Day 5: Top Gifts for endurance Athletes

Its early in the morning…..Your eyes pop open. Sugar plums dancing around in your brain. Reindeer jingles in your soul. Its Christmas morning and you can’t wait to see what’s under the tree. If you are looking to take your athletic skill up a notch, and you’ve been a good boy or girl, you just may have a Si-Board under the tree!

The Si-Board is the brain child of Elysia Tsai. She’s an athletic trainer to professional women’s soccer with a keen eye towards making rehab count, and making it fun. I’m going to be blunt here. there isn’t a single piece of exercise equipment out there that is more FUN, more challenging, and more helpful than the Si-Board. Period.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 2.50.53 AMIs it hard? yes. It makes the balance board and even an indo board seem like child’s play. It will take time, and take some effort to gain command of this crazy tool. But here’s the kicker: This thing is actually fun. really fun. Yes, I said that already, and I said it again.

The Si-board consists of a deck (either from the company, or self-supplied if you go the custom route), a track to keep the ball in place, and a ball. That unique design  allows some unique motion.  The rocker board rocks. The indo board tilts and goes back and forth. But the Si-board tilts, wobbles, and rolls every which way imaginable. Which means you must learn how to control all this motion.

The first day I got this board I spent 30 minutes literally “surfing” around in my living room. so. much. fun. These days, I begin every single home workout I do with between 60-80 squats on it. And I have a blast thinking of a ton of different ways to use the Si-board in my home gym with kettle bells, swiss balls, TRX slings, and resistance bands. While its not for the timid, the Si-board literally forces you to keep your posture dialed, and move correctly from your core, hips, knees, and ankles. And perfect form = win.

I’ve got 2 different set ups that I use.

a) The Original  –  the large deck of the original provides a ton of different options for foot placement. the ball it comes with is on the larger side. This makes is slightly slower to respond (don’t let “slow” fool you here though!) to various movements. The deep track on the bottom allows you to mount resistance bands and other fun accessories to take your session up a few levels (when you are ready!). It comes with a half ball as well that you can use alone, or with the bigger ball to change up the stability challenge.  The ball is not just any ball. The key is solid urethane construction. The ball doesn’t compress, so there is no “stall.” The board is free to move about with you in control. The balls also bounce really, really well. In effect, you are getting a high bounce weighted ball to do some plyos with as well. And depending on how you position the ball and the half ball that the original set up comes with, you can effectively make a rocker board, a wobble board, and the fully awesome multi-directional unstable Si-board. The Original is my go to board. Expensive? yes. Worth it? 100%.

b) DIY Creator Kits – if the price of the Original (or other model you like) seems too high, look no further. The DIY kits come with a smaller depth track and a smaller diameter ball. This makes the board much quicker to respond, but the you are much closer to the ground. I use my Original board 80% of the time, but do mix it up on my Starter Kit board from time to time as well.

If you are going to spend 75 bucks on yourself, or another athlete you love this holiday season, buy one of the creator kits first. I can guarantee they’ll be talking about it- and using it – all the way through next year, and more to come after that. Screw the Starter Kit or the Skate kit onto a piece of thick plywood or an old skateboard deck out the dumpster, and start having fun. If you are looking to make a little investment for your home gym, go for the full board set up. I guarantee you’ll be stoked. The website has some great content for helping you find the board set-up that’s right for your height, weight, and goals.

I’ve put recreational and elite runners on it. Surfers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers who jump off cliffs at the Redbull Rampage, soccer players, football players from high school to professional. Everyone gets a challenge, and everyone improves. You’ll continually progress, and find new challenges to do with your board. Si-boards has an active Instagram community with all kinds of people showing off their latest moves for new ideas. And they even have a free app to that organizes and demo’s a million different uses for the system.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 2.49.42 AMNow, show this post, and the past 4 of this series, to your friends and family, and hope you’ve been a good little athlete this past year. And one last small plug. I take time to do this blog to help you so you can help yourself. If you would like to support these efforts, and are looking for a great gift, I’d like to suggest my book Anatomy for Runners. Amazon has it right now for under 12 bucks! The bang-for-your-buck in this book is unmatched. Yes, I may be biased, but still – Give the gift of knowledge.

Here’s to you and your family and great times this holiday season!

 

Day 4: Top 5 Gifts for Endurance Athletes

Ouch!

your foot hurts.

Too much. Too much to exercise. Too  much to stand on it even. A lot of us let our plantar fascia and metatarsal (foot bones) pain get really bad before we actually listen to our body and seek help. Its so bad that you really can’t do any of the standing functional exercises your body so desperately needs. Research shows that one of the best ways to train balance is to do “functional” exercises. You see, foot and ankle balance is about building coordination. Essentially its a feedback loop between what you feel with your foot on the ground, and control you are able to execute.

But when you stand, you put pressure on those painful areas and your arch collapses. This puts strain on your plantar fascia, pressure on your metatarsals, and can even compromise that unstable swollen ankle that isn’t healed yet. If you can’t yet do standing exercise yet, what do you do? rest? I’d like to think that you’ve read Anatomy for Runners – and learned that rest doesn’t help any tissue improve its resiliency. In fact, rest makes things weaker. So what do you do?

Enter the AFX: Ankle Foot maXimizer

AFX foot

note: this pic is a registered TM of AFX. 

The AFX is a one stop shop to get those foot muscles firing again. It comes with different level resistance for beginners, and more advanced athletes. It comes with a DVD full of instructional exercises, and even offers a 1-on-1 consult to help ensure that you are doing the exercise correctly (try getting that from another company trying to sell you an exercise device!)

If you read the Day 3 post, you know that all running athletes should have a rocker board as an integral part of their home gym. But like we said above, when you aren’t ready for standing exercises yet,  you need to get a leg up and get moving.  And the AFX is a great tool to have for you, or your runner struggling with foot and lower leg injuries.

Remember: your body can, and will, improve!

 

Day 3: Top 5 gifts for Endurance Athletes

OK gang – let’s say that you are an athlete who has to stand on one leg at some point in your sport. This could be running straight ahead, cutting laterally on the soccer field, jumping up for a rebound during a game of pick up – literally any weight bearing sport! You need to learn how to properly USE your foot. So many running athletes don’t have proper coordination of muscles inside their foot. If you can’t move your foot, your foot position will fall apart when running, jumping, cutting, and anything else you do.

What’s the secret?

#1 – understand your foot. Years ago, I made this video for Running Times. The focus was on how to prepare your foot for minimal running shoes (because that was the trendy thing to talk about at the time) but let’s be 100% honest here – the criteria I point out are valid and critical for ANY running athlete. So take a look at it, and make sure you can separate out the “right way” to use your foot muscles. Yes, its hard for most of you, and yes it gets better really, really quickly if you invest a few minutes a day.

#2 – buy a Rocker Board

The single best way to improve your foot strength is to use a rocker board. First, tilt the board so that it is at 45 degrees to your body. The reason for this is that axis of pronation in the foot is closer to this orientation then it is straight across. You want to make your training functional. Since the only way you can control the board is by using your foot, it’s critical to keep the “triangle” of the inside and outside ball of the foot and the end of your big toe firmly down on the board. (if this doesn’t make sense, watch the video!) While standing with good posture, touch the toe side of the board down to the ground, then the heel side. This is one rep. Repeat for 2 sets of 20 reps. Then rotate the board 90 degrees so that you are working the opposite 45 degree axis (on the same foot) so that you complete 2 sets of 20 reps in each 45 degree axis on each foot several days a week. If you need support, feel free to stick one finger on a wall. It’s better to get help and control what you can than to flop about aimlessly. I don’t have a video of these made, but I have pics in my book.

So where can you get one of these things? There are quite a few places, and a lot cost about 80-110 bucks!  too much! The cheapest place I’ve found is from Sportsmith.net. I have 2 of these in my clinic and we have one at my house. After you’ve learned proper foot muscle coordination inside your foot, there is no better piece of equipment out there to use on a frequent basis. And you can use it to kick up virtually any single leg exercise.

Note – a rocker board is quite different than a “wobble” board. A rocker board pivots around 1 single axis and is great to “train” proper foot stability.  A wobble board is essentially a ball on the bottom of the board and is completely unstable in all directions. Sure, a wobble board is more unstable, but its one situation where more instability isn’t better. Get the rocker board, and have fun improving your balance!

Day 2: Top 5 gifts for Endurance Athletes

Harness the Power of your Swiss ball

CoreSling.com

How do you make your body work harder? You place it on, or in, an unstable base. The swiss ball has been around helping us do this for years. You’ve used this tool for bridges, planks, push ups, and more……But an amazing new product called the CoreSling allows you to add some resistance, and another dimension to your stability work

coreSling2

Just one of many uses of the CoreSling in action. Check out their exercises videos on their site to see how you can challenge yourself, and improve!

Imagine doing planks on the swiss ball if the ball itself was being pulled sideways while you were on it: insta-challenge for your deep core muscles! Imagine doing hamstring curls with added resistance as your stabilize: hammy of steel. There are about a dozen exercise videos on their website, and I find I wind up making up my own ways incorporate it into other exercises as well. Moving the point of resistance away from the body requires you to control your rotational and lateral position as you move through various exercises.

 

I’m not going to write a bunch of useless filler here, as the thing just plain works works. Since I brought this into my clinic, I use it in some capacity with about 70% of all my patients. That says something. And patients are typically blown away at how much more “dynamic” some of their old exercises can be with a new “spin” from the CoreSling. Take home: Its fun, challenging, and belongs in your home gym.

Day #1: Top 5 Gifts for your Endurance Athlete

Jinge bells are out, mistletoe is up, and you are freaking out because you missed out on useless sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday…..uh oh.

What do you do now? How about dig deep, and find a present for your fellow endurance athlete that’s actually worth its weight. This week, I’ll throw out my top 5 products to help you improve.  And while I didn’t actually pay for any of them (they were all sent to me by the respective company to try out), the key is that I actually DO use them. I get a LOT of stuff sent to me to try out/ demo/provide feedback. Rather than posting the things that don’t help, I wanted to share the products I feel actually have a reason to earn a place in your home training gym.

The first product on the list today is one to help you to recover. That’s right – recovery!….. the “new” buzzword getting all the attention. I once heard someone say “there is no such thing as over-training, only under-recovery”……ummm ….sure……well…..from a physiological perspective, that’s about the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. However, endurance training does lead mechanical breakdown and structural changes, and we could all use a few tools to help us along. If you want to learn more about what types of changes occur in your soft tissues during endurance training, I highly recommend you read up on it in my book Anatomy for Runners. I’m a firm believer that informed athletes make better decisions.  Embracing the reason for change means you’ll embrace it as part of your overall strategy to improve.

So today we are featuring 2 products actually.

The stocking stuffer: LAX ball

LAXballWhat is small, spherical, costs under 3 bucks, and may be the single biggest ally to have in your corner? The simple LAX ball. Yes, I know the foam roller is the self-proclaimed king of soft tissue recovery tools, but you likely already have one of those under your bed, and barely use it. Time for something else to mix it up.

 

Where a foam roller can deform your body’s tissues in one plane, a LAX ball can dig deeper, and get better tissue deformation. In plain speak, the goal is to mobilize your body’s “layers” – and the LAX ball is a highly effective tool for doing so. A warning: even though its cheap, its ability to get a lot of pressure in a small spot also means it can inflict a lot of pain as it works its magic. Once your sweetie takes it our of their stocking, they can find about a million uses from the soles of their feet up to their lats. I’ve got a few suggestions in my book, and you can find a million more on youtube. Much cheaper than a trigger point ball, and if you lose it, no one is crying to invest in a new one.

The under-the-tree recovery tool: The Roll8

Roll8

So the LAX ball costs 3 bucks….why should you spend more? And why would you ever want to stick your leg in between its jaws? Well lets look at reality here. You (or your significant other/friend) decides to ride a little bit longer than normal. Push a bit harder up the hill. Play an extra pick up game after the first one. Knock out an extra 3 repeats on the track just because your training partner says he’s “in the zone” (while you are about to see your lunch once more)….. time after time, we over-reach our volume and intensity.
While your heart and endorphins are pumping at full capacity, the stress and strain on your body causes structural damage. And that damage needs help to heal optimally, so you can do it all over again.
So you decide to bite the bullet, and shed tears on the foam roller and LAX ball, calling them the devil. It hurts so bad, all you can do is lock your muscles into a spasm. Guess what kind of positive effect this is having on the recovery process? –> nothing.
The entire reason anyone would want to do soft tissue work is to move those layers of tissue around. The Roll8 allows you to RELAX so that you can actually mobilize tissue. Soft tissue work hurst sometimes, but but shouldn’t hurt all the time.
In summary, these are both 2 excellent products. I have both, and use them both quite often, but for different reasons. If you’ve got a “problem area” you are trying to work on, the LAX ball is unmatched in its ability to go deep. But again, its often a bit too much for most folks, and a bit too potent to use frequently for a lot of athletes. The Roll8 is a really cool product that provides just enough compression and tissue glide to use pretty much daily. You won’t associate it with pain but instead with relief and mobility – which means you’ll actually USE it. I’m often amazed at the before-and-after difference I feel after using it for just a few minutes. For these reasons, I strongly recommend both of these as essential pieces of recovery equipment for endurance athletes.
Happy shopping! more to come tomorrow

 

Coffee talk with Endurance Planet

EndurancePlanet

If you are tired of listening to the same old tunes during your workout, check out this podcast I did with Endurance Planet. We get into some gritty  content here. Basically, the idea that you don’t need “more”, you need “better”. And then you need more of the “better.”

Skill first, dosage second. If you are looking for ideas on where to start your transformation next season – start here.