Want to see what we are up to @ Rebound? Come grab a beer, some eats, and join us for our open house this Thursday! (superhero dress optional)
The guys at Trail Runner Nation podcast gave me a call, and asked a few questions. If you’d like to hear some inside scoop on what you can do to keep healthy and happy on the way to your next PR, grab some of your favorite brew, and tune in here.
We’ll debunk some myths, babble about footwear, talk about why we don’t treat injuries by treating symptoms, and discuss some cutting-edge approaches on strength training for endurance athletes. Its a long hour of conversation, but all this talk is aimed at ways to help make running fun. Because that why we do this stuff. And more fun is, well, just more fun.
A few weeks ago, I got to present along side Dr. Joe Vigil at a USA Track and Field conference in LA. For those of you who have to ask “who is Joe Vigil?”…..this man is to coaches as Rolex is to watches: the best.
Dr Vigil always has the uncanny ability to break down complex tasks and ask you the “right” introspective questions to help you reach your next milestone. We don’t just train the body in isolation. We’ve always heard that the body can handle more than the mind wants to give. So with that, I’m going to leave you with the following picture. Is it time to take the elevator up the “achievement triangle?” – What’s holding you back from reaching your goals? Change all starts with the desire to change.
In fact, lets move beyond kumbaya and start this process in motion right now. Turn the computer off. Get out a sheet of paper and make 3 columns. Write down your goals in column 1. Then write down the obstacles that stand in the way of each of your goals. Then make a 3rd column of exactly what you are going to do to beat each of those obstacles. Stick it on your fridge and remember your passion. When one of those obstacles seems like its standing in your way, make your tiger face and beat it down. Mental Tough = Body Tough.
And if you need help with your plan, give me a ring – I’ll help you find your tiger face.
Hey gang – Just got back from speaking at a great USATF Level 3 conference in Costa Mesa, CA, this weekend. I’ll have some highlights to post from that event later on. But for today, I wanted to send out a reminder about the USA Triathlon webinar I’ll be conducting tomorrow, Tuesday Feb 26th.
If you’d like to register, please see this link. And yes, we’ll have some Q and A time.
Hope to see you on the web!
There is a store called “Daddy Ultra Runs” down in Cocoa Beach, FL, and the owner, Hernan Garcia, is giving away my book with every shoe purchase from October through December…..at his own expense. Is this crazy? I don’t even know this guy. Why would a shop owner do something like this?
Let’s look at the reality here. 82% of runners sustain a running injury during their lifetime. Stats show that 42-62% of runners get hurt each and every year. Those numbers aren’t good! In fact some people would look at those numbers and say “running is dangerous – stay away!”
However, my experience treating runners daily for over a decade, and collecting objective information on their running stride in my lab has shown me that running isn’t really the problem. The problem has more to do with a) your body, or b) the way in which you run. While I spend my “day job” doing individual running assessments in my lab, I realize that I can’t see everyone, which is why I wrote the book, Anatomy for Runners. While its no substitute for a full one-on-one evaluation, its the best I can do until I’m able to successfully clone myself.
Let’s be honest, Your local running retailer is the first point of contact for runners. They see way more runners in a day than any local clinician does, and can take advantage of their exposure as educators. They can spread better information to both new and experienced runners, and together, we can work collectively to change those injury stats, and keep you running healthy into the future.
Thanks Hernan, and thanks to all of you who are spreading the word on the book!
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.
There has been a lot of interest lately in the transition to minimal footwear. Am I going to get hurt? How long does this transition take? Is this really better for me? Will my old shoes take it personally? Last year at this time, there were 6 minimal shoes on the market. This year there are 64. It’s a hot market, and folks are taking notice. While shoes are nice to talk about, let’s not forget that it’s the runner in the shoe that plays an active role in this equation. Shoes don’t run by themselves!
The recent article by Giuliani et. al. has raised some concerns.2 They highlight 2 cases of stress fractures in 2 different runners who transition to minimal footwear. The switch to minimal footwear can be dramatic. You get more “feel” since the squishy midsole is reduced or gone. You get a lower differential from your rear foot to your forefoot. These 2 factors change a) the position of the foot (Heel isn’t higher than the forefoot in full contact) and, b) the demand of the runner to stabilize the foot inside the shoe. In short, with less “stuff” in between you and the ground, you need your body to do a bit more, and get accommodate to a bit more as well.
Ever hear about the experiment with pre-K kids with the cookies? They put a kid in a room with cookie on the table and tell him/her that they can eat the cookie and they’ll get one cookie. BUT, if they don’t eat the cookie, they’ll get 2 cookies later (yea!). The tester walks out of the room and the kids go into panic mode when sitting in front of this stellar, delicious cookie. Most eat the single cookie for instant gratification. They fail to see the merits of waiting patiently for a better result.
What in the world do cookies have to do with running shoes? A lot. The switch to minimal footwear can pay off in the long run, but you need ensure you’ve got what it takes for a successful transition. Obviously any time you make a change to your body, there is an adaptation period that needs to occur. A lot of “experts” say that it will take 6 months to a year to fully transition to a minimal shoe. I’d like to think that this is overly cautious, and like to discuss why using the anatomy. We’ve found great success using the following 3 criteria for runners looking to run with “less”.
1. Mobility: Traditional running shoes have about a 10-13mm drop from the heel to the forefoot. This creates a “rocker” effect in the shoe. Take a look at a shoe from the side and you’ll see that the curve from the ball of the foot to the tip of the toe rises up. Since your foot is flat, you need to ensure that you have enough mobility (called dorsiflexion) of the big toe to allow the foot to roll over. Additionally, since the heel is higher in a traditional running shoe (think a small high heel) the heel chords are used to operating in a shortened position. You need to ensure that you’ve got the mobility needed to allow the heel chords to operate form their slightly lengthened position. So what to you test?
2. Single-leg Standing Balance: normal balance has been identified as standing on single leg for 30 seconds
with a still upper body and full foot contact. Since the midstance phase of running is essentially a single leg squat, it is essential that the runner is able to maintain the foot in contact. A triangle between the inside ball of the foot (1st MTP), end of the big toe (distal phalanx of the 1st ray), and outside ball of the foot (5th MTP) should be seen. When in single leg stance, the muscles in the foot need to be “pro-active” not “re-active”. If you are wobbling your foot back and forth when standing on one foot, you’ve got some room to improve your “proprioception” – or sense of where and what you’re your foot is doing during contact. The most successful way to improve single leg balance is to perform it frequently (15-20 times a day) for small doses (30 seconds each).
3. Ability to isolate the Flexor Hallucis Brevis: a key factor that distinguishes humans from primates is our medial longitudinal arch. This arch is actively stabilized by the flexor hallicus brevius (FHB). While standing, try to drive the big toe (1st MTP) into the ground (plantar flexion) while slightly elevating (dorsiflexing) the lesser toes. Make sure not to roll the ankle in or out. This test enables screening of muscles inside the foot that stabilize the arch. The FHB can be easily distinguished from the longus (FHL), as the FHL crosses another joint in your big toe (1st IP joint), resulting in your big toe curling. Spend some time getting to know your foot. Aim to drive the big toe down while lifting the little toes (without curling the big toe!), and lift the big toe up while driving the little toes down. It’s the best way to work on coordination of muscles that actively stabilize the foot in stance. It’s your foot – control it! If you can do this, it’s a sign that you can keep the rear foot stable on the forefoot when the body sees the greatest amount of pronation (which is just slightly after midstance and AFTER the heel is off of the ground by the way.)1 Midstance is when forces are highest throughout the body- about 2.5x’s your body weight. You need the internal strength to be able to respond to these forces to keep things in alignment.
When your foot “works” it can actively stabilize the transfer of forces through the foot. If you don’t pass these 3 tests, no worry -get to work on improving your limitations. Pay a visit to your local PT if you need help with specific exercises and stretches to improve. If you lack mobility, research shows it takes 10-12 weeks to gain significant improvements. So stretching for 2 weeks likely won’t be enough for most folks. Improving tissue length can take some time. If your limitations are in the balance aspect, you’ll be amazed how quickly this improves if you simply practice practice practice. Typically, about 2 weeks yields a significant improvement. Finally, strength gains take about 6-8 weeks to achieve. So if you really have trouble isolating your foot muscles, this could take a bit to get them stronger – but you can always improve the strength of your muscles! Passing these 3 tests doesn’t mean that you should go run a marathon in your new minimal shoes on day 1, but we’ve seen that folks who master these have little to no problem making the transition. I’ll note here that these tests are not new in my mind. I’d like all runners – even those who run in traditional shoes – to pass these tests. Its that when the “stuff” under your foot is less, these traits are that much more important.
So invest some time to improve your foot – Because it’s always better to have 2 cookies instead of one! Shoes make a difference, but it’s the runner in the shoe that you’ve got control over.
Dicharry, JM., Franz, JR., Della Croce, U., Wilder, RP., O’Riley, P., Kerrigan, DC. Differences in Static and Dynamic Measures in Evaluation of Talonavicular Mobility in Gait. J Orthop Sport Phys Ther 2009;39(8):628-634
Giuliani J, Masini B, Alitz C, Owens BD. Barefoot-simulating Footwear Associated With Metatarsal Stress Injury in 2 Runners. Orthopedics. 2011 Jul 7;34(7)
Hey Runners –
We are currently looks for 10 runners to volunteer for a study. The study will look at the effects of longer distance runs. If you are chosen, you’ll need to come into the lab to run 3 times. Basically, you’ll do a long training run at your typical training pace indoors on our treadmill. You are welcome to watch a movie while you run to keep your attention! As you run, we’ll be collecting data on your gait to see how things change during a long run.
Each run will be for 1.5 hours. On the first run, you’ll be given a pair of shoes in your size to run in. You’ll take them home to put 400 miles on them. After you’ve hit 400 miles, you’ll come back in and run again. Somewhere in between the first and second run, you’ll come into the lab and run in second pair of shoes. The runs will be spaced several weeks apart, depending on how long it takes you to hit 400 miles on the shoes. You’ll get to keep a pair of shoes for participating in this study.
Here are the criteria.
If you meet all of the above criteria and are local in Charlottesville (or close enough that you could easily get here for the 3 running sessions) please give us a call at 434-982-1422.
When most runners, coaches, running shops think of the single biggest problem that affects runners- the answer usually points to the most feared word in running – “over-pronation.” However, we told Amby Burfoot (link here) that our years of experience quantifying running mechanics through the use of 3D gait analysis has shown us otherwise.
While it’s true that some of us out there may pronate more than others, it isn’t exactly what we’d call an epidemic problem in America. We’ll estimate that less than 30% of runners truly over-pronate (excess motion in the foot) their feet while running. To find the real answer, we need to move up eyes up and look at the hips. About 80-90% of runners don’t extend their hips.
What is hip extension anyway?
Lifting one knee up to the chest moves the hip into flexion. If you extend the hip the opposite direction (past vertical) that is hip extension. The goal is to do this without extending your back. Stretching your hip flexors to get more motion is the key
So why don’t most runners extend their hips?
We tend to sit. A lot. We sit in class. We sit at work. We sit in our cars. Cyclists, you spend all your time on the bike sitting in hip flexion. When we continually sit in hip flexion, the hip flexor muscles become tight. So tight that the overwhelming majority of runners can’t extend the hips. “Now wait a minute” – you might say –“I see all my friends and their leg does get behind them when they run – so they must be extending their hip right?”
Tight hip flexor muscles cause you to get your leg behind you not from extending your hip – but by arching your lower back. This can cause injury since an arched lumbar spine compromises our ability to use core muscles while we run. This sets us up for a host of leg injuries and also is the most common cause of low back pain in runners. Further, lack of hip extension compromises your running efficiency. As we increase speed, the bulk of the work supplied to the legs need to come from the hips. Well, if you can’t extend the hips, you are missing out on critical force to move your body forward.
So how do I get hip extension and is it really that simple?
You’ve got improve your range of motion of the hip, and your ability to control the new motion. The best hip stretch is a kneeling hip flexor stretch. Beware though, a lot of the videos on-line show incorrect form for this stretch and you don’t actually wind up extending your hip flexors at all (they stretch the quads). Check out the July 2010 issue of Runner’s World for an article we helped them put together. It shows correct technique to stretch the hips, and some simple exercises to learn to use your new range of motion.