Tag Archives: Running injury barefoot minimalist

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 #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.

 

The Traveling Runner: how to maintain benefits from weights when you don’t have a gym

Does anyone else live in a bubble where time-zones tick by as fast as minutes? Last night I got back home from one trip, unpacked, repacked, and flew off again this morning….traveling can be tough on our routines, and unfortunately, wreak havoc on our athletic efforts. Let’s face it, on some trips we have hours on end to utilize the high end gym (that is likely nicer than the one you have at home!). But for most of the time, it’s a pulley machine, a swiss ball, and a treadmill stuck in a standard sized hotel room masquerading as a “gym”. Not really an ideal environment to push the limits. And on top of limited equipment, you likely only have about 30 min between answering emails from your “regular work” on top of everything else demanding time on your trip. So how do you maintain your benefits of your weight work while facing the demands of traveling?

 

Its easy to say – OK – no weights, I’ll just go for an easy run. No harm in this at all. But for those of you really dedicated to making gains while on the road, there is a will, and a way. Take a look again at the previous post on ways to improve your neuromuscular recruitment. If the weight room isn’t set up to help you kickstart those fast twitch fibers, hitting some local hills, or even doing sprints in the parking lot go a long way.

 

But remember, the goal of these is to go HARD. Really hard. As hard as you are working on the last few reps in the weight room. And to go that hard, it means you have to rest between intervals. For those of you who think that rest is only for the weak, let’s look at what sprinters do. People who run hard for a living (sprinters) take approximately 1 full minute easy for each 10 meters they run. So yes, a 30 meter sprint means 3 minutes rest before the next one. And keep the durations short. Intervals over 40 meters aren’t helpful. And while sprinting hills is really tough, the effort should still be quite high and be limited to less than 20 seconds of effort. Throw your shoes on, hit a short easy run, some dynamic warm-up moves, and then hit some intense hills or sprints. Jump in the shower, and get back to travel life……knowing you did something for yourself before the day even started.

Help for New Runners: a conversation with Healthynomics

So, you read the “4 exercises every runner should do this month!” in Runner’s World. You even like the 6-pack abs you see on the cover. You wonder how many miles you have to run before yours pop out like that too?

Your best friend challenged you to sign up for a 10K in a few months. And your trip to the running store left you so confused on what to buy that you are thinking about just wearing the beater shoes you use to cut grass.

and we haven’t even started a conversation about chocolate milk being the best recovery drink or not…….there’s a ton of info out there. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many thousands of runners. If you ever wondered what kind of simple advice goes a long way to set you on the right course for a smooth start and long term success, you just might want to check this out. Healthynomics asked some questions – and you’ll get some answers. Take a listen here: 

Getting Started With Running: Choosing shoes, prepping the body, and more!

Does barefoot running really impact injury or performance? Evidence for the peanut gallery

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.34.30 AMOK…..most of you are going to have a field day with this blog post, so let’s just get it out there. Barefoot running came in a BIG way. And like most BIG things that come quickly, its fading at a rapid rate. A lot of people think barefoot runners are nuts, and begging for injury. And others think that the injury risk is the same as those who wear shoes, but the location of injury in the body will just move from one to another. Well, I’m not really a fan of speculation.

Some years ago, I put out a survey to barefoot runners with some simple questions. How much to you run barefoot? Why did you go down this path? Did barefoot running impact your injury risk or performance? Over 500  runners responded. Thank you interweb.

To be 100% forthcoming, the study is biased towards runners who have actually tried barefoot running (not minimal footwear, but true barefoot). Duh, you had to have experience running barefoot to answer the questions! Barefoot runners are a passionate bunch, but we made the default assumption that people tell the truth. And yes, its just a survey. But it provides an interesting slant. Instead of wondering if barefoot running works, why not just ask people who do it?

This study, “Barefoot Running: Evidence from the Field” was just published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, and you can get a full download right here. And for those of you who just want the simple version, the abstract is below.

Now I’m not saying that all of you should ditch your shoes for 100% of your mileage. But this idea of barefoot running supports a very critical concept. Feet are capable of some pretty good work. Barefoot running, when done in the right volume and circumstances, can be a great training tool to help you build a better body. And no matter what side of the barefoot debate you stand on, putting better bodies into running is a concept we can all get behind.

Abstract

Background

Running is becoming an increasingly popular activity among Americans with over 50 million participants. Running shoe research and technology has continued to advance with no decrease in overall running injury rates. A growing group of runners are making the choice to try the minimal or barefoot running styles of the pre-modern running shoe era. There is some evidence of decreased forces and torques on the lower extremities with barefoot running, but no clear data regarding how this corresponds with injuries. The purpose of this survey study was to examine factors related to performance and injury in runners who have tried barefoot running.

Methods

The University of Virginia Center for Endurance Sport created a 10-question survey regarding barefoot running that was posted on a variety of running blogs and FaceBook pages. Percentages were calculated for each question across all surveys. Five hundred and nine participants responded with over 93% of them incorporating some type of barefoot running into their weekly mileage.

Results

A majority of the participants (53%) viewed barefoot running as a training tool to improve specific aspects of their running. However, close to half (46%) viewed barefoot training as a viable alternative to shoes for logging their miles. A large portion of runners initially tried barefoot running due to the promise of improved efficiency (60%), an attempt to get past injury (53%) and/or the recent media hype around the practice (52%).

A large majority (68%) of runners participating in the study experienced no new injuries after starting barefoot running. In fact, most respondents (69%) actually had their previous injuries go away after starting barefoot running. Runners responded that their previous knee (46%), foot (19%), ankle (17%), hip (14%), and low back (14%) injuries all proceeded to improve after starting barefoot running.

Conclusion

Prior studies have found that barefoot running often changes biomechanics compared to shod running with a hypothesized relationship of decreased injuries. This paper reports the result of a survey of 509 runners. The results suggest that a large percentage of this sample of runners experienced benefits or no serious harm from transitioning to barefoot or minimal shoe running.

Webinar of the month: Running Footwear

USA Triathlon selected my webinar “Running Footwear:  A critical look at what we know about footwear, and how to select the right shoes for your athlete.” as the February spotlight. This presentation is loaded with objective information and references to understand what shoes do (and don’t do) and help you see past the marketing hype to select the right tool for your runs.

Smarter runners make smarter decisions on footwear!

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.54.27 PM

Anatomy for Runners: Top 9 Thought Provoking Books of 2013

Its always nice to get a shout out. Steve Magness is one of the “better thinkers” in the world of running, coaching, and athlete performance, and I respect his opinion highly. Apparently, Steve is nice enough to respect mine as well, and named Anatomy for Runners as one if his “Top 9 Though Provoking Books of 2013” – thanks Steve. If you live under a rock, and haven’t come across his amazing blog, I highly recommend checking it out: the Science of Running.

And while I’m at it, I’d like to say thanks to all of you who have purchased the book. I teach all over the country, and the number of clinicians and coaches who already have the book, and actually USE it daily on their teams and patients is, well, quite humbling. I know the little niche I operate in will never reach the status of the Harry Potter, but there are over 11,000 of you around the world reading this book over the past year. I hope its making you rethink the way you approach your training, and your patients, your teams, and ultimately producing better results. If you’d like to pick up a copy, click on the link on the right side of the page!

The work of a decade of my career, bound into the "take home version" for you.

The work of a decade of my career, bound into the “take home version” for you.

Treadmill Running: What’s different? What’s the same?

Well, its that time of year again. The sun sinks below the horizon early, and with that my phone rings with reporters wanting to know what tips they should give to their readers about running successfully on a treadmill. Rather than risking this info getting watered down, I figured I’d give you the straight scoop.

  • Fact vs Fiction: A lot of coaches preach the message “you push yourself over the ground outside, and your pull yourself overground on a treadmill”…..this is 100% false. If you look at the fancy stuff we measure called “ground reactions forces” you’ll see very very similar patterns when running on either surface. The overall mechanics are very much the same.
  • Think about it as a different surface, not a different way to run: despite the fact that the treadmill is very similar to running over ground, there are some differences, and some are actually what qualify as “statistically significant.” But if you look at the clinical impact this has, and if you deal with this type of data every day like I do, the differences are really small. There is a difference in body mechanics running on grass, trail, asphalt, and concrete. But again, these differences are small. As long as you slowly adapt your mileage to treadmill, you’ll be OK. No one runs 100% of their miles on trail and then jumps 100% onto the road. This goes for transitioning miles to the treadmill. Allow a few weeks to transition your mileage over, and your body will adapt to these slight changes.
  • Run correctly on your treadmill: Here’s the most important one. Everyone has a friend who ran on their treadmill and then got hurt. Or maybe it was you. They “blame it on the treadmill” – what happened? First, you need time to acclimate (re-read previous paragraph).  But most importantly, its not running on the treadmill that’s typically the issue. More often than not its running differently on the treadmill. Example. If running outside, you are free to make small fluctuations in speed. On the treadmill, the belt speed is held constant. So if you decide to try to slow down 1%, you can’t. As you get tired, your speed changes, but your cadence slows, which forces a longer stride than you are used to. Your body’s soft tissues are in a completely different position (longer) than you’ve trained them in your previous miles. This longer position can create strains on soft tissues and increase the lever arm on your joints and cause pain. But this really isn’t a treadmill issue – its a running form issue.
  • To incline or not to incline? We often hear to increase the incline on the treadmill to 1-2% to make up for the lack of wind resistance. Here’s the deal. Raising the incline slightly increases the physiological stress level compared to flat, and it doesn’t really change the loads much on the body. In fact, running with a slight incline is actually a bit “safer” for the body since it makes it tougher to over-stride. So no harm here.

What’s a safe way to run on the treadmill?

  1. gradually increase the % of miles you are doing on the treadmill
  2. run the same. Be honest with youself. Are you really running 6:45’s on the road? or are you really running 7:15’s? Aim to keep paces realistic. And aim to keep your stride pretty close to what you typically do. An easy way to do this is by counting your cadence (number of foot contacts per minute). Next time you are running 7 min pace, count your strides. If you are consistently hitting 88 per minute (single side), then aim to maintain the same cadence on the treadmill at 7 min pace. This way you avoid overstriding and the stresses it can place on your body.
  3. Novices: don’t go crazy on speed work. Doing intervals makes you tired. Running faster than 800 meter pace on the treadmill can make it much more likely that you’ll run with compensated form.  In general, I recommend tempo intervals on the treadmill, but speedwork is best done outside. If you must do speedwork on the treadmill, make sure your cadence is similar to what you’d maintain outside.

For those of you who like the fine print, feel free to read more below. And of note, all the information in this article pertains to steady state distance running. Sprint training on treadmills is a different concept entirely. My UVA lab group wrote one, and Irene Davis’ team wrote another. No matter on treadmill or outside – enjoy your run!

References:

Riley PO, Dicharry J, Franz J, Della Croce U, Wilder RP, Kerrigan DC. A kinematics and kinetic comparison of overground and treadmill running.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun;40(6):1093-100

Fellin, R.E.,  Manal, K, Davis, I. Comparison of Lower Extremity Kinematic Curves During Overground and Treadmill Running. J Appl Biomech. 2010 November; 26(4): 407–414.

 

Road vs. Cyclocross Bike Fit: what’s the difference?

A lot of hype concerning the difference between fitting a road bike and a cyclocross bike could be cleared up if we all agree on two simple things: put the engine in the right place, and then adjust for handling and comfort. Let’s break this down.

Saddle position

Your pedals are driven by large muscles surrounding the trunk, hips and knees. In fact, about 98.8% of the force you deliver to the pedals comes from your hips and knees. That’s right, the ankle only produces a very small percentage of your total power. So it makes sense to have the saddle height and setback (also called for-aft position) the same between your road and cross bikes to maximize power production. Why would you select a saddle position that compromises power output? Keep it simple. If you like your current saddle placement on your road bike, there is zero reason to change it on your ‘cross bike.

Handling and comfort

Good bar position allows you to move around while properly weighting the front end for corners and technical terrain | Photo © Jill Rosell Photography

Good bar position allows you to move around while properly weighting the front end for corners and technical terrain | Photo © Jill Rosell Photography

Okay, now here’s where things are a bit different. Instead of rolling your slick tire down fresh asphalt, you’ve got to contend with dusty pumice, wet grass, rocks, roots, and the nutrient ‘crossers crave: mud! In short, it’s critical to have a good handling front end. This means that you want to have a little less weight on the front so that you can lift your front end over obstacles easier. Careful though, too little weight on the front end will bring your torso too upright make it hard for your front tire to bite and send you skittering wide towards the outside of the turn. Let’s see how this all plays out in fit.

  • ‘Cross bikes typically have a higher bottom bracket. If you were smart, you’d kept your saddle in the same place as your (properly fitted) road bike.  This means that your saddle is higher in the air than your road bike. Since your saddle is higher, your handlebars also need to be higher.
  • Hand-grip placement for optimal handling: A lot of people rarely use their drops on their road bike. Then when on the ‘cross course, they find that they are forced into the drops on steep downhills to brake and get a better grip on the front end. Most riders find the bike is much more stable when conditions get squirrely if they use the drops. So if you are going to be in the drops, make sure you are comfortable.

So what’s the secret recipe to make sense of it all?

It’s simple really; the goal is to get the bars a bit “closer” to you. And you can do this in three different ways. You can run a shorter stem to move the bars closer, you can run your bars higher (by putting a few spacers under the stem or by using a stem with more rise), or a combination of both. I typically recommend that riders start by raising their bars first (because this usually only means moving spacers or flipping a stem). Setting up the bars with some combination of “up and back” will allow you comfortable access to the drops for good grip and handling, and while still allowing you to have optimal engine placement so you don’t lose any precious watts.

Powerful, sketchy, and somewhat comfortable. Yeap; sounds just like ‘cross racing!