Tag Archives: running

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.

 

Win. Or Don’t. Life lessons learned from losing at individual sports.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 11.37.03 PMMy kids are the best. They are awesome. They are perfect! Let me tell them how wonderful they are 24/7!

If you are a parent, there is no doubt how you FEEL.

But, now we are hearing different messages from psychologists that all this praise isn’t really best for our kids. We are hearing a new message: praise the work, not the kid.

Experts tell how this plays out. When you tell your kid “you are an awesome bagpipe player!” twenty times a day, your child begins to believe it. They begin to link “awesome” with themselves. But they don’t build a framework of why they are awesome, or what it takes to achieve awesome. Anyone ever heard of Justin Bieber? My 2-yr old makes better life decisions than this guy. While he’s been swooned by millions of adolescent girls, he’s completely lost the ability to discriminate feedback between from fans, and who he really is.  Perhaps this is an extreme example, or maybe its not. Experts tell us too much praise breeds a sense of false sense of security. Kids begin to believe what they are told, but they don’t associate the praise with the action required to achieve this praise.

Apparently, what we should be saying is “I’m so proud of all the hard work you put into playing bagpipes.” While some people may view this as trivial, kids appear to get a different message. They hear that you are proud of the WORK they put each day. They associate hard work with  success. And since everyone likes praise, they focus their efforts on the work to earn more praise.

The world of sport is pretty cool: we can learn complex life lessons while doing fun things that we actually enjoy. But team sports and individual sports give us uniquely different experiences.

Think about it. Its the finals. Your team scores the winning touchdown, 3-pointer, or homerun. The crowd rallies. Fans on on their feet. Cheers. Coach gets doused with the water cooler. In fact a lot of people confuse the vibe that these Norman Rockwell images convey with the actual   achievement of winning.

I love team sports (if you are an LSU fan and have seen a home game at Tiger Stadium, its a whole different state of mind) but they can be confusing for young minds. If you win, great. Why did your team win? Did every player on the team carry out each play perfectly? Did you win because 3 starting players are so incredible they made up for deficiencies on the rest of the team?  Or did you win because the other team made error after error, or had 2 of their best players hurt?

Because each of the three scenarios would convey a completely different sense of accomplishment. If YOU or your kid nailed the game – awesome! “I’m so proud of that key penalty kick you blocked” you may say. But maybe your kid didn’t play their best. In fact, maybe they screwed up big time, but the team still won. What kind of lesson does that convey to an 8 yr old? Is everyone on the team still a winner even if some of the kids blew their position that day? Or maybe the opposing team just couldn’t get their act together. does that make your kid a winner? Does being a “winner” really breed positive feedback for individual skill and inner drive?

I’m a firm believer that team sports can teach you a major lesson: sometimes things happen that are beyond your control (other players, other teams, bad calls from the ref). Team sports offer an immersive environment to build relationships and develop trust with others to help work around unique problems you encounter.

But kids can be overwhelmed with the desire to WIN, and lose focus of the process it takes to have a great performance. Individual sports offer the ability to look uniquely at yourself.  And from a developmental standpoint, this is big. The legendary coach Joe Vigil often says “there are few sports more nobel than track and field. Its you a fixed course and a watch. And there is no hiding.”

Let’s think about this. I’m twelve, swimming the 100 meter butterfly at the state meet. I’ve put in tons of work, and show up prepared. The gun fires, and I’m soaring off the block, stroking as hard as I can, only to show up at the finish one tenth of a second out of first. Next up is the 200 fly. Again, I showed up a few hundredths, or maybe a few tenths of a second off the big win. I have no idea how many times I didn’t win, but it was a LOT!

And in these individual events, the hard truth was obvious. The only reason I didn’t win was because I didn’t perform. Maybe I blew my start. Maybe I blew my race strategy. Maybe I showed up less fit than I needed to be. I was 12, and certainly didn’t have a lot of life experience to make sense of all this. But my coaches over the years were beyond incredible. Each and everytime I didn’t win, they helped me reflect on my limits, which motivated me to overcome these limits, and praised me for what I had done to perform. I learned specific lessons – and won – through losing. But each time, they were things I had control over. And when you have control over the situation, you can improve.

The take home from all this? All these “life lessons” obviously didn’t turn me into Michael Phelps. But they helped me grow as a person. I begin to understand what I was good at, and what areas of my training / life I need to work on. As a 12-yr old, I needed direction, and individual sports gave this to me. I learned to look at myself objectively. Oddly, things still happen to me now, that I can compare to experiences and challenges I learned from competing as a young athlete. And guess what? I still screw up in life, and I’m still trying to be a better person.

We all love our kids unconditionally, and win, lose, or tie, they need to know that. But as for lessons learned from the world of sport, Its up to us to help channel these wins and losses within our kids to help them grow.

Because there was another time I dove into the pool. And that time, things clicked. And a state record fell. And so did a spot on the national rankings. And I understood all the work I put in to make that moment come true. I was pretty pumped. Not only did I win, I grew. And I want my kids to know this feeling too.