Monthly Archives: July 2015

Get Ready for Zero Drop Shoes

Running in a pair of zero drop shoes doesn’t mean you’re running all but barefoot down a hot pavement road on race day.  It doesn’t even make you a minimalist runner.  Going for a run in a zero drop shoe simply means your shoes are flat or level from the back to the front and your foot is parallel to the ground when standing still.

Running shoes have typically been built with more cushioning under the heel than the forefoot.  The height difference between the shoe’s raised heel and lower toe is measured in millimeters (mm) and called the ‘drop’.  This measurement can very from 0mm to 15mm depending on the zero drop shoesshoe but as the barefoot, minimalist and natural running movements have gained momentum, shoes with massive drops are starting to disappear.

Why?  Many recent scientific reports have found that running miles and miles with our heels dramatically higher than our toes can lead to big time injuries by creating additional heel strike forces, heavier landings and excessive foot movement.  Ever tried running in high heels?  Putting the foot in an unnatural position for the task you’re asking it to do is begging for trouble.  Running and biomechanical expert Jay DiCharry believes that running in a flatter shoe is ideal because it lets the body stay in a natural position without having to compensate for how the shoe might try to make the foot move.

Switching to zero drop shoes can decrease the landing forces on your hips, knees and ankles and worked in with stretching can make you less susceptible to injury.  Sounds great, right?  Be careful.  Transitioning to a pair of zero drop shoes isn’t as easy as picking them up at the store.  If you’re currently in a shoe with a big drop, start making the change to a flatter shoe by decreasing your drop by only a few millimeters.  Trade your 12mm drop shoes for an 8mm pair and give your body time to adjust to a possibly new movement pattern and different stride rate.

The transition period should be 6-8 weeks and build by only a few miles each one.  Decrease the drop in your shoes with each pair you buy until you hit zero, giving yourself plenty of miles to acclimate every time.  With thousands to choose from, it’s easy to find the lower or zero drop shoes that will make your body happy.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Swim this Summer

Need a break from the heat of training on the road or in a hot gym?  It’s time to go for a swim!  Swimming has lots of benefits that transfer over well into other sports without a loss of fitness or increased risk of injury.  If you live near a beach, river or lake, hop in.  Natural bodies of water provide nice scenery and you might make friends with some wildlife (be sure it’s safe and you’re allowed to be there before diving in).  If you have pool access, head there, grabbing a swim cap and pair of goggles on the way.  Luckily, no matter where you swim, you’ll reap these five benefits.

Spending one hour swimming freestyle in a pool can burn tons of calories.  How many?  Up to 590 calories for a 130 pound person and close to 1,000 for someone who’s 205.  Add swimming against the current and that number can increase quite a bit.  Of course, these numbers vary based on your weight, metabolism, what stroke you’re using and how fast you’re moving but with the water to keep you cool, it beats an hour baking in the sun.

Going for a swim can help build strength.  Water provides 12-14% more resistance than air (unless you have a nasty headwind) while using 2/3 of the body’s muscles with each movement.  Because you use both sides of your body evenly to swim in a straight line it’s also a good tool to help eliminate muscle imbalances and increase flexibility.

If you’re fighting an injury getting in the water is a great way to maintain fitness while letting yourself heal completely.  Not currently injured?  Swimming can reduce your risk of injury in the future.  Because it’s low impact, spending your recovery day in the pool might be better for your bones, muscles and mind than an easy run.  Swimming helps to strengthen joints without pounding them while the horizontal position improves respiratory control and circulation, a key factor in quality healing.

When you decide to go for a swim it doesn’t have to mean staring down at a lane marker for an hour.  Lots of options are available for those who want to explore doing more than racking up the laps.  You can strap on some weights and run in the deep end, try Aqua-Zumba or aqua-aerobics, mix it up by swimming one lap using only your legs and the next only your arms.

Whether you’re swimming in the ocean with a training group or at the local gym with your neighbors, you’re bound to end up with a few swim buddies.  Triathletes, swimmers and recovering runners love to talk about their sport and that can lead to some long lasting friendships.

Skip the sunblock and go for a swim this summer.  You’ll maintain your fitness, stay injury free and avoid all heat related dangers completely.

Coach Meredith

 

Mobility and Flexibility: What’s the Difference

Many athletes confuse the terms mobility and flexibility by believing they’re interchangeable.  They aren’t.  Mobility is not flexibility.  Flexibility is a building block for good mobility but not its only element.  It’s possible to have very flexible hamstrings or quadriceps but lack quality hip mobility.  How?  Flexibility refers to structures in the body that have tension on them (think muscles, tendons and ligaments).  Mobility references the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion properly.

Knowing the difference between these two often confused words is a must for anyone who wants to improve performance and recover from each day’s workout.  Why?  Because if your muscles are filled with adhesions and your joints are impinged (lacking the ability to bend properly), you’ll be putting yourself at risk for injury while also compromising some or all of your efficiency and power.

One of the biggest keys to earning and maintaining proper mobility is to work on it every day.  Many of us sit at desks, in chairs, for extended periods of time.  In addition to unengaged hamstrings and all of the issues associated with poor posture, all this sitting is extra hard on muscles that just completed a morning or lunch hour workout.  By being steadfast in working mobilityon your body for 5-10 minutes two or three times during the work day you’ll help prevent injury and speed healing.  If you wait until you’re suffering with a hot spot, shin splint or pulled muscle, you’ll have a much harder time getting back to the gym than if you had never encountered these problems to begin with.

Want to improve your ability to move safely and fully through the range of motion your fitness routine requires?  Start today!  Check out mobility guru Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD site here and pick up some mobility tools.  Great options for improving your mobility include lacrosse balls, stretching bands and foam rollers.  With each of these in your arsenal you can work to alleviate hot spots, keep muscles sliding smoothly over each other and, after putting in some solid effort, you’ll quickly see the difference it can make on the track, field or court.

Coach Meredith

Recovery 101: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a must do each and every day for any athlete who’s looking to recover from a workout as quickly, efficiently and fully as possible.  In addition to the compression socks covered in the previous Recovery 101 post, foam rolling can help your body bounce back from a foam rollingtough session in many ways.

Foam rolling is a type of self myofascial release or self massage.  It works by breaking up adhesions created in the muscles during periods of hard work.  These adhesions form between muscle fibers to cause stiffness and soreness while simultaneously preventing blood, oxygen and other important nutrients from reaching the very muscles they’re needed to help repair.  Think of them like the hooks on Velcro.  When they’re smushed together nothing can move very easily.  Break them apart and everything slides around much better.

Foam rolling before a workout will help get tissues loose, improve circulation and get muscles ready to work by increasing the range of motion around a joint.  With the ability to foam roll any muscle group from your feet to your shoulders, it’s a warm-up that works for every workout you ever do.  After a workout, foam rolling can help prevent soreness and stiffness by limiting foam rollingthe formation of adhesions.  Muscle that’s repairing itself starts right away and working over it with a roller can help that new muscle lay down the right way.

No matter when you’re rocking out with the foam roller, make sure you keep it slow and work the entire length of the tissue group.  Start with a soft roller and as you get used to the activity, step up to firmer and differently shaped rollers.  One with grooves or bumps will reach deeper into muscles while ball sized rollers can fit into small pockets at the feet, hips and shoulders.

Check out this video to learn a few valuable foam rolling techniques and be sure to include them after each and every workout.

Coach Meredith