Tag Archives: running

Day 4: Top 5 Gifts for Endurance Athletes


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


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


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


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


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.


United States of Nike: USATF Sponsorship has failed our athletes, and our sport.

nike-blazer-usaI pledge allegiance to Swoosh of the United States of Nike, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under Phil Knight, indivisible, with liberty and justice for Michael Jordan, FuelBands, and cute running shorts.

Do my kids learn this in school ? NO.

Then why do we have a situation where a Mr. Nick Symmonds has been banned from the world championships for not agreeing to the “policy” on wearing “official gear”…..Nike gear….. in all USA Track and Field events, training sessions, and even in breakfast in the hotel.

Let’s make this very clear folks. Our national governing body for our sport is called ” United States of America Track and Field”. The goal of is this organization is to get medals at the Olympics and World Stage. That’s it. Then why is a fashion faux pas preventing our 800 meter National champion from representing our country @ the world championships?

I do understand that our governing body is dependent on sponsorship to keep the lights on, cover expenses, and hopefully provide unique and amazing opportunities to enable the most talented runner’s in America to represent us on the world stage. And I agree that sponsors should be entitled to coverage to reflect their efforts. But individual athletes also have their own sponsors, who deserve credit and exposure for their individual help. And these sponsors are entitled to their time in the lime light as well for the funding they provide to the individual. And by the way USATF, Nick fully complied with your requirements to wear official team uniform and Nike gear at meets, press conferences, pictures, etc. But why, and most importantly how, can USATF place a blanket ban on all non-Nike sportswear at all events related to racing and training?

Is this the goal of USATF to solely promote Nike? I don’t think so, because here is USATF’s mission statement  – taken directly from their website:

The mission of USATF is to provide vision and leadership to the sport of track and field in the United States, and to promote the pursuit of excellence from youth to masters, from grassroots to the Olympic Games.

Seems like USATF has placed their emphasis on the athletes, not their sponsors. Then how could a situation like this happen?

Is it some sweet heart deal Nike struck with the old boys club @ USATF? We should expect these type of demands from China, the Soviet Republic, or other dictator based nation, but not the US of A, where people have free will and individual rights. A NGB wouldn’t allow a corporate entity to flex muscle over on them……would they?

OK, I know I’m being too altruistic you say……sports has become big biz, and its all about the almightily dollar you say. Nike put up the $$$, and they control the shots. OK, well, sure, Nike, has offered some rather large sponsorship funding to USATF. Both now and for the foreseeable future. And I’m not so sure I’m really OK with this, and think both Nike and USATF are guilty here. Having the majoity of the USATF operating budget come form one single outside company is not OK. The Figures I’ve heard are 16-20 million from Nike out of a 24-30 million yearly operating budget. Half to two-thirds of the annul budget is coming from a fashion company that wants its wares seen. So if this is a pure financial issue in the real world,  it would be an anti-trust case. Any lawyers want to back me up on this one and go to town?

Who’s really in control here?
Look USATF – you got yourself into this mess when you allowed an apparel company to buy controlling interest. And if you were Tide, no one would really care. But this isn’t Tide. You exist to help “us” as individuals, as a community, as a governing body, and as a nation. Each athletes that trains and races under your auspice has nobel goals of being the best they can for themselves, and for our country. Its what the entire Olympic movement is based upon. Faster, Higher, Stronger is supposed to mean athleticism, not the stock ticker.

So how about some answers guys? Nike or USATF- either of you feel like telling us what kind of biz deal you struck for this holy grail of sponsorship? Because in general, sponsors have the best interest of those they support. That’s the entire reason you’d sponsor someone to begin with, right? You felt compelled to enable all US athletes to succeed at the highest level…..right Nike? And the terms that you, USATF, agreed to upheld your mission statement….right? They allowed for athletes rights to support themselves and maintain their own sponsorship and income so they can do things like, say, eat and sleep under a roof between training runs. Because I’ve got to tell you, the mumblings around the world of track and field are not so positive. Its completely backfired. The swoosh is not a sign of inspiration, but rather big brother looming overhead. Look Nike, we know you are a big company, and you have lots of money. That doesn’t mean you have to be the big bully that no one respects.

In short, I’ve got to say – this is embarrassing. The goals of our NGB have clearly gotten compromised. Nick has been training hard to be ready for you, and ready for the world stage. What have you done constructively to help him? I’m shocked, puzzled, and perplexed at your decision to leave Nick off the world team: a true conflict in interests. But if you guys try to pull this stunt again and look past him, or anyone else in this situation, for the Olympics, well, I’d ask all parties involved to read the mission statement of USATF, and ask yourself what you’ve done to uphold that message today, and for the future.