this webinar I’m doing for USA Track and Field next week on Mar 26th. Coaches will get CEU’s from their couch.

The make of running shoes have historically gone from one side (thin and flexible) to the other (stiff and bulky) and are now moving toward the middle of the road. Which is best? And how do you match running shoes to an individual runner? In this webinar presentation, Jay Dicharry will comb through relevant research and clinical experience to help you approach your running retailer with the knowledge of selecting the right tool for the job. Learn how to ensure that you are running in your shoes rather than your shoes running you! By the end of this webinar you’ll be able to understand:

  •                 the evolution of footwear
  •                 how footwear has been classically prescribed
  •                 proof that this fit model is ineffective
  •                 how shoes impact your running form
  •                 how barefoot running impacts your form
  •                 how shoe wear impacts your form
  •                 how to select shoes for you
  •                 what minimal shoes are, and if you are ready to make the transition

Podcast with Jay Dicharry: A discussion with Healthynomics

I did an audio podcast with Mark Kennedy of Healthnomics.com yesterday. Check out the link, and you’ll get to hear some great discussion on runners as athletes, running form, and footwear. You can even listen to it while you run!

Chevy Tahoe or a Mini Cooper? A tip on running shoe selection.

You are about to leave your house and have the keys to both your cars in your hand. Which do you take?

Today, you have to drive through town town to get some groceries, and then to the mall. Its a slow drive on neighborhood streets to the freeway. Your SUV is comfortable, affords a good view of the road, and has lots of room for the stuff you are going to buy. Given the fact that SUV’s account for huge number of sales in the US, the public agrees this is a logical choice.

OK – its the weekend. You are going to flee the city and head up to the cabin. Its a really twisty backcountry mountain road. Turn after turn, its hard to even maintain the posted speed limit. Do you select the SUV that ensures you need to slow down due to body roll, or do you take the sports car? The sports car is lighter, lower, and has a firmer suspension. It was designed for these very conditions. While a stiffer suspension may be less comfortable driving through the burbs, the improved “road feel” you get with the sports car helps you drive better at speed through more challenging roads.

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Time to go shoe shopping! You ask the salesman to pull two pairs of shoes for you. The first feels like a cloud at first step. It feels like you could stand around in them for hours. Your quick run test on the sidewalk in front the shop confirms that same cushy marshmallow feel during your run. Going back inside, you slip on shoe #2. It feels comfortable, but is much firmer. It didn’t grab you at first step as you walked around the store, but when you repeated your short demo run outside, it felt pretty much like the shoe wasn’t even there. The firmer feel felt a bit more responsive.

What running shoe should you buy?

Well, the marketing research is clear. People buy shoes b/c of 1) color, and 2) “first feel”. First feel is that first step you take. You know that sense of walking on a cloud…..the same feeling that made you think you could stand around in them for hours? Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with running shoe selection. Running is not standing. When you stand, you have half your body weight split between each foot. The total load on each each leg is about half your body weight. When you walk, sometimes you have two feet on the ground, and sometimes you have one foot down on the ground. So at the most, you’d have your full body weight on one leg, and at the least, it would be split between both legs. And when you are walking, your feet are on the ground for a long time. If you need to “micro-correct” your muscles to stabilize your body, you’ve got time to do so.

Running isn’t standing. And its not walking. During running, your foot is only on the ground for a very short time: The average runner moving at 7.2 mph is on the ground for only .17 seconds. Decisions on stability need to happen very very quickly, faster than you can actually think about them. And when running, there is no double leg contact. You are either sailing through the air, or in contact with a single leg. That single leg must not only support your full body weight, but about 2.5x’s your body weight.

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So what “car” do you pick? Well, lets look at hundreds of research articles on foot and ankle balance. Almost every single article says that you have a harder time balancing and stabilizing when on a cushioned surface. On marshmallow-cushy surfaces, the muscles that control your foot and ankle kick on too late and not enough to keep things under control. So if you are going to rally around a twisty mountain mountain road, the stiffer suspension on the Mini Cooper gives you better traction and feel. When running, a firmer feeling shoe provides a stiffer surface for the muscles in your foot and ankle to support your body. Said very simply: the foot works better when on a firmer surface.

So do yourself a favor. Go to the store. Try on your shoes. Obviously you’ll stand, and then walk outside or over to the treadmill. But resist the urge to make an impression on the shoe until you are actually running. Of course you should buy a pair that feels comfortable! But most of us are in shoes too soft and squishy to be running fast. Pick the right car for your drive, and the right shoe for your run. Running comfort, not walking comfort, should be key.

What can you learn from a frustrated bird?

Here at UVA, I teach a course called Neuro-muscular Basis of Human Movement, and today we are speaking of all things running mechanics. One of my students made an analogy that actually tells us a lot about running. Well, the analogy doesn’t really tell us that much, but a host of really angry and pissed off birds will….. Yes–> those angry birds!

Angry Birds is a simple game ( if it’s so simple, why has our country’s gross national product dropped since its launch????) that forces us to abide by the laws physics. Your goal, of course, is to knock out those smirky smiling pigs at various locations. You learn very quickly that aiming too high blasts your bird up to the clouds, at the expense of sacrificing distance. Aiming too low also compromises distance. Aiming just right produces the greatest distance covered with a pull of the slingshot….. The fancy name for this would be the optimum trajectory

While you don’t have to land on a pig when running, you do try to cover a given amount of distance per stride. In fact, the definition of running economy would be to cover a given distance with as little energy as possible. Too much up and down motion while running wastes a lot of energy. Actually about 80% of the energy required to run comes from raising and lowering the body against gravity. So “aiming too high”- too much vertical rise an fall- is not a smart move.

A lot of people get this. The problem is that they take it to the opposite extreme. They tell us that we need to minimize the rise and fall of our body. Does this play out? Go play angry birds again, and aim your bird dead flat. Pull back all the way and watch your bird take flight….. It won’t go very far. Limiting the up and down motion of the body when running not only ensures you won’t go far with each stride, it also costs a lot of energy! Go for a run and try to keep your head as still as possible- you won’t be able to do this for long- its tough!

So what is best? If you try to get maximum distance per fire on angry birds, you’ll find that about 45 degrees gives you the greatest distance. So does this mean that you should aim for this when running? Well, not exactly. The body isn’t a bird, a cannon ball, or any other type of projectile. It’s an actively controlled spring that actually stores and releases elastic energy to help you move forward. Some amount of vertical rise and fall is actually beneficial to “load the slingshot” and store and release this elastic energy. Exactly how much depends on your body weight, your leg length, and your pace, and your contact time. A sort of nice number is around 4-6 cm of vertical rise and fall of the body typically produces optimal results. In labs like ours at UVA, we study this kind of stuff to tweak your economy.

The take home message is that some rise and fall is necessary, even advantageous, when running.* So when someone tells you that a runner is efficient because their head stays perfectly still when running, maybe you should hand them your smartphone and tell them to play a little game.

* note- excessive rise and fall of your phone, as in when you throw it against the wall after not beating a level for the 37th time, isn’t recommended.

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Are you ready for minimal?

Looking to get into “less” shoe? Don’t understand why you need to make some changes in your body to help this process? Looking for some help moving towards something new? Check out this month’s issue of Running Times to check out an article I wrote with my colleague, Dr Mark Cucuzzella, on a smooth and successful transition to minimal running shoes.

And if you’d like to see the print word come to life, check out the video “are you ready for minimal” by yours truly on the www.runningtimes.com homepage. Also on their youtube channel here.

Proprio-what? a deeper look at balance and stability

Yesterday’s post got lots of comments; I’d like to post a bit more here to help folks understand this concept a bit deeper. Why does this idea about balance matter at all to runners? Midstance is basically single leg standing balance. However there is a difference between “reactive balance” and “proprioceptive control.”

Let’s define a few terms here:

Strength – relates to the cross-sectional area of a given tissue. This is related to the muscle’s ability to generate force. Bigger muscle, bigger force. Simple.

Proprioception: there are 3 primary things we use for balance.

  1. Vestibular  (inner ear) – If you are standing still, inner fluid is still. If you turn your head suddenly, the inner ear fluid swirls and this information goes to your brain to help determine acceleration and change in position.
  2. Somatosensory – You “feel” the ground. You have sensory receptors in your skin which allow you to feel something – light and deep pressure, vibration, heat, cold, etc. This sensation goes a long way to improve your tactile feedback to help you remain stable.
  3. Vision – We use our eyes to orient our head and trunk and let us know which way is “up”.

Note- you do have other reflexes that play a role here, but these are the primary ones that have the greatest effect.

If these 3 systems “agree” then you are using your body as best you can to achieve control in stance. So let’s look at examples of how these can change. If you are on a merry go round, your eyes see you are spinning, your somatosensory feels the body turning, and your vestibular system says you are spinning. Everything is fine. If you stop, your eyes and somatosensory system say you have stopped, but your inner ear fluid is still swirling – signals don’t agree….. and you become dizzy.

So why is it harder to close your eyes in single leg balance? Most folks are visual dominant. They rely highly on their eyes to find their position in space. The problem with this is that it’s “slow.” You need to see information, process it in the visual part of your brain, then send a signal to the part of your brain that control motion (motor cortex) to make a correction. Somatosensory information is very very fast. There is a direct relay between the sensory and motor reflexes both inside and outside the brain – resulting in fast rapid “micro-corrections” of position. Let’s use an example.

If you look at skiers, surfers, skateboarders, white water paddlers – they all have something in common – they need to make positional corrections VERY quickly – faster than they can see visually and adjust. They get good feedback about the position of their body from their hard ski edge (transferred up through a very stiff plastic boot), or the rail of the surf board (transferred through their bare feet). Each and every time they practice their sport they are refining their position sense by “feeling” where the body is. They consistently train and improve their somatosensory system.

Research shows that the somatosensory system is highly trainable. Its best done frequently in small doses. Instead of trying to balance on one leg for 10 min each night, its better to do it 20x’s a day for 30 seconds. Yes, you CAN improve your balance….by practicing.  Not your “I’m-rocking-back-and-forth-like-a-weeble-wobble” re-active balance, but your “proactive balance.” Proactive balance means “I know what to do to keep my body stable – I can micro-correct to improve my stability.” Think about spreading your toes out wide to maximize the width of your foot. Try to push your big toe down – not curling, just down as you keep it straight. This will improve your muscles firing inside your foot. I’ll make a deal with you – if you work on your single leg balance every day, you’ll find not only will you be able to stand with eyes closed, but also be able to begin to rotate left and right with your eyes closed. The goal is to reduce your dominance on vision and improve your use and perception of “feel.” It works!

OK – so let’s now look at this with respect to running. I’m going somewhere with this I promise – I’m building a case for you. There is a ton of research that supports the idea that firm surfaces offer better “feel” to the individual and thus better balance control. Soft surfaces mute the feedback to the person and result in poor stability in stance. The goal is to maximize your level of active stability control that your body can produce.

If I am in the clinic working with a patient, I always work them in barefoot, and will use all kinds of rocker/wobble/rolling boards to do this. All of these are FIRM and HARD surfaces. Even though the foot is moving, the contact between the ground and the foot is solid. The person gets good feel for what is happening. I am not a proponent of foam pads to work on balance. Why? Foam pads let you cheat and roll off to the outside of the foot. They don’t mandate that you activate the big toe. They don’t train “pro-active control.”

Let’s take this idea and now apply is to footwear and the entire rationale for you reading this post. What is traditional footwear? – It’s got an elevated heel, a wider lever arm than your foot, and a big marshmellow stuck underneath. This marshmallow allows your weight to shift to the outside of the foot. The heel-higher-than-the-forefoot provides a “rocker” in front of the shoe that you can simply roll off of. It lets you “cheat” by conforming to your foot. A lot of runners have gotten used to this.  Their feet have become weaker as the shoe does more of the work.

When we look at minimal footwear or barefoot running, this foam pad is gone completely or reduced significantly.  Suddenly, you can’t cheat. You have to actively use the muscles inside the foot to stabilize. The absence or reduced cushioning in the shoe allows you to get better “feel”  - why do so many proponents of barefoot and minimalist running claim that they feel “free” or like they’ve “been released”…….? It’s simple – your foot gets more information from the surface you are on when you don’t have a big piece of compressible foam in the between. More information  = better muscle activation.

I see a hand up in the audience.

Q: So I’ve been running for years and I still can’t stabilize with my eyes closed. What gives?

A: closing eyes might be slightly overkill, but you know what? – Almost every standardized assessment for balance testing has an eyes-closed component to assess just what we mentioned above (the 3 things that impact proprioception). So if you have good balance with eyes closed, I know that you are good in this regard and not going to ask you to add this into your training program. It allows the examiner to differentiate how well you use different skills that affect balance. If the eyes closed part is the issue, and this is connected to faulty foot and ankle mechanics during running, it give me more information as to what your limiters are as a runner.

Q:  So I’ve been running for years, and I still can’t stand on one leg – even with my eyes open. What gives?

A:  There is no research to show that your poor balance will result in injury, but there is research to show that those with a number of lower extremity injuries do have poor balance. Further, I’ll be happy to say that those with poor single leg balance almost always have some very interesting finding in our lab – they usually have altered forces around the ankles which results in abnormal stresses to the lower leg and foot. Improving your single leg balance is a way work on prevention. I’d much rather you not get hurt and keep enjoying your runs, than not. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has run for years without injury – awesome! However, research shows that 82% of you runners will be hurt at some point. Both personally and professionally, I’d rather see you in the 18% of those who are not.