Food for Thought

We get busy shuffling our youth athletes here, there, and everywhere….and all with the right equipment, snacks, and teammates.  What is all this hard work getting us?  If we take time to think about it (but let’s be realistic, who has the extra time to stop and think?), we are doing all this running around to help our kids develop into great, responsible, and successful people.  Here is a list of reasons you may not have time to put together yourself.  But as you’re driving the mom/dad taxi, maybe you’ll have a few minutes to review these thoughts and see if your athlete’s schedule is helping achieve these goals.

From Karrick Dyer:

“Shouldn’t the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?

  1. Standard of excellence
  2. Work ethic
  3. To believe in themselves
  4. To trust others
  5. The value of encouragement
  6. To know they aren’t the center of the universe
  7. To know that success does not come overnight (or in one practice)
  8. To lose with dignity
  9. To accept temporary failures without blaming others, and to realize these failures aren’t permanent
  10. To be pushed to their physical limit, time and time again
  11. To love and to be loved
  12. To sacrifice for others
  13. To respect authority and rules
  14. Teamwork/unselfishness
  15. To never give up

These things still matter when the cheering stops.”

Wise words by Karrick Dyer

Refresh your Dynamic Warm up # 2

If you found last week’s warm up suggestions easy, here’s a whole new set so you have plenty of options!  Remember: the purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body to move fluidly and with speed.  Take these exercises as slow as you need to meet this goal!

Here’s the series list:

  • Walking Lunge with a twist elbow to ankle forward
  • Walking Lunge with a twist elbow to ankle backward
  • Heel Walks forward
  • Heel Walks backward
  • Stretch & Reach with Quad stretch
  • Walking Glute Med stretch
  • Fall forward with a clap and sprint
  • Pushup and sprint
  • Side Step Shuffle into a sprint
  • Grapevine into a sprint
  • Half Speed Jog forward/back into a sprint
  • Half Speed Butt Kickers forward/back into a sprint

Good luck, get out there and be great!





Refresh your Warm up part 1

A warm up is critical to properly preparing the body for training. In order to work properly, your muscles need to be physically warm.  Tthe way to make that happen is to get the blood flowing. This seems pretty straight forward, right?

Not really.  The physiology behind it is fairly complex.  To get more blood flowing to the muscles, you need to give the arteries time to properly dilate (this take a little bit of time) so the muscle are receiving enough oxygen to aerobically produce the energy they need to fuel muscular contraction.  As more blood flows through the arteries and the muscles get warmer, this allows them to stretch instead of pull.  Think of your muscles like a rubber band.  If you put it in the freezer for a while, when you pull it out and stretch it, it stretches for a short distance and then breaks.  If you lay the same rubber band on the sidewalk in August and let it get warm, it will stretch easily without suffering any damage.

Your warm up should start slow and get progressively more intense ending at the intensity you intend to continue for your training session.  A good rule of thumb is a 10 minute warm up and a little longer if you’re feeling stiff or sore from a previous training session.

We know lots of athletes that feel warm up time is a waste but if you do it right, you can add balance, coordination, and agility training into the warm up to keep you engages and make great use of your time.

To keep both your brain and body engage in this process, try this series of warm up exercises:

And to help you remember them while you’re away from your device, here’s the list:

  • Jog forward
  • Jog backward (remember to use good running motion when you’re in reverse)
  • High knees forward
  • High knees backward
  • Knee lift straight/ knee lift swing forward
  • Knee lift straight/ knee lift swing backward
  • Knee lift kickout forward
  • Knee lift kickout
  • Knee lift swingout backward

Changing up your warm up, from time to time, will give you a new set of challenges and help you stay focused on this important aspect of training.  Keep it fresh and keep pushing for better performance!

Having trouble viewing the video? Click here!

Tendinitis or Tendinosis?

Recently at work, a physical therapist mentioned the word “tendinosis”.  What?? If you’re like me, you may need a quick refresher on the differences between tendinitis and tendinosis.

Your biology teacher may have told you long ago, anything with the ending -itis means inflammation.  So arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis all have to do with swelling of the affected areas (inflammation of the joints, bursa, and tendons).  In a nut shell, something is going on with the area causing that part of the body to become inflamed.  In the case of tendonitis specifically, the tendon has suffered an injury and the inflammation is part of the body’s response to get the tendon back into good working order.

Tendinosis, on the other hand, is a breakdown of the tendon due to overuse with no associated inflammation.  While there is no inflammation, the tendon does have small tears in its structure.  Along with the microtears, many of the collagen fibers will be shortened, will not run the full length of the tendon, and may be haphazardly placed out of alignment. Collectively, this leads to a weaker tendon that can more easily be pushed to the point of rupture if put under too heavy of a load or if the tendon is loaded too quickly.  And a tendon rupture means a long recovery for you!

Tendinosis, as the physical therapist pointed out to me, is a warning sign something is wrong in that area.  Rest, recovery, and appropriate strengthening can take care of the issue before it becomes a problem that can sideline you but you have to be aware that tendon injuries like this one do not always come with point tenderness or some other kind of pain.  In fact, the whole reason I was having this discussion in the first place was because I was starting to experience a weird burning sensation in my Achilles — but just sometimes and most of the time it went away quickly.  It didn’t hurt at all so I figured it was just a weird, transient thing that would go away on its own.  I was wrong.

With some help and instruction on how to strengthen and stretch, I’m off to the gym to make sure I’m doing everything I can to help prevent this chronic (if low level) injury from turning into something much worse to live with and much harder to get rid of.  I was warned this is NOT something to train through, ignore, or otherwise minimize.  The is a warning sign while there is still time to do the right thing for my body.  I’m passing this warning on to you.  Don’t wait until your injuries roar — listen to the quieter signals your body is sending you.  Then have a quick consult with the appropriate professional.  A little preventative care can go a long way to keeping you healthy and competing!

And thanks, Mark H., PT at Borgess Physical Therapy at the Borgess Health & Fitness Center!  You are a pleasure to work with!

You NEED this exercise!

Hip stability is critical for the long term success of an athlete.  Any quick change of direction put the hip stabilizing muscles to the test.

Many athletes focus on the forward motion muscles (quad, hamstring, and gluteus maximus) but forget the critical role of the lateral movement musculature.  Abductors, adductors, and the gluteus medius work together to provide stabilizing and redistribution of body weight during change of direction movements.  Without their strength, you’re a ticking time bomb for a hip/groin injury.  Strengthen them, however, and you’ll not only reduce your risk of injury but also become more agile and stabile.

To help, here’s a quick video to get those lateral muscles feelin’ the burn!

Having trouble viewing the video? Click here!

What does science tell us about ice baths as a strength training recovery aid?

There a small study just released that investigated how immersion in an ice bath after a strength training session effects our biology.  And what are the results?

Ice bath, when compared to active warm recovery (using slower movement as your cool down), blunts positive biologic responses to strength training — bummer!  You’re working just as hard AND enduring chilly water all for fewer results?  This study indicate it may be so!

One word of caution, this study limited its investigation on post-training results NOT as an injury treatment — so don’t make the leap ice baths are ineffective across the board.

Want to read the study for yourself?  Click here!

Snack on the Go — it’s apple season!

It doesn’t seem like apple buying should be frustrating but if you’ve ever been confronted with the seemingly endless variety of apples out there you might feel some overwhelm when trying to decide which apples are going to be next week’s snack.  The apple section seems to explode with almost endless varieties this time of year and buying a whole bag to leave in your car or at your desk is an easy way to bump up your nutrient intake even when you’re busy.

With 5 grams of fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals while weighing in at only 95 calories for a medium-sized apple, this fruit is an easy, portable, go anywhere snack.

To make sure you are getting the right apple to suit your needs, here’s a quick guide:

All About Apples: The Best Types of Apples For Your Recipes:

Want to take your snack planning to the next level?  Add a single serving package of cheese and you’ve got a right-size portion of protein, carbs, and fiber that will keep you going until your next meal!


Minimum Viable Program … not where you thought we were going with this, is it?  In athletics, we admire those going above and beyond to achieve great things but how do we know they are going above?  The only way to know that is to have a solid understanding of what is the minimal viable program needed to accomplish a baseline athleticism.

Have you ever considered the minimum it would take to reach your goal?  It is worth the effort.  I see a lot of people get caught up in the details of the performance world running here, there, and everywhere to try the newest this or that to gain an edge.  Often, these additions or changes to their program work as distractions from the really important aspects of their training but they don’t realize it because they are so focused on the above and beyond they don’t pay enough attention to their MVP.

MVP’s for athletics have certain things in common:

You need strong muscles.

You need a strong cardiovascular system.

You need a certain amount of flexibility.

You need to be able to use these three things in coordination.

You need to be able to build and repair.

These 5 things are the essence of athletic training.  The art of your program comes by determining which ones are most important and deserve the most focus.  Here’s a couple examples:

If you’re a golfer, a bowler, or an archer, you need some strength.  Given the nature of your game, you don’t need a great deal of cardiovascular reserves, walking is the top end required for your game.  You need just enough flexibility for the range of motion you use for your sport but you need a great deal of coordination and repeatability in the sport-specific movements.  And what about build and repair?  You’re going to need some muscular repair — every activity causes breakdown somewhere.  But your physical build and repair for a barebones program are going to be pretty low.

Your sport requires a high degree of concentration for each shot or throw so you will need to pay attention to the amount of sleep that can optimize your powers of concentration.  Based on these needs assessment, where should you spend the build of your bare-bones program resources?

But what if you’re a runner, cyclist, or triathlete?  You’re going to need the muscles to power your performance — that means a solid strength training program designed to create power-generating muscles.  Obviously, you are going to need a strong cardiovascular system.

Endurance events provide a long time for damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones to occur.  These are going to need time to repair.  You’re going to need to ensure you are getting the right nutrition to support the build and repair process for all those tissues.

You’ll need a baseline flexibility in the range of motion used in your sport.  Due to the repetitive nature of these motions, athletes tend not to deviate out of standard ROM very often, so, at bare-bones, being super flexible is not necessary.

What about football, soccer, or lacrosse?  You’re going to need to have some cardiovascular endurance, some strength, you’re going to need to be coordinated because you’ll be moving in a number of different planes at once.  And you’re going to need to be flexible, both mentally and physically.  Due to the unpredictable nature of play development, you never really know what movements the play is going to call for so you need lots of strength and flexibility in your toolbox.  Of course, all this movement is going to create a lot of wear and tear on your body so you are going to need to make building and recovery a high priority.

Now compare your bare-bones training needs to how you are actually training.  Where are your priorities?  New golf sunglasses for match day but not getting enough sleep at night?  You may have your priorities out of whack.

Are you a cyclist that lives on goo and protein shakes to fuel your training?  Perhaps you need to make time to cook meals from whole foods to provide your body with the trace elements and a variety of different kinds of protein building blocks to aid in the building and repair of your muscles.  Spending lots of time in the saddle but none in the weight room?  How are you going to develop those power muscles?  It’s time to hit the weights to grow your muscle mass so you can learn to use it to generate more power through the pedals — that’s something that doesn’t happen as well if you’re just upping your mileage.

And what about you contact sport athletes?  Flexibility is usually the lowest item on the to-do list but your sport requires you to maintain power and speed, even at the end ranges of your flexibility.  To make that happen, you need to make flexibility and coordination a priority.

Athletics follow the 80/20 Rule.  80% of your results will come from 20% of your training.  It’s that last 20% that separate the good from the great and the great from the pros.  If you want to move beyond good, you’re going to have to do more of the right things than the rest of your competitors.  To find those right things, you have to look beyond the distractions of what everyone else is doing and figure out what is really a barebones need in your sport and what efforts will truly take you above and beyond.






Changing Mechanics might be the cause of age associated slowdown among Runners

Ask anyone older than yourself and they will likely give you a long list of things that change as we age.  While not thrilling to know most of them are negatives we are powerless to change, we are never-the-less obligated to cast a critical eye on all of them to see if current wisdom may just be wrong.

Case in point may be the slowdown runners appear to experience as they age.  While world class runners are often still able to maintain amazing times in their events, those times are no where near the times they clocked one, two, and three decades prior.  While most of us would except this is true, the better question is why does this appear to be so and is there anything we can do about it?

These are the questions a few researchers set out to answer.  Researchers found stride length shortened and ground force reaction decreased as runners age.  These things together significantly impact speed.  The mechanical basic for these changes could be the body seeking to shift force generation away from the ankle.  At walking speeds, older adults shift force generation away from the ankles and up into the hips.  Extra hip action helps keep walking speeds up as ankle action decreases.  Initial research seems to indicate this natural shift in force generation does not occur in older adult runners at running speeds and may be the biomechanical reason top speeds decrease as runners age.

As we age, the lower extremities are prone to injury at a greater rate than areas closer to the trunk.  The Achilles tendon and calf muscles experiences changes on a tissue level that leaves them vulnerable.  Science is wondering if the body may alter our running gait (unbeknownst to our conscious selves) in order to protect the more vulnerable tissues.

But what can be done about this?  The jury is still out but common sense tells us tissues will be healthier, more elastic, and better able to repair if the network of blood vessels serving those tissues stays dense and strong.  This can be accomplished (like most things) through proper diet and exercise.  Add to that a program designed to keep the muscles, tendons, and ligaments strong and properly flexible and you will be making the most of the common sense tools available to any age body.

If you have questions about what a proper lower leg and foot strengthening program entails, you can check out this article written by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  It gives several stretches and exercises that may just keep you PR-ing for years to come!

Interested in reading the biomechanical study?  Click here!

Fatigue v. Failure

A few years ago, I attended a series of lectures on medical exercise.  The program emphasized dosing prescriptions that optimized strengthening and repair of tissues.

To me, one of the most impactful sections of the discussion was the difference between taking your reps to failure (being unable to lift the weight) and taking your reps to fatigue (being unable to lift at pace and with solid form). From a health and injury prevention standpoint, this is a huge distinction.

Lifting until failure means you have already kicked into compensatory modes of movement — cheating if you will, in which muscles you normally would never use for a movement have been recruited to “get the job done”.

When pushing yourself to fatigue, you are isolating only the muscles designed to perform that movement.  When taken to fatigue, you stop doing reps before you kick into any compensatory mode and therefore limit your risk of injury because you are always maintaining form.

In weight rooms everywhere, we are taught to lift to failure.  But I’d like to ask you to think about fatigue.  Pay attention to your lifting cadence — everyone has a pace which, when left to our own devices, is highly repeatable, innate cadance.

When you start to slow from that pace, when your movements become less symmetrical, or any other first sign of form decay, give yourself a moment to get your form and pace back on track.  If you can’t get it there, it’s time to stop that set — you’ve pushed your musculature to the point it cannot successfully complete the lift.  Take a break and do another set until your form breaks down.  This is a technique that maximizes the use of the target muscles while keeping the risk of injury low.  You are also going to pay attention through the whole set, which will improve the quality of your repetitions, leading to greater strength gains.  All upsides, right?

Keeping yourself injury-free and maximizing your strength gains are key to successful training.  Your training principles should reflect this!  Why would you mindlessly take yourself well past safe technique?  Pay attention to where fatigue sets in and stop your reps there.  You’ll reduce your risks and your training program will become more effective.  Win -win.