Monday, August 17, 2015

The Reason Most Exercise Routines Fail

                As a trainer in a busy physical therapy clinic I hear quite a bit about peoples exercise routines.  The good the bad and the ugly of it.  Unfortunately what I hear most is the bad and the ugly because it is more often than not that we don't succeed in making exercising a habit.  Not only that for some god awful reason  people seem to choose exercise routines that are more of a punishment to them than anything.  It has never made sense to me why many choose routines that make them feel horrible after. Why on earth would anyone want to do an exercise routine or anything for that matter that leaves them crippled for days after.  This is literally a recipe for failure every time.  If you can only do an exercise routine once or twice a week because it takes you 3-4 days to recover can you actually consider that a good exercise routine.  Absolutely not!  Do you really like being up at 5:30 in the morning having someone scream at you to jam your face into the sand at your local beach?  If no then why are you doing it? There are so many options for exercise out there today that there is no reason to not be doing something that you enjoy.  As a runner I hear it all day from patients. " I wish I could run like you!" but in reality do they.  Running has become the popular exercise fad due to the boom in marathons and tri's.  Running a marathon can be a great goal and it is something that can be very motivating and achievable.  Jumping right to a marathon without running other distances is a horrible idea though and sets you up to be a one and done runner.  The goal with any exercise routine is to continue it for the long term in order to get the long term benefits of it.  That is why choosing exercise you enjoy doing is way more important to be successful. 
                Now as a runner I will always promote running because I've been doing it for a very long time and it is a passion of mine in addition to a lifestyle I live.  My parents, niece's, aunt, and cousins run. We do races together for fun outside of my normal competition.  I run local races where yes I try to run fast and compete but am more there for the camaraderie of other local runners and enjoying each other's company and accomplishments.  Just this weekend I got the pleasure of going out and running with a friend for the last 15 miles of a 40 mile race he was running, and I got to see other friends competing in the 50k distance at the same time.  It was scorching hot and uncomfortable but super enjoyable the whole way to share their accomplishments.  I wasn't in it for any kind of prize or recognition.  My friend and training partner asked me to come out and run the last loop with him in case he was really hurting so I jumped at the opportunity.  Well that friend ended up winning this particular ultra and even better it was his first ever race win. To say I was excited is an understatement. As a competitor I was chomping at the bit to push him more and see what he could do but that wasn't the purpose of me being there it was to keep him company and focused with it still being his race.  I didn't cross the finish line with him I stopped and walked it in with 50 yards to go so he could enjoy HIS win, going around the finish area when I got to it.  I got out there I got in a great workout running 15 miles and I enjoyed every second of it being front stage to a friend working his ass off for a win.  He enjoyed in style hooting like a cowboy through the finish which topped it all off. 
                I guess the big take away from this is that we have to choose to do exercise we truly enjoy in order to be successful at it.  Do I run as my primary exercise absolutely. Do I have lofty goals of winning races and setting course records, without a doubt.  As you see though when it comes down to it the competition and being able to do the things I do is secondary to the joy I get from participating in this sport.  I run because I love every aspect of it. The good times and the bad.  The friends I have made.  The joy of going to the local free Wednesday night trail races. Running the turkey trot every thanksgiving with family. Watching friends get excited about their own accomplishments and just getting out to run with them.  It's all about the enjoyment. 

                Well I got a little long winded and heartfelt there.  Must have had a weak moment.  Back to the stone faced runner I am.  The point of all of this is if you're not enjoying it you are not going to stick to it.  Pick exercise that you truly enjoy and count every activity as exercise from strolling the beach to running around with your kids or kids in the family.  If bouncing on a pogo stick is what you like to do have at it because that's what you will continue for the long term.  The long term dedication to exercise is what will give you the true health benefits.  Doing a exercise program for a month or two is great but is not giving you the long term health benefits you need.  Go out and find that fun activity there are tons of them out there, hey why not try a bunch.  Bad-mitten tournament Friday night, Paddle boarding Saturday, and chasing your new puppy around the house that just ripped up your slipper makes for an excitement filled weekend with exercise mixed in.  Go out have fun and if your dreading it before you even start try something else.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

An Answer to the Veggie Debate: Fresh vs. Frozen vs. Caned

             With most people starting to focus on their nutrition and a plethora of different information on diets and health foods out there it can be some what of a mystery of what is truly healthy.  When we look at the label of foods what actually constitutes health? If it’s sold at Whole Foods and another health food store is it necessarily healthy?  These are questions we should all be asking ourselves before jumping on the many healthy food fads that are out there.  One of those subjects is the debate about produce and what you’re actually getting nutrient wise between fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables. 

             A recent article I read shed some light on this subject.  It starts out by showing us some numbers in that “Americans typically only eat one-third of the RDA (three servings instead of nine)” so when it comes down to it “a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all”.  Ideally we should all be striving to eat fresh organic produce.  That’s not always possible for many reasons.  The number one for a lot of us these days is that it can be expensive and with rising living costs many of us are forced to make the decision of higher grocery bill to eat organic or put that money towards other essential bills.  The second big reason is that for much of the country growing produce isn’t an option through the winter months.  Yes there is still the option for produce grown elsewhere at the grocery store during the winter but inevitably the produce won’t be as nutrient rich because of the process of growing and storing winter crops.  Come winter time the produce many of us are buying was harvested at the end of the growing season.  For many farms to sustain through the winter they harvest this produce before peak ripeness which as we all know it the ideal for having the most nutrient rich veggies we can.  During winter many farms are forced to pick before ripe and store the produce containers using supplemental ethylene gas to ripen the produce.  As the article point out this is not the best scenario because “Outward signs of ripening may still occur, but these vegetables will never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine”.

When it comes to frozen vegetables there are a lot of rumors out there that they are less nutrient rich than fresh, they are more nutrient rich than fresh, or their equal. In reality frozen vegetables may actually be more nutrient rich that the fresh vegetable on the shelves.  This is because of their preserving process.  Frozen vegetables are typically picked at peak ripeness.  They lose some of their nutrients when blanched in hot water or steamed but the “subsequent flash-freeze locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state”. There for many times the frozen vegetables can be more nutrient rich depending on the time of the year or the farm they came from.  I say the farm they came from because if you’re buying from a local farm out of their farm store or stand they most likely are picking their produce at close to peak ripeness since the produce has a much shorter time period going from field to shelf. Also smaller local farms are obviously farming on a smaller scale, which mean it is easier for them to control growing conditions without the uses of massive amounts of pesticides and GMO seeds. A practice which the massive food producing farms can’t do without the high use of pesticides and GMO seeds.

Lastly are the caned vegetables.  Are canned vegetables better than no vegetables? Absolutely! Of the three categories though, caned definitely is the lowest on the list.  Unfortunately due to the preserving process in caned vegetables the nutrients are lost and subsequently lower in caned compared to both fresh and frozen.  Does this mean there are no nutrients in caned vegetables? Absolutely not! All it means is that you get more bang for your buck nutrient wise consuming fresh or frozen vegetables.

The articles bottom line which all of us should take account of is “When vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe. “Off-season,’ frozen vegetables will give you a high concentration of nutrients.  Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color; vegetables of this standard also tend to be more nutrient rich than the lower grades “U.S No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2” Eat them soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade.  Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins”.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mileage vs. Intensity

Recently I have seen a wide variety of training methods used by those around me.  I have close friends who live off a steady diet of mileage making sure they get out everyday running at least 5 miles and always have 1 or 2 runs over 10 miles each week.  While I have others that will train three to four days a week  but at a much higher intensity usually with the week broken up into 2 longer runs and speed work.  Both of these training methods are drastically different yet I have seen success in both. 
This brought up the question of whether one is better than the other.  A question I inadvertently answer regularly when asked what the best way to get faster or run farther is.  The answer is actually very simple. It all depends on the person.  No two people are alike therefore the same training is unlikely to work for two different people.  I find that when I review someone’s history and see gaps and lots of short 2-3 mile runs with speed work I have an easy answer.  When I look at a history that has consistent mileage whether it be 10 miles a week or 100 with limited specialized training I have an easy answer.  It is an easy answer in these situations because usually these athletes have been consistently training this way for months or years.  There for the majority of the time the answer is do what you haven’t been doing.  Add more steady running if you’re training at a higher intensity.  Add more intensity if your always pounding away at the same steady aerobic pace. 
The question becomes more difficult when you have someone who has a combination of the two training history’s mentioned above.  This is when more work needs to be done to figure out if a low mileage high intensity plan is best for the athlete, or a high mileage lower intensity plan is better. It all depends on the person.  It is in a way trial and error to find which method suits an athlete best.  One thing is common among both and that is consistency is the key.  Whether you’re doing high mileage or low mileage a consistent training plan will take you much further than a 3 day a week plan as mentioned above.  For example say we have an athlete running 20 miles per week (mpw) over 3 days, say with a speed work day of 5 miles and easy day of 6 miles and long run of 9 miles.  If this same athlete where to stay at 20mpw but change their plan to a 5 day plan set up like
Sun:  7, long run Mon: 3, easy Tue: 3, easy Wed: 3, speed work/tempo Thur: off Fri: 4, easy Sat: off
This would be a much better training plan in my mind which would lead to better running and faster times.  This is because with a 3 day a week training plan there is only 3 days of muscle stimulus a week to tell your body to grow stronger.  In the modified plan there are 5 days of stimulus.  Though the daily totals are lower there is a greater stimulus being presented to the body because of the 5 day cycle.  This consistent stimulus and growth leads to an increase in efficiency because the body adapts to having to perform on a daily basis.
So whether you do 3 miles a day at a high intensity or 10 a day at low intensity the real key is that you do it consistently day in and day out to see performance increases.  Once this is accomplished is when fine tuning and specialized training should truly come into play.
As a side note when I say high mileage slow and low mileage high intensity this is different for everyone.  High mileage for one may be 20 miles a week while its 100 for another.  Same for Intensity, high intensity to my self is around the 5:10-15 per mile or faster range while say for my father it is at the 8-9 minute per mile range. So there is no standard for intensity levels or high mileage. It should always be based off your know ability.
What do you think about the mileage vs intesity debate? Does one yield better result than the other in your mind?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Three Simple Categories of Shoes to Remember

Running shoes can be classified into three simply categories.  The difference between the categories is decided by their intended performance.  The three types of shoes you will see when at the store to get your shoes are neutral running shoes, stability running shoes, and motion control running shoes. See any similarities here?  Think back to the three foot types I wrote about in the past. 
          The neutral running shoe is the most common type to be found and will inevitably have the most options in most any store.  It is best suited for the supinator or the neutral foot type, yea I know you didn’t see that coming did you? In this category the primary performance focus is cushioning.  These shoes are also referred to as neutral cushion trainers as well.  Cushion in these models will have a very wide range of feel underfoot.  There will be the super plush, pillow soft trainers. Then right next to it will be a firm snappy responsive cushion shoe.  Which types you get all depend on personal preference.  Almost everyone likes some sort of responsiveness to their shoes though and this is a feature you can ensure while still getting a good shoe that you feel comfortable in over the long haul by following a couple simple rules of thumb.  In neutral running shoes the higher your weight the firmer the shoe you’ll want to cushion your running.  While the lighter your frame the softer the shoe you can get away with without losing responsiveness.
            The middle of the ground shoe and second most common yet the most widely needed by the general public is the stability/support running shoe.  The support shoe is best suited for the mild to moderate pronator, or the neutral foot type looking for a little more support from their shoe.  The support in these shoes is most commonly supplied through a dual density midsole insert placed on the medial aspect of the shoe usually under the arch and heel.  In the photo above it is the grey foam.  The level of support is adjusted by the density and amount of this foam added to the shoe and fine tuned by how far forward or back the foam sits.  This style shoe does still supply just as much cushion as the neutral shoe’s but it focuses on support and is more likely to sacrifice cushion for support.  Just like the neutral shoes the support you need is personal preference.  It is however very closely related to pronation in that the more you pronate the more support you will need to attain the goal neutral gait.
            The final style of shoe you’ll run into is much less common, usually only being two or three models available in a store.  The motion control shoe supplies maximum stability and support.  This shoe is best suited for those with severe pronation or ankle instability.  They are built up for maximum support with much more dual density foam and usually some sort of internal structure which supplies additional support.  The dual density midsole will usually wrap entirely around the medial and lateral aspects of the shoes heel.  When in comes to motion control shoes many times a shoe this beefed up can be avoided with a custom foot orthotics in a mild to moderate support shoe.  This is a great option for anyone looking to get away from the confines of the motion control category.  If not, like I said this type of shoe is always limited on selection so try all the models you can and listen to your body for the best fit.
            This finally concludes my complete overview of running shoes.  As always I hope everyone gets something out of this and lets me know any questions or critiques they may have. 
Endurance = Strength = Speed
Hope everyone had fun and active weekends
Matt V.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Running Shoes Inside and Out

When we walk into a shoe store we are confronted with a myriad of options and usually don’t know where to start.  In reading my previous blog post I hope everyone was able to take something away that will help point you in the right direction and narrow the options to some extent.  In this segment I will break down the inner workings of running shoes on the market today.
From the ground up running shoes can be broken into four distinct parts. The first part of a shoe is the outer sole which is the rubber on the bottom of the shoe that supplies traction.  The outer sole can be made up of a combination of materials from most common in carbon rubber & blown rubber to more advanced specialty materials designed by shoe companies for their specific purposes.
                The outer sole is then attached to the midsole next which is the foam that supplies the impact protection/cushioning.  Originally EVA foam was the go to material for all companies.  Now almost every company has their own specialty midsole material. The midsole also contain two other common features found on many shoes but not all.  These are a crash pad on the heel made of SRC (slow rebound cushioning), and a propulsion pad in the fore foot made of HRC (high rebound cushioning) I won’t go into detail but each company also has their own technology specific to their shoes.  Some common one’s everyone has heard of are Nike Air Max, Asics-Gel, and Mizuno Wave Plates etc.  Though flashy and touted to be the best you can get, all these technologies do the exact same thing. Supply Cushion. Which is best is personal preference in that what works for one most likely won’t for the next person.  The big question is whether you prefer soft plush cushion or firm responsive cushion. Just remember, listen to your feet and not the flashy marketing or pushy sales rep. and you’ll have the most success.  Obviously the midsole play’s the biggest role in the shoe’s performance and is the biggest factor in comfort. 
                The next piece to the puzzle is the most important to most people .  It can affect the fit quit a bit but that is a company to company fit difference and not a model to model difference in a specific brands line. Some brand do have drastic differences in their uppers though for the most part this isn't the case.  What I mean by this is that each company will have a different fit.  The different models in a single company’s line of shoe’s will all have very similar upper fits.  There are a few technologies you can find in the upper but not many.  Off the top of my head the big three I can think of are the Arch Lock by Saucony, A Symmetric lacing system by Asics, and Fly Wire technology by Nike.  The technology in the upper plays a big role in the shoe as it is what holds your foot over and on the sole while moving. It protects you from the elements or breaths really well on hot day.  In general it plays a big role in the overall comfort of the shoe.  Of course the most important part is how they look right?  In my opinion your best bet is holding off on looks for fit, but hey sometimes we can get lucky and find that awesome looking shoe that fits like a glove.  Just don’t expect it every time since fashion and running shoes are two things that haven’t joined each others company just yet.
                The last piece of the puzzle is the insole.  For the most part they are very basic, a thin strip of foam to give a tiny bit more comfort and cushioning.  The insole also plays a role in the arch support of the shoe as they are built up to supply more arch or made flat to give a smaller arch.  I told you they where simple. There are some over the counter insoles which can be bought separately and are more advance but those are for another post.  I hope everyone has learned quite a bit about the structure of running shoes through this blog.  I will have one more post on the shoes and then move on.  After so much information it makes more sense to write up a small piece on the three categories of running shoes to finish it off instead of packing it into this post.
As usually feel free to email me with any questions and comment with your opinions.
Endurance = Strength = Speed
Happy running

Monday, April 13, 2015

Getting the Right Shoes for the Job

With all the gadgets and gizmos available to use while working out now a days there is still one thing I see everyone from beginner to advanced overlooking, their shoes.  We see it all the time and have probably all done it at least once.  We begin getting soreness in our legs, hips, or lower backs that over time progresses to a consistent annoying pain every time we workout.  We begin to analyze everything we do while working out to find the root of the problem while the answer is right in front of us.  You only feel the aching while working out, but not during your everyday life.  You’ve been able to do the same workouts you do now with no issues. The pain subsides when not working out.  Well the answer may be your sneakers.
When it comes to sneakers there are so many options its no wonder we don’t know where to start. We go to the big box stores and are confronted with a wall of shoes so big we don’t know where to start.  There is tennis, basketball, cross training, running, casual, aerobic shoe’s and so on.  The best way to narrow down what you need is to look at what activities you’re going to be wearing the sneakers for.  Specifically the movements you will be making.  For example a running shoe is great for walking, running, elliptical and some light weight lifting.  Basically anything that involves strait line movements with minimal lateral movement.  Running shoes aren’t built to support your foot from rolling side to side off the sole of the shoe.  The support given by a running shoe is to support the foot from the impact being applied to it from the ground.  Like wise a cross training or basketball shoe is going to supply plenty of lateral stability to hold the foot over the sole of the shoe but less cushioning than a walking or running specific shoe.  In general getting the right shoe for the job can have a huge impact on how comfortable you are while working out.  Don’t get me wrong though we are working out it is going to be strenuous and cause us to be uncomfortable at times so a shoe won’t change that.  They can help to drastically improve your comfort though.  Just don’t expect them to make you run faster and jump higher, unless you have a pair of PF Flyers hidden away.
Keep an eye out for additional segments on what shoes to get.  Since the big focus on this blog is endurance training I will narrow my focus to just running and cross training shoes.  Next up I will breakdown the actual inner working of sneakers and the technology now being built into them.
Endurance = Strength = Speed
Happy Running and Training

Monday, April 6, 2015

Foot Type, Foot Strike and How it Affects You

Foot Type, Foot Strike and How it Affects You
                Instead of writing about the types of shoes available today and what to look for I decided it would be much more beneficial to go over foot types, and the foot strikes associated with them. 
When it comes to feet there are two factors that play a pivotal role.  The first of the two is your foot type.  This is the factor which most everyone has heard of.  Foot type can be classified into three categories: Normal or neutral arch, high arch, and flat foot or low arch. 

Of these three foot types by far the most common today is a low to flat arch.  The height of the arch is determined by the plantar fascia.  A more elastic plantar fascia will result in a higher arch while a more lax one will usually result in a flat foot.  So how does your arch height affect you while running? 
The simple answer to this question is PRONATION.  Many may have heard of this before, it is usually the thing the sales people at the big box stores categorize as either fix it or your foot will fall off or they have no idea what it is. Yes excessive pronation isn’t a great thing it places excessive rotational torque/stress on the lower leg and can lead to a slew of overuse injuries. Some pronation is also a very normal and necessary thing in the gait cycle though.  Everyone has some form of pronation as it is the foot and ankles mechanism to absorb the impact when the foot strikes the ground. Pronation is broken down into three categories and directly correlates with the three foot types. Pronation is classified as: neutral pronation, overpronation, and underpronation (more commonly referred to as supination.)
In the neutral pronator the Achilles tends to stand straight up and down with a 0˚ curvature medially or laterally.  In the overpronator the foot is angled medially or to the inside of the foot with a high˚ of medial curvature.  Last but not least is the supinator which I’m sure you have figured out by now is angled laterally or to the outside of the foot with a high˚ of lateral curvature.  The picture below is a great example of each foot type.

Next up is foot strike.  This is the way that your foot strikes the ground.  Once again this is broken down into three categories just as arch type and pronation.  Foot strike is classified into heel striker (the most common), Fore foot strike/ toe runners, and midfoot strikers (by far the least common).  I won’t go into to much detail about foot strike since it can be a very complicated subject and can lead to many issues if one tries to manipulate their foot strike.  It is possible to change your foot strike but it’s something that takes a long time and a keen eye to make sure it doesn’t cause serious injury.  There is also a lot of controversy about which foot strike is better with the sudden boom of barefoot running.  This is a subject that has intrigued me quiet a bit.  For years heel striking was always said to be how we should run and walk yet the top runners barely have their heels touch the ground while running and seem to be doing fine.  I personally midfoot strike and have never had an issue and after over a decade of running have only had one major injury which I needed to take time off for.  With that said I do feel the terrain and situation dictates our foot strike to some extent.  While running downhill we naturally heel strike, leaning back and loading the heel is how we slow forward momentum.  A good thing to remember is heel = brakes.  While on flat or technical terrain many will switch to a more midfoot strike, midfoot = cruise control. Then when running up hill or sprinting we go to our toes, toe/forefoot = accelerator.
                With each foot type we see a much different shock applied to the body.  In the heel striker more shock is seen in every step.  Striking heal first causes a straight line from the foot to the lower back and a perfect path for that shock to follow up to your pelvis and lower back. In a midfoot or forefoot striker this shock can be seen to be greatly decreased by a smoother transition through the gait.  That’s all I will say about this as it really is not something anyone should worry too much about till you get to the upper levels of training.  The images below are great examples of the differences between a heal strike and forefoot strike with the impacts associated with them.

Now that you know the different arch types and pronation types its time to find out what category you fall into.  This can be done by a simple wet test.  In the wet test you step into water then on a sheet of paper. Looking at the print left behind you can determine your arch type and the pronation type most likely correlating with your arch type.  The wet test is only a glimpse of how your foot is reacting while running.  For the best results I recommend going to a reputable physical therapist, movement specialist or running specialty store where they will analyze your stride for you and determine the best shoe for you. All good specialty stores will do this. Some will do it automatically others you may have to ask for them to assess your stride.
Here’s a great description of the wet test process for anyone who would like to try. 
I hope after reading this everyone has a little better understanding of the role the foot and ankle play in our running.  Any questions which may come up feel free to post in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Endurance = Strength= Speed
Happy Running