Tag Archives: UVA SPEED Clinic

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.


Shoulder Solid – Improve your posture on the bike

You pedal with your legs, but your shoulders and core drive the front end, and deserve some respect too. In this video, Jay Dicharry and Lindsey Voreis will teach you why posture and shoulder position are critical to keep you solid on the bike.

Better bodies make better riders, and better rides!

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.

Neuromuscular control: why is it important for runners, and 3 easy ways to improve it

Efficient movement is one that allows you to activate your muscles as fast as possible. Why? Because running demands some pretty quick contact times (between .08 – .3 seconds every stride). If you can generate a forceful contraction rapidly during the stance phase, you’ll tap into some amazing efficiency. And tapping into those forceful contractions requires good “neuromuscular control”. This term gets throw around a LOT with abandon. A quick explanation here: Strength is nothing unless your body can control it. Our nervous system needs to “learn” to control our newfound strength and power. Said simply: better neuromuscular control, better economy.


To get more of your nervous system in the game, we need to recruit more muscle fibers to contract. And there are three ways that we can increase muscle fiber recruitment.


  1. Sprint all the time. If you are in a drag race, you aren’t going to pull up in a Prius. You are going to borrow your neighbor’s Porsche. Who cares about economy, you want to win the checkered flag! Running as fast as you can isn’t really that efficient. It costs way more energy per distance than running slow. This increased energy cost comes from recruiting a LOT of muscle fibers at once. Sprinting is actually one of the best running- specific forms of strength training out there. Its not just for track-stars. I have my 800 meter, 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2 and even ultra runners doing sprints at various cycles during the year. But its hard, and that why we don’t do it every day!
  2. Run Hills. No secret here. Running up hill requires we raise our body up against gravity more than running on flats. And the extra force per step it takes to conquer that hill comes from….you guessed it…..more muscles fibers being recruited each and every step. Hills are tried and true for years to improve running-specific strength. But again, these place a big training load on our body, and we can’t do them every day.
  3. Lift weights. The cool thing about weights is that we can get a huge increase in the number of muscle fibers activated (there’s that catchy term again…..more neuromuscular recruitment!) without a big cardiovascular and connective tissue training stress. Lifting quite heavy and quite powerfully has been directly coorelated to running economy. And here again, you can’t do these daily either.


So the secret to improving your ability to activate more muscle fibers comes from, well, activating more muscle fibers. Take a look at your training plan and see how you can include 1 or 2 of these techniques into your own strategy each week. A little goes a long way here. Have fun, and watch as you achieve those running milestones.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.