Restore/Thrive Turns 1

The year that was. And what’s to come.

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74 blog posts. 32 YouTube Videos. 2,178 visitors.

363 days ago (the blog’s official b-day is 5/28/2016) we launched this site with one goal in mind: to speak directly to you, internet reader, and help guide you on the path to a better life. Whether you had an injury to rehab or were looking to get bigger, faster, and stronger, we’ve been putting down work to help you achieve your goals.

Year 2 promises to be bigger and badder: The gym opens. The first self-assessment and performance guide goes live. We can’t wait to share it all with you.

In the meantime, we thought it would be fun to link to a couple of our most popular posts from year one. If you’re a new reader, consider this a primer on what we’re all about. If you’ve been following all along, feel free to share with friends and family who you care about.

#1: “Why We Train”-Be Strong to Be Useful.

#2: “Are You Ready to Run:?Part VII”-Whether you run or not, if you sit more than 3 hours per-day, master this standard.

#3: “Treating Concussions”-The new standards for treating concussions.

#4: “Why I Hate Physical Therapy”-The genesis of the blog and the gym.

#5: “Research Update”-A convincing case for personalized medicine and hope for those of us trying our best to avoid dementia-related illnesses.

A big “Thank You!” is owed to all of you who’ve read, watched, and subscribed to our blog and YouTube channel. We hope you all have a great holiday weekend and spend a moment or two in silence to remember and be thankful for the good men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price for us to make the most of every day of freedom they purchased on our behalf.

YouTube Update 5/23/17

Helping the whole world run faster and hurt less.

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Morning, Folks! The beat goes on and we’ve got a great foot and ankle exercise up on our YouTube Channel for those of you looking to improve your running, be it for distance, or a field/court sport. This will be especially useful for you if you’ve been told you have flat feet or need an orthotic insert in your shoes to run, train, play without pain. Remember, your arches are not weight bearing surfaces. If they’re flat, they’re weak. And just like flabby arms, it is within your reach to shape them up.  Get after it and have a great day!

YouTube Update

A few thoughts on training

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Morning folks! We’ve got another post up on our YouTube channel. Today we’re talking training. Specifically, how do you improve your conditioning? While there are several ways to do it effectively, the approach we review today is one of the most simple and effective we’ve found to apply. Enjoy!

Are You Ready To Run? Part XIII

Crossing the finish line in our series.

The last stop on our journey to transform your body, your routines, and your running performance is here. If you’ve been hard at work to meet the following standards, by now you should have a solid hold on what your actual strengths and weaknesses are.

In cased you missed it, here are the first 11 standards we’ve discussed to date:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

#8 Warming Up and Cooling Down

#9 Compression

#10 No Hot Spots

#11 Hydration

#12 Jumping and Landing

Specifically, can you jump and land with good mechanics? In essence, the running motion is a series of single-leg mini squats each time your foot hits the ground. The ability to maintain good posture and alignment in this instance has direct correlation to the health of your ankles, knees, hips, and low back.

Similar to our Squatting Standard, landing from a jump should demonstrate your ability to create a stable mid-line, produce torque at the hips, and control your foot and knee position as your feet hit the ground. If your feet turn out and your knees collapse in when you land from a jump, it’s a good bet your body does the same thing when you run. And there’s no amount of tape, arch support, or pain medication that will keep you from shredding your patellar tendons and grinding your knee cartilage to dust if you run like a duck (toes out) or a pigeon (toes in). Mastering good jumping and landing mechanics takes a huge injury risk off the table and helps you develop better strength through your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) as well as your feet and ankles.

Passing the Jumping and Landing Standard is a two part test. First, can you jump and land with both legs, maintaining good foot, knee, and spine position?

Test #1: Jumping Onto A Box

Starting Position:

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Sit back in a quarter squat position, loading your hip and hamstrings, keeping your mid-line engaged and back neutral.

Jumping

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Forcefully extended your knees and hips, pushing off the ground while your arms swing forward and upwards.

Landing

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Good landing position looks exactly like good squat position: your shins are vertical, your back is straight, and your knees are out with your feet pointing straight ahead. From another angle:

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Fault #1 (Knees collapsing inward)

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If you land like this, please stop it, while your ACL’s are still intact.

Fault #2 (Feet turned out)

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If you land like this, not only are you collapsing your arches, but once again you are creating an abnormal amount of torque in your knees that will grind those joints down at an exponential rate.

Test #2: Single Leg Jumps

Our second jumping and landing test will tell you if you’ve got good power in your lower legs and enough strength down there to control how your foot contacts the ground. Additionally, single leg jumping is the perfect antidote for weak feet and ankles, as well as a quality way to warm-up before you run.

Jump from your hips and minimize your knee bend

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Keep neutral position from head to toe

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Land on your forefoot and let your heel kiss the ground before hopping up again. Each landing should be performed with the foot straight and knee in a neutral position

Fault #1

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Arch collapses (foot turns out), valgus knee (inside of foot).

If you are struggling to meet these standards, I suggest two things. First, re-visit your squat form and begin a daily routine of squatting to ingrain good alignment for your lower body and trunk. When you can pass the Tabata squatting protocol we outlined, you should be ready to start training your jumping and landing mechanics.

Second, if you passed this standard, as mentioned above, both of these variations are great exercises to practice on a weekly basis. Maintaining good jumping and landing mechanics is a sure-fire method to help you run your best. And plugging in 30 squats and 30 single-leg jumps for each leg is an awesome way to prime the pump of your lower body muscles before you head out for your next run.


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready to Run? Part XII

The dietary staple your runs can’t do without

As we continue on in our series to make you the best version of your running self (we’ve put up enough posts on this topic that we’re rivaling the number of Air Jordan models that have been released), we’re going to talk about the simplest and most effective way to enhance your running performance.

Quickly, a review of the previous standards and some links for those of you who need to catch up:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

#8 Warming Up and Cooling Down

#9 Compression

#10 No Hot Spots

#11 Hydration

A few questions for you:

Are you hydrated? Yes or no? It’s an easy but essential question to answer.

Are you drinking a minimum of 2 to 3 quarts of water each day?

Do you know how to check your hydration status?

How much performance are you leaving on the table by being dehydrated?

Some True Facts Related to Hydration

A 2 percent drop in your optimal hydration level can decrease your VO2 Max power output-the physical capacity that allows you to maintain your race pace from start to finish-by up to 11%!

You sweat out 3 cups of water through your feet every day. The average human loses 3 liters of water per day just perspiring, breathing, and peeing.

Water is the base of the aqueous environment inside of your body that allows a host of functions to occur: oxygen transport (fairly important if you want to breathe while you run), protein resynthesis (for muscle, tendon, cartilage, ligament and fascial repair), and hormone and antibody transport, to name a few. If you’ve got creaky knees from degenerative cartilage and you’re not on-point with your hydration game, you are accelerating the process of grinding your knee cartilage into a fine dust.

When you’re dehydrated while running, your body steals water from your muscles to keep your brain functioning-helpful in terms of keeping you from running into traffic, not so helpful in terms of keeping your muscles functioning properly. Chronic dehydration leads to muscle breakdown and a general loss of energy required to power that running motor of yours.

We’ve talked at length about tissue health and mobility. When you lack adequate hydration, those tissues get stiff, matted down, and stuck together. That quick roll of your ankle as you attempt to side-step a pothole in the sidewalk turns into an ankle ligament tear when those tissues aren’t properly hydrated and supple.

Application

A few simple practices will help you stay hydrated and optimized for running greatness.

First, a simple rule: you need electrolytes to absorb your water. Before you race out a buy the jumbo case of Gatorade at Costco, let me offer an easier, more cost-effective, and healthier approach. When you’re slamming back your Camelback water bottle throughout the day, add a pinch of salt. Otherwise that water will run right through your body instead of being absorbed by your tissues. I prefer Nuun hydration tablets, to add a little flavor to my water. If I don’t have any handy, a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt (just about any brand) does the trick. When you’re eating food, salt your food and drink pure water.

Second, don’t count on the color of your urine to tell you if you’re hydrated. Spend $10 bfor a 100-count of Rapid Response Urine Dipsticks (RRUD). Dr. Stacy Sims has done in depth research into the hydration needs of male and female athletes, and has some specific markers to look for on your RRUD’s:

  • Look at the Specific Gravity (SG) marker:
    • Fully hydrated status is 1.005 to 1.015
    • When you approach 1.020 you’re 1 percent down from normal hydration status and approaching the threshold of a dramatic drop in performance
    • When you read 1.025, stop and drink up!
  • Leukocytes (LEU) indicate how well you have recovered from your previous training day. No change in color tells you no leukocytes are present. If leukocytes are present, the reagent strip will turn purple, the darker the more leukocytes are present. If this is you, hydrate, eat well, get some extra sleep, take some extra vitamins and minerals, and take note if your resting heart rate is higher than normal. It’s a good idea for you to take the day off from training if you find yourself in this situation.
  • Protein (PRO) will show up on the reagent strip in a tint of green. This is normal in the hours following training, but if the strip is green when you retest the next day, you need a lighter day of training or a day off all together.

The basics are the basics for a reason. If you don’t like drinking water, try the hydration tabs. If you refuse to drink water and think you’re immune to the effects of dehydration, we’re going to have to ask you to hand in your Adult Card. Handle yourself. Top-notch hydration practices are essential not just for running but to operate day to day like a normal human being. Drink up!


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

 

YouTube Help for Runner’s Knee

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Hey Folks! Voice (just about) fully restored, we’re back on the Restore/Thrive YouTube Channel with some tips for fixing that hot, steaming, dreadful Runner’s Knee Pain. As usual, I vetted this one on myself first as I was getting ready for my last Spartan Race. It is tried and true. Check it out here and have a great day!

Are You Ready to Run? Part XI

What to do when it hurts to run.

You love to run. It’s a nearly overwhelming blast to the senses: the sun on your face, the wind rushing past your ears, your heart pounding, your breathing measured, your mind focused on willing your body to push farther, faster than before. Running is at once challenging and exhilarating. The process of training for your next race is a grind, but the grind of training is also your muse-that thing that keeps you pushing ahead.

There is a certain measure of honor and valor in being a dedicated runner. Suffering for your sport is baked into the whole deal. Pain, in a very real sense, is a part of you becoming better. Until it becomes too much.

And that’s why we’re here today, to deal with pain when it doesn’t make you a better runner. If you want to run your best, and run not just today, but for the rest of your days, these are the standards you need to be striving to meet as a part of your regular practice of training and running:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

#8 Warming Up and Cooling Down

#9 Compression

#10 No Hot Spots

No hot spots is about being responsible for your body. It’s o.k. to push yourself but you have to be in tune with the signals your body is sending you. That gnawing pain in your Achilles, that stabbing pain under your kneecap, that deep ache you get in your hip joint, the throbbing in your low back you get after every run, those are smoke signals your body is sending up to your brain, telling you something is amiss. As we discussed earlier in this series: If you have pain while you are running or after you are done running, then what you were doing was not a functional activity.

Our key motivation here is simple: we want you to run for a long time. The ability to run well speaks highly of your body’s physical capacity to perform in a number of ways: postural stability, posterior chain power, foot and ankle strength, and aerobic/anaerobic capacity. There’s no shame in finding holes in your running game and addressing them. It’s in this way that we can ensure you’ll be able to run for years to come.

If you grab a foam roll or a lacrosse ball or any other sort of soft tissue massage tool, and upon compressing your tissues get a painful response, those tissues are not normal. Normal tissue doesn’t hurt under compression. Tissue that hurts to compress is tissue that doesn’t have the normal capacity to expand and contract as you run. We’ve covered the why, how, and when to do soft-tissue massage here.

Today we’re going to introduce a different way to deal with your hotspots: compression. This isn’t compression in the recovery sense that we talked about with standard #9, or even the foam rolling, ball-based soft tissue techniques previously mentioned. Instead we’re going to use high compression forces to create a dynamic restorative and healing response in those sticky tissues. How? Welcome to VooDoo Floss Band Compression.

The Voodoo Floss Band is so named because it works in a variety of ways to help your tissues feel better. You won’t know exactly why it worked, but after you’ve done it you’ll know you’re better.  Intermittent high compression does several things for hot tissues and joints:

  1. Restores sliding surface function. Your tissues are meant to glide over each other, not stick together. Compression of a point of sliding surface dysfunction creates a shearing effect that restores normal sliding surface function.
  2. Pushes swelling back into the lymphatic system. A swollen ankle or knee has a hard time getting that swelling out the area as those joint are in a dependent (against gravity position) that makes it nearly impossible to the lymphatic system to function properly. Flossing pushes that swelling back into the lymphatic system.
  3. Enhances normal joint mechanics. A joint that is blown out with swelling has a hard time operating efficiently when walking or running. Swelling presses on the peripheral nerves that give your brain a sense of where that joint is in relation to the rest of your body. This is what physical therapists refer to as “proprioception”. This ability is a significant determinant in your ability to stay injury-free. Also, compression of a joint creates a “gapping” effect that decreases the physical load in the joint.
  4. Accelerates healing times. Intermittently restricting then restoring blood flow to an injured area enhances circulation-the main way your body deals with injured tissues.

Here are a few different ways to use the VooDoo Floss Band. Always wrap towards the heart, applying 75 stretch over the problem area, 50 percent stretch in the rest of the band, and leave some slack at the top so you can anchor the band in place. Remember the upstream/downstream model of dealing with pain: if you knee hurts you need to compress and treat both your lower leg and your thigh.

Knee Pain

Start below your knee cap and wrap upwards, overlapping by half the width of the band with each pass.

Then:

Flex and extend your knee 30 to 50 times (princess mirror optional).

Achilles Pain

Start the band and the front of your ankle and wrap behind and over your Achilles, starting just above your heel bone and working upwards. Before the band covers your calf muscles, overlap it back down towards your heel.

Then:

Alternately push your foot down then pull it up towards your shin, for 30 to 50 repetitions.

IT Band Pain

Start the wrap below the area of your IT band that hurts, then wrap upwards.

Then:

Find something to hold onto and work in and out of the deep squat position for (you guessed it) 30 to 50 reps.

For any of these techniques, a few simple guidelines are important to follow:

  1. If it feels sketchy, it’s sketchy. Don’t try to work through weird pain.
  2. If you wrap a part of your body and it goes tingles, burns, or goes numb, take the band off.
  3. If you find it hard to breath and you feel anxious when you put the band on, take it off.
  4. It will usually take between 2 to 5 rounds of these techniques to affect a change that will last. A good general rule of thumb for the floss band is two minutes on, two minutes off.
  5. If you take the band off and you see stripes on your skin and it suddenly turns bright red-good job! This is the normal response of the body to compression. The flushing of the skin is a sign that you’ve increased local blood flow in the area you just compressed. The stripes and the redness will subside within a matter of minutes.

If you get a good result with the floss band techniques outlined above, stay after it! In some cases it may take several days in a row of using this technique to create the improvement you’re looking for. This technique is a great complement to other soft-tissue techniques like foam rolling in that it covers a host of factors that influence tissue mobility that simple rolling just doesn’t address.

Enjoy!


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready to Run? Part X

Kick-starting your post-run recovery.

68015_10151199176137739_1161845327_nA quick review to get everyone up to speed in our series:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

#8 Warming Up and Cooling Down

There are a variety of methods involving ice, heat, and water that many people use religiously to treat their bodies after their runs. But what happens when you don’t have time or access to these modalities and you’re facing 8 to 10 hours of commuting and sitting at work? It’s unlikely your boss is going to sign off on that hot tub request you made. Or worse, what do you do after a morning run followed by a transcontinental airline flight to ensure you don’t feel like your legs are unfolding like an accordion when you arrive at your destination?

Enter the ninth standard for our runners and a secret weapon in the recovery game:

Compression

You’re no doubt familiar with the nearly ubiquitous use of compression shorts and shirts by athletes trying to keep their bodies warm and supported during their sporting activities. Lower extremity compression is often times forgotten or relegated to the realms of clinical use for lower extremity circulatory impairments. We’ve known for decades that compression of the feet, ankles, and lower legs allows the body to operate the circulatory and lymphatic systems more efficiently.

What we’ve found in our practice is that the same compression of the feet and lower legs is an incredibly simple and effective tool to help you bounce back faster from your runs.

Here’s the simple application process:

  1. Once you’ve finished your run, properly cooled down, cleaned up, and gotten fired up for the rest of your day, put your compression socks on.
  2. Go on about the rest of your day

That’s it. It’s a simple and cost effective standard to meet.  You can find a good pair of compression socks for $20-$30. Look for socks that provide compression at 20 mmMg for the optimum effect.

If you’re sitting for the majority of your day, the systems that deal with muscle recovery and tissue repair (your circulatory and lymphatic systems) just don’t work effectively enough on their own. Compression keeps blood and fluid from pooling in your lower legs as you sit. Better circulation equals faster recovery.

And compression socks are a lifesaver on a long plane flight. After finishing my most recent Spartan Race last fall, less than a day later I limped onto a plane from New York City to Kansas City (a 3 hour flight), compression socks on and my calves screaming at me after running up and down a mountain for four hours the day before. By the time we landed in KC I actually felt looser than when I walked on the plane in NYC. Despite only being able to get up and move around a handful of times, being intentional about my recovery made the process 10 times easier than it would have been if I had just waited for my body to try to recover from that torture I put it through on my own.

There’s mixed evidence as to whether or not wearing compression socks while you run has any performance benefits. But there’s no argument that compression after a run helps the recovery process along. Yes, the socks can look dorky. No, no one actually cares if you’re wearing them. But your body will notice the difference. Wearing them under your business casual attire will be your secret weapon to help fuel your next hard training run or race, without any extra effort on your part.


COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready To Run? Part IX

Improve your running performance in 20 minutes or less following these simple tips.

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Now that you’ve got your thumb on the pulse of your hip, knee, ankle, and foot mobility and motor control, it’s time to pull back and look at some of the physical practices you may or may not be doing that directly influence the quality and quantity of your running.

A quick review of our series to date:

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

Welcome to Standard #8:

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Think for a minute-especially you folks reading this indoors protected from temperatures that drive the birds to fly south but only inspire you to buy more clothes-about how you treat your car on a cold morning.

As you get in the car, you strap yourself into your seat with the seat belt, put the key in the ignition and start the engine, look around to make sure no one or no thing is in your way, then you gently steer your car out of its parking spot and onto the road. Unless it’s an emergency, it’s unlikely you’ll be testing the acceleration or top-speed capacities of your car in the first 5 to 10 minutes of your drive. Which is a good thing because we know your car lasts longer when you don’t push it to its limits right after you start it up.

Let’s apply the same approach you take in caring for your car to your warm up before you go on your run. A solid 5-10 minute warm up is all you need to warm up your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and nervous system to ensure you perform your best during your run.

I am not going to use this post to debate the merits of static (held)  versus dynamic (movement-based) stretches. Rather, I want your warm-up to get you hot and sweaty and tuned in to move well during your run. If your warm-up isn’t getting you to that point before your run right now, you’re leaving a boatload of performance on the doorstep.

Here’s our general suggestions for warm up:

  1. Start with slow, controlled movements in place. Air Squats, forward and backward arm circles, stationary lunges, push-ups. Aim for 15-20 reps of each, really grease those joints, muscles, and movement patterns.
  2. Add some walking warm-ups. Some of our favorites for runners are Heel Walks, Toe Walks, Knee Hugs, Leg Cradles, Inverted Hamstrings, and Monster Walks. Aim for 10 reps (per-leg) of each.
  3. Prime the pump. Jump rope for 2-5 minutes is an excellent way to warm-up the muscle and joints of your lower legs and feet, knock out enough burpees to get you breathing hard, go through 2-4 minutes of our Tabata Squat protocol to flush your legs with blood flow.

Once you’re warm, get after it.

As you get to the end of your run, make sure you leave enough time for at least a 5-minute cool-down. Don’t go from full speed to stop. Your thought in mind at the end of your run should be “it’s time to start the recovery process.”

Let’s go back to the analogy bin and talk about cool-down in the context of horse racing. This passage came from the pages of Trainer Magazine, a publication focused on the training and development of racehorses:

“The aim of a cool-down period is a progressive reduction in exercise intensity allowing a gradual redistribution of blood flow, enhanced lactic acid removal from the muscles, and a reduction of body heat through convection and evaporation. If a horse is inadequately cooled after competing, any residual lactate in the system will affect performance if the horse is required to compete again within a short space of time. The application of cold water will result in heat loss by conduction from the skin to the water, thus reducing body temperature. The active cool-down will also result in an effective return to normal breathing and heart rate.”1

The cool down should be easy and simple:

  1. An easy 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine or on a bike around your neighborhood.
  2. Walking, barefoot if possible, for 5 minutes
  3. Some deep breathing practice for 2 to 5 minutes
  4. Some mobility exercises or basic body weight exercises like air squats, lunges, or arm swings.

If you think you don’t have time for warm-up or cooling-down, you’re missing the boat. Performance isn’t all about how hard you work. It is predicated on properly preparing your body to perform, then tending to it afterwards to ensure you can come back and do it again and again without breaking yourself. If you have to cut 5 minutes off of each end of your run to get in a brief warm-up and cool-down you’ll have done yourself more good in those 10 minutes of body maintenance practice than you would have in those extra 10 minutes of running.

One last note on warming up and cooling down: the length of your warm-up and cool down should match the intensity of your effort. If you’re going to run or train hard, you need longer than 5 minutes to warm-up and cool-down. 20 minutes on both ends would be a better goal to shoot for. If you’re simply going out for a LSD (Long Slow Distance) run on a fairly flat surface, you can warm-up and cool-down with 5 minute efforts on either side. Match your warm-ups and cool-downs to your level of effort and reap the rewards of your performance gains!

REFERENCES:

  1. “The importance of warm-up and cool-down in the racehorse,” Trainer Magazine, June 2008.

COMMENT RULES: If you are a real person, leave your real name. We are not a clearing house for solicitors so don’t do it here. Criticism and questioning is fine, that’s how we all learn and grow. Personal attacks, name calling, and the like ARE NOT COOL-if we catch you doing it you’re gone. Other than that, have at it folks! We love hearing from followers and newcomers alike and will try to reply to as many comments and questions as we can!

Are You Ready to Run? Part VIII

The one where we fix your foot and ankle pain and restore their awesomeness.

How much time do you spend paying attention to your feet and ankles? As a runner, do you look at your feet and ankles like bad dogs that you discipline with arch supports, stability shoes, NSAID’s, pain-killers, and ice? Do you look at ankle and foot pain as the cost of doing business as a runner?

I want you to do better. You can be a better owner of those dogs. You can turn your feet and ankles into steel springs that power you to higher levels of performance. You just need a plan to get there.

Enter Ready to Run Standard #7

The Standards

#1-Neutral Feet

#2-Flat Shoes

#3-A Supple Thoracic Spine

#4-An Efficient Squatting Technique

#5 Hip Flexion

#6 Hip Extension

#7 Ankle Range of Motion

The question today is do you have the requisite ankle range of motion to allow you to run efficiently? In addition to range of motion, we want to see that you have some actual strength in those dogs to actually use that full range of motion.

Though I’ve spent the better part of a decade now in the world of physical therapy, it never ceases to amaze me how much pain and suffering that folks will put up with in their feet and ankles before they ask for help. Heroism is not what running should be all about. Suffering should come in the form of pushing yourself to run farther and faster, not in an attempt to see how far you go until you break, but to challenge your beliefs about your own capacities to perform.

There are untapped reservoirs of strength, power, and endurance in your lower legs and feet. You will not access these overnight, but if you make the commitment to take better care of your body, you will be shocked to observe how much better your feet and ankles and feet can feel with just a small dose of regular care. How long will it take? It depends on your situation. At a minimum you’ll need 10 minutes a day for 90 days. I’ve had clients where the timeline is closer to six months, and some that take closer to 1 year. While this seems a lengthy commitment, is 10 minutes a day for a year that huge of a time-suck if your goal is to be able to run for the entirety of your life?

We prioritize full foot and ankle mobility and motor control because the lack of capacity in this area predisposes you to further orthopedic issues at the knee, hip, and lumbar spine. If you run like a duck with your feet turned out, as your heel strikes at impact your entire lower body collapses inward to create stability. The most likely outcomes of such mechanics are medial (the inner half) knee pain, hip impingement (a pinching feeling in the front of your hip or groin), and the smoldering fire of a low back ache as you collapse on your lumbar vertebrae in an attempt to find stability through your pelvis and low back. This is a recipe to flip your physical status from “runner” into “former-runner”.

How do you know if you’ve got full ankle capacity? With the two tests below:

The Pistol Squat Test

The Pistol is the bane of folks with hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion (foot pulled up towards the shin) limitations. Not only will it illuminate your restrictions in both areas, it will tell you how capable your body is of maintaining good position under end-range load.

Here’s the scoop on how to test yourself:

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Get in a braced position in standing, with your feet together.

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Lower yourself into a squat position. Because we are just testing your ability to get into end-range ankle dorsiflexion and hip flexion, don’t worry if your back rounds in the bottom of your squat.

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Bien! Bien!

Shift your weight to your right leg and extend your left leg out in front of you. Your right knee should be driving outside your right foot and your arch should be stable. If you’ve got those positions, you pass.

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No bueno.

If you’re knee has drifted inside your foot, your foot turns out and your arch collapses towards the floor, and your can’t correct those positions, you’ve got a new homework assignment.

The Plantarflexion Test

This one is simple: can you sit on the tops of your feet with your butt resting on top of your heels?

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If you can’t reach this position, can’t tolerate holding this position for 60 seconds, or have pain in your hips, knees, ankles or feet, again, you’ve got some homework to attend to.

We’ve posted quite a bit of content already on restoring the normal capacity of your lower legs and feet. There’s the one we did here, and another one we did here, and then that other one we did over here.

The rewards for restoring your normal foot and ankle range of motion and strength are tremendous: decrease likelihood of injury, increased performance, optimized lower body mechanics, and less wear and tear on all of the joints of your lower body. It will take some work to reach this standard. Dig in! The things in life that are worth having are worth working towards.


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